Korean gov’t to help identify passengers from coronavirus-hit areas — BI

Robie de Guzman   •   February 28, 2020   •   624

MANILA, Philippines – The government of South Korea has pledged to issue a certification to distinguish travelers coming from North Gyeongsang province, Daegu and Cheongdo in an effort to curb the spread of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said Friday.

The BI made the statement as it begins to implement the country’s expanded travel restrictions to include the three areas, which reported the most number of coronavirus infections in South Korea.

“While it is a challenge to identify which passengers from South Korea actually came from said areas, the Korean government is doing measures to ensure that the virus stops spreading to nearby regions,” BI port operations division chief Grifton Medina said in a statement.

The Korean government earlier pledged to take maximum quarantine steps in Daegu and its surrounding province to contain the virus.

The immigration bureau said the expansion of travel ban follows the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to include restrictions of inbound and outbound travel from the said regions.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente, however, clarified that “it is not a total ban for travelers from South Korea, but for travelers coming from North Gyeongsang province, Daegu and Cheongdo only.”

Foreigners coming from South Korea will be screened to see if they are coming from said regions, the BI said.

Immigration officers have been instructed to require passengers arriving from South Korea to produce their resident registration certificate and national identification.

The bureau also said it has sought the assistance of airline companies, requiring them to collect and disclose to immigration authorities the full itineraries of passengers with a travel history to Korea within the last 14 days.

“Similar to earlier bans, airlines have been advised not to board said passengers in flights to the Philippines,” Medina said.

Outbound Filipinos are also temporarily banned from traveling the entire South Korea. Only Korean permanent resident visa holders, overseas Filipino workers, and student visa holders are allowed to return to the said country.

Exempted from the travel ban are arriving Filipinos, their foreign spouse and children, Philippine permanent resident visa holders, and members of the diplomatic corps.

“What’s different in this ban is that transiting passengers are allowed, as recommended by the task force, as long as they do not pass through North Gyeongsang Province, Daegu, and Cheongdo,” said Medina.

The bureau also clarified that it did not deliberately delay the implementation of the travel ban as they first needed to thresh out issues to ensure its proper implementation.

Foreigner accused of quarantine violation in PHL facing deportation

Robie de Guzman   •   May 22, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Deportation charges have been filed against a Spanish national who was involved in a scuffle with a police officer over an alleged violation of quarantine protocols in a Makati City subdivision in April, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said on Friday.

In a statement, Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said it has charged Javier Salvador Parra for undesirability and overstaying in the country.

Morente said the bureau’s legal officers ordered Parra to submit a counter-affidavit to answer the reports against him, “but he reportedly refused to receive the notice and disregarded the requirement, which was due last May 21.”

“Our offices remained open to receive his response, but he failed to submit any,” Morente said.

The case stemmed from a confrontation between Parra and a police officer after the latter advised the foreigner’s househelp to wear a mask while she was outside watering the plants.

The househelp then went inside the house, and Parra emerged minutes after to confront the policeman that led to an attempted arrest for allegedly violating enhanced community quarantine policies.

The incident that took place in Dasmariñas Village last month was captured in a video and made rounds on social media.

Morente said foreign nationals who “blatanly disregard laws” and “disrespect persons of authority” may be considered undesirable aliens.

“Foreign nationals who are here in the country are expected to follow Philippine laws, especially in these special times wherein public health and safety is at risk,” Morente said. 

“There is no exemption, whether you are living in a posh village, or in a slum area, you must obey the law,” he added.

Morente said that the deportation case is a separate action from criminal complaints that were earlier filed by the police against the Spanish national.

PH Immigration to use digitized arrival cards, boarding passes for passengers under ‘new normal’

Robie de Guzman   •   May 21, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) is looking to implement the use of digitized arrival cards and records for “more effective passenger monitoring” and lessen person-to-person contact at ports amid the continuing outbreak of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

In a statement on Wednesday, Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said the measure comes after President Rodrigo Duterte informed Congress that the bureau will soon launch an advanced passenger processing and information system, and use digitized arrival cards and boarding passes for international passengers entering and exiting the country’s ports.

“These new paperless travel control systems and procedures are just among several innovative protocols that we will be introducing under a new normal environment during this pandemic,” Morente said.

The Immigration chief explained that the new protocols are designed not only to achieve social distancing by lessening person-to-person contact between officers and passengers but also to facilitate contact tracing, if needed.

“While the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) collects information from arriving passengers for contact tracing, we have extended our help by providing other details that are found in our arrival cards,” he said.

“These information have proven to be helpful in locating persons that need to be monitored,” he added.

Morente further stated that the bureau is discussing with different airlines the mechanics and procedures for implementing the said initiatives so these could become operational as soon as possible.

He said these initiatives are among the administration’s priority projects as this “would not only help in contact tracing but would also allow our port operations to more effectively monitor and screen arriving foreign nationals.”

Said system is being used by many developed countries, which we can also adopt and use in our fight against COVID-19,” he said.

According to BI Port Operations Division chief Grifton Medina, the digitized arrival cards will be filled out by Philippine-bound passengers at their port of origin prior to their departure for the Philippines.

“This would enable us to easily track details of a passenger as the data will be integrated and sorted in our system,” Medina said.

“Should information be needed for contact tracing, we wouldn’t have to manually dig into boxes of arrival cards which take up precious time. With one click, we would be able to provide the data faster to contact tracers,” he added.

Medina said the move to transition from paper-based arrival cards aims to reduce objects that may possibly transmit infectious agents from a passenger to the officers.

He added that the bureau is likewise urging airlines to use QR or bar codes in a passenger’s mobile device as their boarding pass, which will also be integrated into the BI’s system.

“This will create a fully paperless transaction during immigration assessment, reduce the risk of transmission, and allow for more efficient monitoring,” he said.

Korean Air introduces social distancing measures for passengers

UNTV News   •   May 19, 2020

South Korea’s largest airline Korean Air has enacted social distancing measures to protect travelers to allow for a return to the skies during the global coronavirus pandemic.

Starting from Monday (May 18), the airline has made it necessary for all passengers and staff on board to wear face masks, but other social distancing measures such as leaving empty seats between passengers began on March 9.

On Tuesday (May 19) hundreds of domestic travelers were seen in Seoul’s Gimpo Airport wearing face masks and scanning their own boarding passes during boarding.

South Korea’s aviation regulator is also requiring travelers’ temperatures be checked in airports. Airport authorities are also asking travelers to stand at least 1 meter (3 ft) apart and regularly apply hand sanitizer. (Reuters)

(Production: Dogyun Kim, Minwoo Park, Heejung Jung)

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