Some travelers coming from mainland China and its special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau were allegedly circumventing the travel ban in the Philippines in light of the threat of the novel coronavirus (nCoV), a Bureau of Immigration (BI) official said on Wednesday.
BI Port Operations Division chief Grifton Medina said such tourists would allegedly go to a country which is not covered by the travel ban like Singapore before proceeding to Manila.
“Meron pong mga nagsi-circumvent. Nasa Hong Kong sila, nasa China sila, pupunta sila sa Singapore and uuwi. You would not know. Sa arrival card nakalagay galing sila ng Singapore,” Medina said in an interview on ANC.
“That is why we have a targeted approach. 'Yung e-gates sinasara namin ‘pag may flights na duda kami,” he added.
The BI will launch an advance passenger information system and passenger name record where they can easily see the travel history of passengers, Medina said.
In a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III blamed the airlines for the slow contact tracing of passengers on the same flights which carried the Chinese couple later found to be infected by nCoV. One of the nCoV patients, a male Chinese, died on Saturday, becoming the first fatality due to the virus outside China.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin added that the snail-paced contact tracing is happening because the Civil Aviation Board and the BI were not doing their job.
Medina however revealed that the BI has been tracing travelers from virus-stricken Wuhan City in China even before the lockdown was imposed in the city.
He said they have been communicating and coordinating with the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) and local government units in connection with these arrivals since December last year.
“We do have. Last December, we started before the scare,” Medina said.
“At that time, we are already vigilant. We had a memo. We are very coordinated. On December, we are already warning our immigration officers to look after these particular passengers,” he added.
Medina said the BI checked the airline manifests and arrival cards to determine the passengers coming from Wuhan City. According to Medina, all their data were voluntarily given to the Department of Health’s BOQ.
He said it is the BOQ which then goes after the Wuhan passengers because the BI does not have the list of persons under investigation (PUIs) for suspected nCoV infection.
Medina also pointed out that the BOQ should do the task involving quarantine since the bureau will be the one to determine whether a person needs to be quarantined. —Joviland Rita/KG, GMA News