(Eagle News) — The Bureau of Immigration on Friday, March 6, clarified that entry exemption documents were not a “free pass” to enter the country.
In a statement, Immigration commissioner Jaime Morente said the documents were merely a requirement set by the Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases for foreigners arriving under temporary visitor’s visas.
That means, he said, that the arriving foreigners are still subject to immigration scrutiny.
Morente issued the clarification as he issued a memorandum ordering immigration officers to thoroughly screen arriving foreigners despite the 9(a) temporary visitor’s visas and documents to ensure they have valid and legitimate purposes in visiting the country.
The bureau said Morente issued the memo following last month’s interception of several Chinese nationals with entry visas and entry exemption documents, but who later misrepresented their purpose in traveling to the Philippines.
Fortunato Manahan Jr., chief of the bureau intelligence division that supervises the Travel Control and Enforcement Unit covered by Morente’s order, said arriving foreign tourists may still be required to present further proof of their travel purpose.
“Misrepresentation will result in the denial of entry of these passengers, and they will be excluded and booked on the first flight back to their port of origin,” Manahan said.
“They will also be blacklisted and banned from re-entering the country..,” he added.
Last Feb. 17, immigration officers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 barred the entry of 17 Chinese nationals for failure to establish their connection to a tech company that purportedly sponsored their trip, the bureau said.
Sixteen of the passengers arrived aboard a Pan Pacific Airlines flight from Zhenghou, China while the other one was aboard a Philippine Airlines flight from Bangkok.
TCEU personnel who interviewed them said the passengers failed to establish their purpose of travel and gave conflicting statements.