INTRAMUROS, Manila--the Bureau of Immigration (BI) has placed its men on heightened alert as it braces itself for the upcoming South East Asian Games (SEA Games) and the holiday rush. According to Bureau of Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente, he issued the directive following the expected surge of Filipino and foreign travelers in the next few weeks. "We are expecting up to 3% increase in arrivals and departures this holiday season. We are certain that there will be more tourists and balikbayans who will be flying in this Christmas," said Morente.
"Even more now that the SEA Games will be held in the country, we are projecting an added 8,000 delegates including athletes, media, technical officials, volunteers, fans, and audiences," he added. Bureau of Immigration records show that in December 2018 alone, more than 1.5M passengers arrived the country, while more than 1.2M left. Morente shared that many of these are Overseas Filipino Workers and Filipinos living abroad, who come home to celebrate the Christmas season. "Christmas is probably the biggest and most anticipated holiday for our kababayan, hence it's really part of the Filipino culture to want to be home for the holidays," he commented. Meanwhile, Bureau of Immigration Port Operations Division Chief Grifton Medina shared that they are again enforcing the 'No Leave, No Absences' policy during the SEA Games and holiday rush. "Our men have been instructed not to go on leave during the peak season to maximize our manpower," he said. Medina likewise reminded to travelers to "arrive early, at least three hours before your flight," and appealed to travelers to bear with build ups. The appeal came after a video of long lines at the Mactan Cebu International Airport made rounds on social media. "It was an isolated incident," said Medina. "Sudden buildups sometimes happen especially when there are delayed flights that arrive simultaneously, as in the case of the viral video," he explained. "We appeal to everyone to bear with us should there be some build up, which sometimes happen during peak seasons. But you can be assured that processing is now much faster following the numerous improvements we have implemented in our international ports," Medina added. It can be recalled that the Bureau of Immigration recently hired more than 600 Immigration officers to add to their manpower. Medina likewise highlighted the installation of e-gates which he said "lessens the processing by almost 6 times, lowering the regular 45 seconds to at least 8 seconds," “Our goal is to provide fast and smooth immigration inspection for the SEA Games and the upcoming Yuletide season,” said Medina. Morente reportedly instructed Medina to “keep a close eye on the immigration lines in all international airports to ensure they are minimized”.