BI eyes converting half of immigration counters nationwide to e-gates by 2026

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 3) — The Bureau of Immigration (BI) wants half of the physical immigration counters nationwide to be replaced by electronic gates (e-gates) by 2026 for a more efficient processing of travelers.

BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval said the bureau’s 2024 budget proposal includes funds for purchasing e-gates.

"By 2026, 50% ng operations natin sa paliparan ay electronic na. The long-term plan is 100% operations natin is electronic," she said on Sunday.

[Translation: By 2026, 50% of airport operations will be electronic. The long-term plan is to have 100% of operations made electronic.]

There are currently 21 e-gates being used nationwide, most of them located at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

"Ngayon ang regular processing time for each passenger is 45 seconds kada isa. Yan ang standard na sinusunod natin. Through the use of e-gates, we could lower that to as low as eight seconds per person," Sandoval added.

[Translation: Right now, the regular processing time for each passenger is 45 seconds. That is the standard that we follow. Through the use of e-gates, we could lower that to as low as eight seconds per person.]

E-gates automate border control by checking the biometrics data embedded in electronic passports with the information captured at the gate.

With the number of outbound travelers expected to increase in the fourth quarter of the year, Sandoval said the BI will soon launch a “green lane” dedicated to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), frequent travelers and Alien Certificate of Registration Identity card (ACR I-card) holders.

"Yung green lanes natin are special lanes for OFWs, ACR I-card holders — so ito yung may long-term visas sa bansa, and frequent travelers. So ito yung mga less vulnerable sectors ng travelers. So there’s less assessment needed for them," she said.

[Translation: The green lanes are special lanes for OFWs, ACR I-card members — so they are the ones who hold long-term visas to the country and frequent travelers. They are the travelers who are less vulnerable. So there’s less assessment needed for them.]

Sandoval stressed that 98% of Filipino travelers leaving the country are not required to present the additional requirements stated in the revised travel guidelines issued by the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT).

"More than 98% actually of tourists need not present anything else apart from their passport, round trip ticket, boarding pass, their visa, if required in the country of destination," she said.

The implementation of the guidelines has been suspended amid backlash from the public and some politicians, who claim the travel requirements violate Filipinos’ right to travel.

Sandoval said IACAT will hold a massive information campaign on government policies against human trafficking and the need for stricter border control. A review of the guidelines would have to be discussed by the council.

She urged travelers who would feel discriminated against by immigration officers to file a complaint.

"If an individual finds that siya ay [that they are] treated wrongly or the immigration officer did not do his job according to our mandate, the IACAT can file the appropriate cases against the immigration officer," said Sandoval.