Duterte orders advance passenger information system to strengthen border control

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 15) — Airlines will soon have to provide the Bureau of Immigration with passenger information ahead of flight arrivals in the country following an order from President Rodrigo Duterte.

Duterte on Tuesday signed Executive Order No. 122, which mandates the adoption and implementation of an Advance Passenger Information or API system to strengthen border control. It will be an electronic communications system that collects data from passports, travel documents, and details provided by commercial carriers.

The following data should be transmitted to the BI: flight details, including the flight number and arrival and departure times; and passenger and crew information, including the name, date of birth, gender, citizenship, and travel document data.

"The captain, master or agent, or owner of a commercial carrier whose vessel or aircraft is arriving in or departing from any port within the Philippine territory, shall provide the BI the API of its passengers, and those of the crew and non-crew members," Duterte's order states.

It shall serve as "initial security vetting," but does not exempt the passengers from physical inspection at the ports of entry or departure, Duterte said.

It will give the BI ample time to check if the passenger is on its database and other law enforcement databases, including the notices issued by Interpol, and the list of individuals sanctioned or banned by the UN Security Council.

Only authorized Immigration personnel will have access to the API system, but the bureau may share information with law enforcement agencies if national security calls for it. Unauthorized disclosures shall be punishable under the Data Privacy Act. All information can only be stored in the system for a year, after which the data shall be deleted, unless classified as related to crime or terrorism.

The Bureau of Immigration said in May it was already preparing for an "advanced passenger processing and information system" that will use digitized arrival cards and boarding passes for passengers entering and leaving the country's ports. It was aimed at lessening person-to-person contact through paperless transactions, as well as facilitate contact tracing, amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The BI will now have to come up with the rules and regulations for the implementation of Duterte's order within 60 days from the EO's publication in the Official Gazette or newspaper of general circulation. It will consult with the National Privacy Commission and other government agencies for the drafting of the IRR.