In the light of a public uproar on the new travel guidelines issued by the executive branch, Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada has called for the conduct of a Senate investigation into the tighter rules issued by the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) for Filipinos traveling abroad, citing concerns over potential violation to the constitutionally-guaranteed right to travel and freedom of movement.
“The right to travel is a constitutional right and possible restrictions on such right in the guise of stricter pre-departure guidelines which act as a watchlist against outbound Filipino travelers wanting to travel in the whims of Immigration officers may be illegal and should be thoroughly reviewed,” Estrada said in his Senate Resolution No. 771.
As tourism begins to pick up and more Filipinos are eager to travel following the end of the pandemic, the new immigration guidelines in the Philippines will only tend to cause stress for travelers who have already booked and prepared for their trips using their hard-earned money, the senator said.
Estrada pointed out that a special trend worldwide is being practiced in which immigration checks are loosened to revive the once vibrant travel and tourism industry, which has been greatly devastated by movement restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Immigration checks are usually seamless worldwide as immigration officers only ask passengers their destination, which is a stark contrast to the situation in the Philippines where the bureaucracy gets in the way and causes additional stress and anxiety among passengers, Estrada also said.
“As the Philippine government bids to be an essential travel destination in the world because of its pristine waters and highly attractive tourist spots, what authorities should focus on are airport delays, long queues, and a dire lack of lack of employees in immigration counters —long-standing problems that have beset the airport pre-departure area for decades,” the veteran lawmaker stressed.
A 45-second screening time per passenger had been promised by the Bureau of Immigration (BI), but in reality, there are long queues at immigration counters particularly in Manila’s gateways because passengers are asked to submit their yearbook, bank statements, and family photos, among other ridiculous requirements which are highly irrelevant to their travel, he lamented.
“Minsan na tayong binansagan na worst airport in Asia. At nang dahil dito sa pangyayaring ito, mukhang nasa atin pa rin po ang korona ng pagiging worst airport,” Estrada said.