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Airport ‘e-counters’ to cut hassle for travelers

/ 05:57 AM October 01, 2015

International airline passengers need no longer scramble for pens to fill up immigration cards at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport with the Bureau of Immigration setting up e-counters to speed up the process next month.

Manually filling up arrival and departure cards could take 5 minutes, or even 15 minutes in some cases, but the e-counter reduces that process to less than 30 seconds.

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Although arriving and departing passengers would still need to queue at the manned BI counters, the e-counters promise to at least reduce the hassle for the travel-weary.

The e-counter is a user-friendly machine that allows a passenger to encode his personal information and biometrics for speedier immigration processing. It completes the first phase of the DOJ’s National Justice Information System (NJIS), which aims to link up all agencies under the department.

According to BI-Naia head Floro Balato Jr., the e-counter provides a derogatory check and queuing system that processes a passenger’s passport in a matter of seconds.

“In the future this will do away with arrival and departure cards because all of the information that should be indicated by a passenger in them are already in the e-counter system,” he said.

“This will reduce the hassle for travelers because they do not have to fill up arrival and departure cards with all the required information already in their passports,” he said.

According to Balato, the options on the e-counter screen adapt to the nationality of the user.

Balato said that 10 e-counters will be set up next month at the country’s premier airport in time for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ summit in November.

By then, the system will have a facial recognition software as well as a biometrics system installed to ensure a seamless security check on international passengers at the Naia.

“Eventually the BI hopes to roll out 500 e-counters in 18 terminals nationwide,” Balato added.

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According to Immigration Commissioner Siegfred Mison, the e-counters embody the bureau’s “good guys in, bad guys out” rule.

“It (process) will be faster for the right reasons,” he said, adding that it was a sure system to shut the country’s doors on “unwanted visitors.”

At the launch of the e-counters on Wednesday, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the e-counters will place the Bureau of Immigration and its background checking system “at par with that of other countries in the world and our Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) counterparts.”

The NJIS is an information management and sharing system among DOJ attached agencies and other offices in the country’s legal system for the comprehensive, timely monitoring and reporting of data related to crime and justice.

TOPICS: air travel, DOJ, e-counters, NAIA, National Justice Information System, passengers, Philippines, Siegfred Mison, travelers
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