BI chief: No holiday breaks for airport immigration staff

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    IMMIGRATION employees assigned at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and other international airports in the country will be on round-the-clock duties during the holidays and will not be allowed to go on Christmas and New Year’s breaks.

    Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said all port employees of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) are barred from availing of vacation leaves beginning December 1 up to January 15, 2021.

    “We have to make sure that our immigration booths at the airports are adequately manned in anticipation of an increase in the number of international travelers who will enter and exit the country during that period,” Morente said.

    But he said that due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the BI expects only a slight to moderate increase in the number of passengers who will depart or arrive in the country during this year’s holiday season.

    Morente noted that many countries, including the Philippines, have not yet fully lifted travel restrictions that were imposed to prevent the further spread of the novel virus.

    “Thus, we are confident that the number of immigration officers currently deployed at the ports are enough to facilitate the efficient conduct of immigration formalities for arriving and departing passengers,” Morente added.

    BI Ports Operation Division chief Candy Tan said aside from NAIA, the directive covers immigration employees assigned at the Mactan Cebu, Clark in Pampanga, Kalibo, Aklan, Iloilo, Davao City, Laoag and Zamboanga international airports.

    “During the 45-day period, no application for leave or authority to travel abroad by any of the said BI port employees will be entertained or approved,” Tan said.

    Tan said she has already designated several immigration officers detailed as office immigration staff to be on call and ready to perform supervisory and primary counter duties should the need arise.

    Meanwhile, the Archdiocese of Manila yesterday prohibited the conduct of Christmas caroling for this year’s Christmas festivities in all parishes in the country.

    Sans an official order from the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), the Manila Apostolic Administrator Bishop Broderick Pabillo said he has already given directives to priests not to organize Christmas caroling activities in their respective parishes.

    “We have already instructed our parishes not to organize carolings,” Pabillo said, adding that the instruction was verbally relayed during a recent meeting he had with his priests.

    “There is no letter. I just told them in our Zoom meeting,” he said.

    Interior Secretary Eduardo Año had earlier pushed for the prohibition of caroling during the Christmas season in a bid to further control the spread of the COVID-19.

    Instead of doing face-to-face caroling, Año said the public should just opt for online caroling next month.

    Christmas caroling is a Filipino tradition where groups, usually of kids, go house to house to serenade homeowners with Christmas songs.

    Recent studies show that loud singing carries the highest viral particles among the usual social activities with 1,480 viral particles transmitted per minute.