BI ON HEIGHTENED ALERT VS FOREIGN TERRORISTS
MANILA, Philippines —The Bureau of Immigration (BI) has placed on heightened alert its personnel in the different international airports and seaports nationwide to thwart the possible entry of foreign terrorists in the wake of the bomb attack in Jolo, Sulu that claimed the lives of at least 20 people and injured more than a hundred others.
“I have instructed our Port Operations Division to alert all its personnel and be on the lookout for suspected foreign terrorists who might attempt to enter the country,” BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said in a statement.
He said immigration officers assigned at the ports have been instructed to be doubly vigilant in screening arriving foreign travelers and to make sure that they have legitimate purposes in entering the country.
He added that “those who cannot satisfactorily explain their purpose in coming here are to be turned back and booked on the first available flight to their port of origin.”
The BI Chief issued the statement after the Islamic State for Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility for Sunday’s terror attack, although local authorities are still investigating other possible suspects.
BI Port Operations Division Chief Grifton Medina disclosed that in compliance with Morente’s orders he has directed all immigration officers conducting primary inspection of passengers in the ports of entry to be extra meticulous in performing their tasks.
“They were reminded to make sure that only aliens who are properly documented and are legitimate travelers with valid reasons in coming here are admitted,” Medina said. “They were told to be careful in scrutinizing travel documents that are presented to them during primary inspection as it is highly probable that foreign terrorists might attempt to use fake passports and visas to slip into the country,” he added.
Medina said that aside from BI officers performing primary line duties, he also alerted and instructed members of the travel control and enforcement unit (TCEU) and border control and intelligence unit (BCIU) to be extra vigilant in the conduct of their functions.
TCEU personnel are responsible for conducting secondary inspection of passengers with doubtful documents and travel purpose while the BCIU is manned by intelligence personnel tasked to monitor and spot for passengers acting suspiciously or exhibiting unusual behaviors.
Medina also revealed that local and international intelligence agencies share their database with BI to help detect suspected terrorists.
“The intelligence community has been very helpful,” he said. “This is a shared fight to protect our country, and we’re doing our best to prevent the attempt of foreign terrorists to enter the Philippines,” he added.
Photo by Alexis Corpuz/Inquirer