‘Red flags’: BI answers criticisms vs offloading of passenger asked to give 10 birth certificates

July 10, 2023 - 6:43 PM
NAIA airport
Undated photo showing foreigners having their passports checked by the Philippines' immigration officers in an airport. (The STAR/Rudy Santos)

A woman made headlines after she got offloaded for failing to present necessary travel documents for her Taiwan trip.

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) explained this to address questions and criticisms on social media concerning its airport procedures.

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In a statement on Monday, July 10, Immigration Commissioner Norman Tansingco listed the following “red flags” shown in the initial report about the incident:

  • The traveler mentioned a possible work in Taiwan.
  • The traveler was unable to establish her connection with her distant relative who was supposed to sponsor her trip.
  • The traveler has “numerous inconsistencies” when asked for further details about the sponsor.
  • The traveler failed to establish if she can sustain herself during her 14-day stay in Taiwan.

Tansingco said that the woman was also reminded to secure proper working documents.

The commissioner pointed out that air passengers can easily come in and out of the country if they have the appropriate documents.

“Travelers need not worry as long as they have the appropriate documents that match their actual purpose of travel,” Tansingco said.

“So many travelers are coming in and out of the country with no issues. Only those with conflicting documentation are subjected to further inspection,” he added.

The offloading incident

In an interview with PTV on July 6, Ammie Liau, a distant relative of the offloaded passenger, said that she just wanted the latter to experience a vacation in Taiwan. Liau is also currently residing there.

Her cousin, however, was requested to provide at least ten birth certificates of their family to the immigration officer at the airport on July 1.

Liau noted that this was already a rebooked flight. Her cousin was earlier asked to provide a physical copy of a photo of them together.

Her cousin was able to bring this photo to the immigration kiosk. The officer, however, asked for another requirement.

“Sabi niya, nasa mga fifth or seventh degree na kayo ng pinsan mo. So kelangan mo to magdala ng isang katutak na sampung birth certificate,” Liau said in the interview.

“Do I need to do this research? Pipilahin ko yan sa PSA (Philippine Statistics Authority). Syempre san tayo hahanap ng ano…patay na mga lolo’t lola natin,” she added.

Liau’s cousin was later offloaded at the airport. She claimed that P17,000 worth of travel funds went to waste because of it.

This story quickly circulated and was talked about by Filipinos on social media.

Guidelines on sponsorship

In his statement, citing guidelines set by the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (lACAT) on department formalities for international-bound passengers, Tansingco said that departing passengers can be sponsored by a relative within the fourth civil degree.

This was stated in Section 2.1 of Memorandum Circular No. 036. It was published on June 15, 2015.

An “affidavit of support and undertaking duly authenticated by the Philippine Embassy or Consulate” is required for a passenger traveling through a sponsor.

This affidavit should show the following:

  • The relationship of the sponsor and the passenger within the fourth civil degree of consanguinity (e.g. pinsang buo) or affinity (e.g. bayaw/hipag/biyenan)
  • Financial capacity with the legal status of the sponsor
  • Contact information of the sponsor