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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Philippine Immigration's policies in off loading passengers without explanation still clouded in Mystery

Following complaints on offloading in Manila, the Philippine Embassy reiterated it is still clarifying matters through proper channels as to what travel documents will satisfy Philippine immigration authorities to allow Filipino travellers to fly to Brunei.

The embassy said it is helping to prepare travel documents needed by Filipinos planning to visit Brunei as required by other government agencies in the Philippines.

"It is the Philippine Bureau of Immigration which requires the statutory declaration (issued by the Brunei Magistrate) and the affidavit of support and consent (issued by the Philippine Embassy) to be authenticated by the Philippine Embassy in Brunei," according to Atty Neil Brillantes, legal officer at the Philippine Embassy.

While the statutory declaration issued by the Brunei Magistrate costs $7, the affidavit of support and consent from the embassy costs $57.50.

The authentication of the document costs another $57.50.

It is advisable and cheaper to get the Brunei Magistrate's document and have it authenticated at the Philippine Embassy.

Original documents have to be sent to the Philippines. Scanned documents or facsimiles are not accepted and could lead to offloading.

Filipino travellers to a visa-free Asean country like Brunei have repeatedly complained the Philippine Embassy that their right to travel guaranteed by the Philippine Constitution is denied by the Philippine Bureau of Immigration whose mandate is to keep out undesirable aliens.

They said despite having valid passports, entry visas and statutory declarations, they are denied to board their air flights.

In answer to an inquiry from the Philippine Embassy on the offloading issues affecting visitors from the Philippines, Cebu Pacific Vice President for Marketing and Distribution responded:

"CEB's forfeiture policy for offloaded guests due to lack of valid or required documents applies to all passengers, regardless of the fare class.

"It is the responsibility of the passenger to secure valid travel documents.

"The airline's priority is to transport the passenger from his or her point of origin to the point of destination.

"A promo fare is not re-routable, non-refundable, but re-bookable subject to penalties and charges.

"Low-cost carriers worldwide has strict rebooking policies because it discourages guests from changing their flights at the last minute.

"The closer the travel date is, the harder it is to sell that seat, and the harder for the low cost carriers to operate successfully.

"The earlier they book for their flight, the lower the fare they can avail.

Rebooking must be done more than 24 hours before the flight."

Six foreign air carriers which protested the offloading of Filipino passengers with valid passports said they are losing at least 2,000 passengers a week, at a cost of $350 per passenger for each ticket worth $800 one way to the Arab countries, according to Manila media reports.

"The Etihad, Gulf Air, Qatar, Emirates, Saudia and Kuwait Airlines said they are losing hundreds of dollars everyday due to the arbitrary decision of airport immigration officials to offload these passengers.

"The foreign air carriers said the seats reserved for the offloaded passengers could no longer be sold at such short notice.

"They added that food and beverages prepared for these booked passengers also go to waste.

"Once dozens of passengers are offloaded, the airline officials said, there is an additional loss in income in terms of additional fuel loaded to the airplane that compensates for the lost weight-and-balance requirement for every flight is looked into, and the weight of any offloaded passenger or cargo is compensated for by the fuel load.

"According to the Mideast carriers, some of those who were denied boarding were workers carrying overseas employment certificates.

"However, on their return to their worksites in the Middle East, Manila immigration authorities barred them from boarding their flights without offering any explanation.

"The Bureau of Immigration said although they have profiled a traveller as a would-be tourist, they could simply deny him or her chance to leave the country if they suspect such person could become a full-time illegal worker," according to Manila media reports. -- Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

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