House wants to investigate long queues at PH airports

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Manila, Philippines – The House of Representatives is pondering a congressional inquiry into the reported long queues of Filipino passengers and returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) at Philippine airports.

This is despite the introduction of the new eArrival card for arriving travelers.

House transportation committee chair Romeo Acop said in a statement issued Friday that the replacement of the One Health Pass (OHP) requirement with a much simpler eArrival card “should have made the arrival of OFWs and returning Filipinos more convenient, not more difficult and miserable.”

“Why is this happening? Shouldn’t the eArrival card make it much easier for passengers? Why are the lines still long and the process more difficult for returning Filipinos?,” he said in Filipino.

The congressman said the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) and the Department of Health – Bureau of Quarantine (DOH-BOQ) should immediately determine the cause of the problem.

“The House Committee on Transportation under the leadership of Speaker Martin G. Romualdez is seriously considering conducting a congressional probe on this if the MIAA and the DOH-BOQ do not address this immediately,” Acop added.

He mentioned complaints from Filipino passengers enduring long lines at the airports upon arrival, even noting that his colleagues at the House of Representatives conveyed their disappointment when they “saw the long lines at the airports with their own eyes”.

“We should give returning OFWS the VIP treatment because of the contribution they made for our economy. But it is saddening to witness how they are having a hard time returning to their families in our very own airports,” he further said.

Acop added it was the Department of Tourism (DOT) which proposed to remove the One Health Pass because of the inconvenience it gave to returning Filipinos at the airports.

“But it seems like this eArrival Card is still the same [as OHP], and could even be worse,” Acop said. “MIAA and DOH-BOQ should comprehensively review its implementation and resolve the problems. Otherwise, we will be forced to conduct a probe on this.”

“Christmas is also near. There would be a lot of Filipinos returning to our country. We don’t want them to experience longer lines,” he added.

Earlier, Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco said that the introduction of the eArrival card fulfills part of the Marcos administration’s plans to ease the country’s stringent entry protocols in order to attract more tourists.

“The eArrival Card stemmed from the DOT’s proposal to remove the OHP especially amidst numerous complaints from inbound travelers to the Philippines and, to improve the same, benchmarking more convenient arrival protocols in the Asean such as Singapore,” Department of Tourism said.

Before the eArrival Card, travelers were required to register for the OHP a few days before their travel, and accomplish the electronic Health Declaration Checklist (eHDC) on the day of departure.

According to the DOT, the eArrival Card, removes unnecessary information fields, allowing the easier and faster completion of the traveler registration process.

Aside from this, tourism-related fields were significantly cut by half, from 20 items under the OHP to now less than 10 items in the eArrival.

Fields such as traveler occupation and educational attainment were also removed.

Upon providing their travel details, personal information, health declaration, and vaccination details on the eArrival Card website: www.onehealthpass.com.ph, travelers will be issued with a unique QR code.

Travelers must then capture a screenshot of the QR code on his/her mobile or computer device and present this to the Bureau of Quarantine (BoQ) officers at their destination airport in the Philippines.