MANILA — The Bureau of Immigration (BI) has activated its anti-terrorist units in all major ports in the country to prevent possible entry of foreign terrorists.
BI Commissioner Jaime Morente reported that since last month, anti-terrorist units composed of seasoned immigration intelligence agents have been assigned at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and other airports and seaports in the country.
Among the tasks of the agents include monitoring and assisting immigration officers in screening passengers.
Passengers “who behave suspiciously” would be subjected to “secondary inspection,” the BI chief said in a statement.
He noted that those who could not satisfactorily answer queries or has questionable purpose in coming to the country would be denied entry and booked on the first available flight to their port of origin.
Morente added that possession of an entry visa is not a guarantee to enter and stay in the country unless, “he was able to convincingly explain his purpose in coming here, his financial capacity, and the places where he intends to stay or visit.”
BI Port Operations Division Chief Marc Red Mariñas said the move comes after reports saying foreign jihadists from the Middle East and other Asian countries were spotted along with members of the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups fighting government troops in Marawi City.
Likewise, he cited intelligence reports that some of them entered the country through the backdoor and even in the country’s premiere ports, in the guise of being tourists.
“As early as June this year we already issued strict orders to our intelligence officers to intensify the profiling and secondary inspection of incoming passengers,” the BI official added.
Mariñas revealed that they are continuously coordinating with the armed forces, police and other law enforcement agencies here and abroad to facilitate exchange of intelligence information and the interception of persons with derogatory record who might attempt to enter the Philippines.
Earlier this year, 2,700 aliens were barred from entering the country as a result of the intensified campaign to strengthen the country’s border security.