THE Bureau of Immigration (BI) will beef up its personnel in border crossing stations in the southern part of the country to provide more muscle to the already tight security laid down by government forces to prevent the entry of foreign terrorists and other illegal aliens via the southern backdoor.
Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente disclosed on Tuesday that a total of 36 immigration border crossing officers will be deployed to the BI’s six border crossing stations in Mindanao and Palawan.
Immigration authorities in the South have always been on high alert since the September 11, 2005 terror attack in the US.
The BI has a complete profile and pictures of suspected international terrorists making it difficult for them to enter the country through standard routes.
An intelligence report indicated that the foreign jihadists who fought side-by-side with the Maute group against government security forces in Marawi City entered the country through the backdoor.
These stations are located in the ports of Brooke’s Point and Balabac in Palawan; Tibanban, Davao Oriental; Batuganding, Davao del Sur; and the islands of Taganak and Bongao in Tawi-Tawi.
The so-called southern backdoor route is from Sandakan, Sabah in Malaysia to either Zamboanga City or other nearby islands like Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, using a private sea craft and vice-versa. From Sabah, illegal aliens may take a flight to Kuala Lumpur and back.
Foreigners who enter and exit the country via these ports are mostly Malaysians and Indonesians who are engaged in barter, fishing and other commercial trading activities.
Morente said each of these ports will be manned by six additional border crossing officers who will monitor, board and inspect travelers on board sea crafts that regularly cross the country’s borders with Malaysia and Indonesia.
“Consequently, aside from thwarting the entry of suspected foreign terrorists, these officers are also tasked to monitor and report on the activities of and apprehend human traffickers and illegal recruiters who smuggle their victims in or out of the country via the backdoor,” Morente added.
According to Marc Red Mariñas, BI port operations division chief, the need to beef up BI’s border crossing stations in the South has become imperative over the reported entry of foreign jihadists who had linked up with local terrorist groups.
“We are also planning to assign to the South intelligence operatives from our border control intelligence unit (BCIU) who will assist our border crossing officers in securing our backdoor against the entry of illegal and undesirable aliens,” Mariñas said.
He added that he already proposed to Morente the hiring of contractual employees, with previous experience in intelligence and law enforcement work, to the BCIU to be deployed to other ports that need their services.