A number of travelers complained about delayed and cancelled flights over the past week, particularly at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) terminal 3.
The passengers also decried the lack of personnel at airline counters and the unavailability of Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) officials who could’ve mitigated the situation.
Palace spokesperson Abigail Valte said the CAB and officials of the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) have been enjoined to “investigate” the incidents, even as she noted that “only a few” complaints were actually received.
It’s understandable that legitimate grievances of travelers about the “worst airport in the world,” inevitably see print in the newspapers and sound bites on TV news broadcast.
It’s just a shame that some of the welcome developments that have actually alleviated the chaotic situation at NAIA have escaped the news.
My family and I were among throngs of passengers who went on a trip over the holidays.
We were fortunate to experience first-hand the much-improved procedure over at the Bureau of Immigration (BI) counter at NAIA terminal 1.
I was with my wife Karen and our children Erika Therese Marie and Erin Guada Marie, expecting crowding and queues of people at the check-in counter at NAIA 1.
I was anxious it would be a long day and wished it would go somewhat smooth.
Well, it actually went smoothly, particularly at the Immigration counter where I began to notice that a new team of immigration officers have been assigned to attend to arriving passengers, both foreign and Filipino nationals, at NAIA.
It’s the “BI CARES” program that was recently implemented, Karen pointed out.
It’s the new program where carefully selected and rigorously trained immigration officers tasked to strictly enforce the country’s immigration law in a professional and friendly manner are in place.
Immigration Commissioner Siegfred B. Mison’s innovative idea of deploying a friendlier, more diplomacy-oriented team of immigration officers (IOs) has created a refreshing look of public service at NAIA and other international airports and seaports in the country.
“BI CARES is an acronym for BI standard of courtesy, accountability, responsibility, efficiency and services,” said Immigration Officer Gomez of his boss’ brainchild program.
“We ensure that our visitors are accorded the genuine Filipino hospitality the moment they set foot in our country,” Gomez went on to say.
Mison reportedly ordered the BI team at NAIA beefed up in anticipation of more foreign visitors and balikbayans’ influx to experience the presence of His Holiness Pope Francis whose scheduled arrival is just two weeks away.
Now, there are less crowding and queues at the arrival and departure areas, owing to speedier processing at the Immigration counter.
BI spokesperson Atty. Elaine Tan said many of the IOs are new recruits, young blood infused into the ranks of an agency that have earned notoriety over decades of rampant graft and corrupt practices.
“There’s a new culture, one of sheer professionalism, that’s growing within our ranks,” Tan said.
They had to hurdle a battery of written, verbal examinations and interviews, and went to months of training on proper inspection, evaluating the authenticity of travel papers, detecting forged documents and recognizing undesirable aliens.
The IOs’ interview skills are honed to detect possible victims human trafficking and learned how to handle unruly individuals without violating their legal rights.
With his BI CARES, there’s no doubt Mison has scored a PR coup.
“They look very professional and very personable . . . magagalang at ang gaganda nila,” Karen exclaimed.
True enough, the public service with a smile from Immigration officer Gomez and his BI CARES teammates also made Karen say, “There’s no place like home.”