If you have passed through immigration at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) lately, you must have encountered the unusually long queues to get your travel documents processed.
Several months ago, it has been reported that there seemed to be an exodus of immigration personnel at NAIA due to President Duterte’s ban on overtime pay. Consequently, immigration booths at the airport’s arrival area have been clearly understaffed.
Why personnel recruitment by the Bureau of Immigration hasn’t caught up with the understaffing boggles my mind.
It doesn’t take a genius to solve the immigration backlog at the airport. It just needs some simple math.
Let’s take a look at Terminal 1 where most international flights come in on a daily basis, and let’s further narrow it down to a six-hour time period, between 6 a.m. and 12 noon.
There are at least 15 international flights that arrive each morning.
Let’s just assume that based on the capacity of a 747 aircraft, each incoming flight carries an average of 400 passengers. That’s 6,000 passengers whose passports and visas need to be processed on arrival.
The last time (which was yesterday) that I went through NAIA’s immigration, I noticed that several of the immigration booths were not sufficiently staffed. I recall seeing a total of about 10 immigration officers.
That means that each officer would have to process 600 passengers for that 6-hour period, or 100 per hour — assuming it takes one minute to process each person.
I understand that recruiting for additional personnel takes time and follows an established process, but there are some quick, albeit temporary fixes that BOI can look into, like deploying (and training) some of their supervisors or employees from other departments to fill in the vacuum until a more permanent solution is put in place.
I’ve personally seen great changes at NAIA since Duterte became president, but unless this immigration backlog is addressed, none of the other changes will matter to the travelers and visitors. Oftentimes, the first impression could be the last. And that does not bode well for our tourism or the administration for that matter.
Oh, and while we’re at it. The posted NAIA hotline number at the arrival area doesn’t work. I know because I tried to call the number several times while waiting for my turn at immigration to complain about the long queues. All I got were dropped calls.
Hello, NAIA, can you hear me now?