ILOILO CITY—A Western Visayas tourism official on Thursday urged immigration personnel assigned at the Iloilo International Airport to ensure that they provide necessary service to international airline passengers.
Tourism Regional Director Helen Catalbas made the call after the passengers of a Cebu Pacific flight from Singapore waited several minutes because the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID) personnel were not around.
“It’s a bad introduction to Iloilo if passengers are inconvenienced because government personnel are not in their posts,” said Catalbas.
The passengers arrived in Iloilo at 5:40 a.m. on Nov. 22, some 30 minutes ahead of schedule, but the immigration personnel were nowhere to be found.
Catalbas said around 80 passengers who had already claimed their baggage on the airport’s ground floor were directed to return to the second floor for immigration clearance.
The delay irked the passengers, she said.
Noel Bangeles, Iloilo airport immigration supervisor, said the seven-member team assigned at the airport was delayed because their rented shuttle van failed to pick them up at their boarding house in Sta. Barbara town, a 10-minute drive from the airport.
Bangeles said they arrived at 5:45 a.m. after they found another vehicle to bring them to the airport. “It was an isolated case and it was unfortunate that we had problems with our service vehicle during the day that the flight arrived ahead of schedule,” he told the Inquirer.
Bangeles said they usually arrived at least an hour before the scheduled time of arrival and at least three hours before the time of departure.
After the incident, the immigration personnel, who were deployed from Manila, resorted to sleeping in their office at the Iloilo airport, which they also share with personnel of the Bureau of Quarantine, to prevent the recurrence of the Nov. 22 incident.
Bangeles said he had requested for a service vehicle from the BID central office but this has not arrived yet. He said they still lack resources because the deployment of BID personnel at the Iloilo airport was not anticipated this year.
Business groups had earlier loaned computer units to the immigration personnel at the airport because the BID central office has not provided digital passport scanning computers.
The airport opened to international flights for the first time with the start of flights between Iloilo and Hong Kong on Nov. 8 and Iloilo and Singapore on Nov. 9.
Business groups, officials and overseas Filipino workers have earlier welcomed the opening of direct international flights, which they considered a boost to travel, tourism and trade in Western Visayas.