'Stricter' IACAT travel guidelines suspended 

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
'Stricter' IACAT travel guidelines suspended 
File photo shows passengers waiting in line at the immigration area as the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 services more international flight departures and arrivals.
The STAR / Rudy Santos

MANILA, Philippines — After receiving pushback from elected officials and the public, the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking has temporarily suspended the implementation of its revised guidelines on departure formalities.

In a press release Thursday, the Department of Justice, of which the IACAT is under, said that the revised rules were not meant to “burden the general public” and aimed only to “enhance the overall experience of departing passengers.”

The IACAT’s revised rules received backlash for imposing stricter travel requirements on Filipinos and possibly subjecting them to more long-winded questions from immigration officers and other airport personnel.

DOJ Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla said that he has “has deemed it necessary to thoroughly clarify the issues surrounding the revised guidelines to both the senators and the public.”

“The primary objective of the revised guidelines was to streamline the departure procedures, ensuring a more efficient and secure process for all individuals traveling abroad,” the DOJ statement read.

This came after the Senate on Wednesday approved two resolutions calling to suspend the revised guidelines, which had previously been scheduled to take effect September 3.

In one of the two Senate resolutions, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri was authorized to file a petition before the Supreme Court to impose a temporary restraining order on the imposition of the new travel rules if needed.

Zubiri said the IACAT’s new rules, which were meant to prevent more trafficking victims, hampered Filipinos’ right to travel. The Senate president also invoked the Constitution, which he pointed out protects Filipinos’ right to travel and was “not recommendatory” but “mandatory.”

“I truly feel, deep in my heart, it is unconstitutional,” he said in his privilege speech.

The DOJ statement said the department remains “dedicated to upholding the rights and welfare of all individuals, including the right to travel freely.” 

“We assure the public that the revised guidelines aim to strike a balance between national security and the facilitation of smooth and efficient travel,” the DOJ said.

“We take this opportunity to remind everyone that the temporary suspension of the implementation of the revised guidelines on departure formalities does not affect existing laws and regulations governing travel and immigration procedures. All existing rules and guidelines remain in place until further notice,” it added.

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