OFWs suffer long lines in NAIA due to broken system
MANILA, Philippines – Hundreds of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) suffered long lines at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) after the breakdown of a system meant to speed up processes for them.
Bureau of Immigration (BI) Spokesperson Maria Antonette Mangrobang explained on Monday, January 2, that this was due to problems in the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) system that is linked to the BI.
In a text message to Rappler, Mangrobang said: "This caused the delay of our counter inspector's processing. BI already coordinated the matter to the general manager of NAIA, informing them that the problem is not with BI but with POEA. As of now, we just manually process all OFWs with POEA clearances and contracts as per request of POEA."
Mangrobang said that based on POEA estimates as of early Monday evening, the problem has affected around 350 OFWs.
Rappler sought the BI for comment after OFWs complained on Facebook about the long lines at NAIA.
Photographer Don Michael de Leon posted several Facebook videos of angry OFWs who were stuck at NAIA Terminal 3 on Monday afternoon, as they were bound to return to their places of work abroad.
In a Facebook post, De Leon said thousands of OFWs had to fall in line in one booth to get a "stamped authentication." He said that migrant workers like him are exempted from this step as long as they have their Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC), but this exemption was waived because the system was down.
"We weren't able to make us use of our exemption. We had to fall in line. Thousands have to fall in line to get a form of stamp validation. In the end it seems it wasn’t necessary," De Leon said in a Facebook video.
Aside from those who missed their flights, there were also OFWs who lost their luggage.
“People have been very angry, have been throwing papers. They have been screaming expletives in the air… Apparently, some thieves made their way out of the mess,” he also said, describing the situation at the airport.
Other OFWs departing the country also shared their frustration via social media. Facebook user Chari Sevilla warned other OFWs of the trouble they are about to face due to the broken validation system.
Meanwhile, Facebook user Opalyn Albidas said she initially relaxed upon arriving at the airport, knowing that OFWs are exempted from validation. When they noticed the long queues, they inquired about it and fell in line. They waited for two hours before getting validated.
– Patty Pasion/Rappler.com