Advance Passenger Information to be required under new EO signed by Duterte

Published December 15, 2020, 10:02 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

The government will adopt and implement the advance passenger information (API) system to enhance the country’s border security based on a latest order of President Duterte.

President Rodrigo Duterte (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Under Executive Order No. 122, the President designated the Bureau of Immigration (BI) as the sole government agency to receive or manage the API containing information about the passengers and crew and non-crew members.

The API will serve as “initial security vetting” to expedite arrival and departure process of travelers and may be shared with other law enforcement agencies for security purposes. The information collected in the API includes data related to flight number, arrival and departure times as well as the passenger’s name, date of birth, gender, citizenship and travel document data found in the passport.

“Philippine border control must be enhanced through the strict and intensified enforcement of Philippine immigration laws and upgrading of screening capacity to enhance border integrity, manage international traffic flow amidst dramatic growth in passenger numbers, and ensure public safety and security,” the order read.

In EO 122, the President directed the captain, master or agent or owner of a commercial aircraft or vessel arriving in or departing from any port in the country to provide the immigration bureau the API of passengers as well as crew and non-crew members.   While it will facilitate the arrival and departure process of travelers, the API won’t exempt them from submitting to primary inspection at the immigration counters.

After receiving the API, the immigration authorities must perform “security vetting or derogatory information verification” of passengers and crew or non-crew members using its database as well as those related to law enforcement. The database include notices issued by the International Criminal Police Organization and those subject of the United Nations Security Council sanctions and travel bans.

The President has also ordered the BI to ensure the API data elements required are limited to the minimum necessary as well as the protect their integrity. The API message format, structure and transmission method must also conform to internationally recognized standards and practices. 

The BI has also been directed to implement security measures to protect the integrity and availability of API and prevent unauthorized access. Only personnel authorized by the immigration commissioner will have access to the API.

EO 122 also allowed the immigration bureau to share passenger information “in furtherance of regional or international security” subject to existing treaties and laws.

It may also be given to the police, military and other law enforcement agencies “in furtherance of national security, law enforcement, immigration, intelligence and counter-terrorism functions, as may be required for public safety and order.” Among the state agencies that may be given the API are the Bureau of Customs, Office for Air Transportation Security, Philippine Coast Guard, Bureau of Quarantine, National Bureau of Investigation, Philippine National Police, Department of National Defense, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, Armed Forces of the Philippines, National Security Council, and Anti-Terrorism Council. 

The latest presidential order stated that any unauthorized disclosure, sharing, publication or use of the API will be punishable in accordance with the country’s laws, including Republic Act No. 10173 or the Data Privacy Act of 2021.

The captain or owner of the aircraft or vessel may be slapped with administrative fines if they fail to provide API to the BI.

Crew or non-crew members excluded in the API will also be deal with in accordance with immigration protocols. Passengers may also be similarly treated if it can be shown they are complicit in the omission of their names and other data from the API.

Data collected in the API system will be kept for a period of not more than 12 months unless such information is classified as terrorism- or crime-related. The data must thereafter be erased, destroyed or disposed of in accordance with the EO 122’s implementing rules and regulations.

The President directed the BI, in consultation with the National Privacy Commission and other concerned agencies, to issue the rules and regulations for the implementation of EO 122.

EO 122, signed by the President on Dec. 15, invoked the Convention on the International Civil Aviation or the Chicago Convention requiring parties, including the Philippines, to establish API system consistent with intentionally recognized standards. It also mentioned the Kyoto Convention that recommended the use of API to facilitate customs control of travelers and clearance of their goods.

The President’s order  takes effect immediately upon publication in the Official Gazette or in a newspaper.