We’re now on our way back to the UK.
Those words are written while heaving a heavy sigh of relief.
Here’s the reason for that.
As we approached Philippines Immigration at the airport, we were blocked and told we could not leave with Selene. Why, pray? We asked. Selene is our third child born in the Philippines, and was leaving on a British passport like the other two before her. What can have changed?
The rules basically.
It was our fault for not reading the Philippines Immigration website, we were told, and for being ignorant of them.
We were naturally shocked. We’d just been through tearful goodbyes and the emotional separations. Were they to take place all over again? How would we meet up with our elder son in the UK if we were not going to be there?
In the past, you paid for your baby’s first departure from the Philippines, filled out a form at the airport, and off you went.
Not any more. You need a form BLXYZ99/tr/3361876 (I exaggerate for effect), and that cannot be acquired at the airport any longer (except when they let you which these two officers were certainly unwilling to do).
You instead have to go to a tiny office in Makati where you queue behind three hundred people, and plead while you find your way through complicated requirements and details.
Some lucky individuals who arrive at the airport each day and are stopped by Immigration for non-possession of Form BLX etc are allowed to buy this document at the airport, I was informed – basically people such as those who have overstayed their visas and are being slung out of the country. But we were told that we were on another list, the one for those who had to apply at the Makati hellhole and wait a minimum of three days.
As we were about to fly within three hours, this was not particularly good news.
There was not a hint of an apology from the two female Immigration officers. In fact the delight taken in being able to stick one over a rich foreigner (that’s us, I suppose!) seemed all too apparent in their demeanour and attitude. They must pull unfortunate people off flights every day and this is obviously the best part of their day, tut-tutting at the ignorance of humanity in general, and preening themselves with the great power placed into their hands.
The list of categories of people who have to go to the hellhole office in Makati was, as I say, presented to me in the book and printed on foolscap.
Being legally trained, I read every word. I was amazed to find that Selene did not come into the suggested category at all. The two overweight officials were sitting there ruining peoples’ lives on a daily basis, barring them from flying, without even understanding the rules they were supposed to be applying.
The category that we were being slotted into, referred to ‘children of foreign nationals leaving the Philippines’. I immediately made the point that Selene was not the child of foreign nationals, but of a foreign national and a Filipino, Shane my wife. Selene is a Filipino national, born to a Filipina in the Philippines, and did not come into the suggested category. The fact that her passport was British does not negate her birth certificate.
On that basis, I changed tack and refused to comply with their attempted ruling (after first of all demanding to be allowed to comply and being refused the opportunity), and demanded that we be allowed to pass through Immigration to catch our flight without further delay. If they refused to allow us to pass, I added, I would call my attorney and bring a case for compensation against Philippine Immigration for our tickets and consequent losses, and ensure that the world be informed accordingly.
(I don’t think the airport in Manila needs any more bad publicity at this current time with hearings currently going on in Congress as its inefficiencies.)
Is that what they wanted to happen, I asked?
Surely they should get someone more senior, or they were in danger of individually collecting the blame for the claim I intended to bring?
They went over to a little room at the side, not admissible to the public, where ‘someone more senior’ must have been in attendance, but whoever this person was, they were not willing to show his/her face, or manifest their name. I was meeting with ‘Supervisor’ level only. Management was not to be seen.
As the self-styled supervisor returned, we were told that if we could present a birth certificate confirming that Selene was the child a Filipino national, that would be OK and they were prepared to overlook the requirement for the form to be filled in etc on this occasion.
(See lawyer’s opinion at foot of article)
The only place we could get the birth certificate was from our luggage which was already checked in, and was being attended to by KLM. So we traipsed back to the check-in hall, where KLM were extremely cooperative in getting it back again, and in no time we had the birth certificate proving what was perfectly obvious to anyone with eyes to see.
There are passports, which bestow citizenship. On this occasion the decision turned on nationality, as per the handbook issued by Philippines Immigration in 2013, which I was shown, in which nationality was declared as the critical factor.
I really do think that Immigration needs to rethink their position, and re-open the possibility for people to get the form at the airport. Either that or respect international passports. What otherwise are passports for? Or indeed just have someone operating checks at the airport who can understand their own book of rules. I wonder how many people are being illegally barred from flying each day. I am sure we are not the only ones.
UPDATE from Filipino lawyer – Foreign AND filipino children do not require exit permits if they are accompanied by at least one parent.
What were the Immigration staff at NAIA airport playing at?