DOJ eyes air passengers’ info-sharing system

MANILA — The Department of Justice (DOJ) said an integrated system for sharing information of air passengers between airlines and government agencies will soon be implemented to cut delays in tracing individuals potentially affected by health scares, such as the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

Justice Undersecretary Mark Perete said the Bureau of Immigration’s Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) would help the government with leads on the whereabouts of passengers in a flight in case they need to be contacted.

“The APIS requires our airlines to provide the BI passenger details/information before they arrive at our terminals. Such information will be useful, especially in contact tracing efforts,” Perete said in a message to reporters on Saturday.

A 38-year-old woman and a 44-year-old man — the first and second confirmed nCoV cases in the Philippines, respectively — who traveled from Wuhan via Hong Kong and then to Cebu, Dumaguete, and Manila on board Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines flights have prompted government efforts to trace the persons they had contact with, including passengers seated near them during these flights.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier claimed before a Senate inquiry that efforts to trace all contacts had been partly hampered by hesitation on the part of airlines to share the manifest details to health officials.

Both the Philippine National Police (PNP) Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) have been ordered to assist contact tracing efforts.

The woman remains confined at a hospital in Manila while the man died of nCoV complications on February 1.

On Friday, the health department reported that the number of persons under investigation (PUIs) for possible infection of nCoV has gone up to 215 since the contact tracing of the country’s third confirmed case — a 60-year-old Chinese woman who has since returned to China. (PNA)

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