MANILA - Immigration authorities have intercepted around 242 foreign nationals who were suspected to be illegal workers.
Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said the operation came after several heads at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) were relieved after they were tagged in the "pastillas" bribery scheme.
“Seventy-nine were excluded at NAIA 1, 33 were excluded at NAIA 2, and 130 were excluded at NAIA 3. Some were Cambodians, Vietnamese, Indonesians, Myanmars, Malaysians, and Chinese,” he said in a statement released Tuesday.
The foreigners were barred from entering the Philippines from Feb. 21 to 28.
According to Immigration intelligence chief Fortunato Manahan, Jr., they had noticed an attempt of illegal foreign workers to use other ports of entry to come to the Philippines.
"We see this as a cause for concern. Our front-liners will heighten our efforts in screening these aliens. We are in close coordination with our foreign counterparts in ensuring that no aliens with bad records enter the country," he said.
Morento also vowed to continue investigating the "pastillas" bribery scheme after whistle-blower Allison Chiong said the modus operandi still operates.
"I have ordered all NAIA heads replaced, and reshuffled all front-line personnel to break any possible collusion among them, this revamp affected around 800 officers," he said.
The "pastillas" scheme was revealed in a Senate inquiry last month by opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who said Chinese nationals who enter the Philippines as tourists and later work for Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO) hubs pay immigration personnel and Chinese and Filipino travel agencies P10,000 in grease money rolled in bond paper.
Those found involved in such illicit activity will face administrative and criminal complaints, Morente said.