Installing facial recognition machines at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport is being seen as a way to speed up the immigration processing time at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, will which will allow CNMI visitors to begin their vacation promptly after arrival, according to Marianas Visitors Authority managing director Christopher A. Concepcion.
Concepcion believes this is a worthwhile investment since it would allow passport-less entry into the CNMI as long as the image and background information are on file with the U.S. government.
He disclosed that he met with CBP director of Field Operations Brian Humphrey and Area Port Director Bruce Murley a few weeks ago and that they informed him of the new facial recognition that are being used in select airports in the U.S. right now.
“Use of it in the CNMI will depend on whether the Commonwealth Ports Authority is willing to fund the enhancement project,” he said.
CPA board airport facilities committee chair Barrie C. Toves told Saipan Tribune Monday that CBP and CPA are still in talks about CBP’s plan to install such facial recognition machines at the airport.
Toves pointed out that no such understanding or agreement has been hammered out yet.
In China, facial recognition machines have been used at some airports.
Concepcion said any opportunity to use advanced technology to streamline any government process should be realized as long as it does not infringe on anyone’s right to privacy.
“This is important in today’s high-tech world,” he said.
Concepcion, however, pointed out that what this means is that the seven automated passport control machines that are in use now at the Saipan airport will eventually be obsolete.
“This is unfortunate but a part of the process of becoming more technologically advanced,” he said.
Concepcion does not think that facial recognition machines will have a negative effect on tourist arrivals because it’s meant to quicken the screening process for incoming arrivals.
In the Philippines, five e-gate machines at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport are now operational. The machines scan passports and cut the processing time of travelers to only 8 to 15 seconds per passenger from the previous 45 seconds.