Remarks by Ambassador Bill Tweddell
at the Signing of the Second Memorandum of Understanding
for the Regional Movement Alert System
17 April 2015
Hon Rafael E Seguis, Undersecretary for Civilian Security and Consular Concerns, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA),
Hon Wilfredo C Santos, Assistant Secretary, Office of Consular Affairs, DFA,
Ms Lilibeth V Pono, Executive Director, Office of Consular Affairs, DFA,
Mr Roussel Reyes, Director, Passport Division, DFA,
Mr Danilo T Ibayan, Deputy Head/Special Assistant, Office of Intelligence and Security, DFA
Ladies and gentlemen
On behalf of the Australian Government, I would like to thank the Philippine Government for this opportunity today for our two countries to strengthen further their cooperation in this important area, through the signing of this Memorandum of Understanding.
The Regional Movement Alert System (RMAS) was launched in 2005 as a counter-terrorism initiative. The objective of RMAS is to manage efficiently the movement of people across borders by detecting lost, stolen and otherwise invalid travel documents, and to prevent them from being used illegally. Australia is firmly committed to RMAS and its extension to other APEC economies.
RMAS enables participating economies to verify the status of travel documents in real time directly with the passport issuing authority and alert relevant agencies if action is required. It provides automated checking of passport data at the time of airline check-in or at the time of arrival, against the database maintained by the passport-issuing authority.
The Australian Government commenced working with the Philippines in 2009 to design and implement a web-based version of RMAS. Up to that time, the cost associated with dedicated communication lines had presented a potential barrier to economies joining RMAS. The web-based technology operating between our countries has provided an opportunity to reduce the costs and development effort, simplifying participation in the RMAS program.
The first Memorandum of Understanding, signed in July 2013 between our Governments, provided for Philippine Immigration authorities to be able to check Australian passport data of persons arriving in the Philippines. RMAS has been operational at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Manila since December 2013, and efforts are under way to extend access to other international terminals.
This second Memorandum of Understanding being signed today provides for Australian border authorities to be able to check Philippine passport data of persons arriving in Australia.
And I’m delighted that today’s signing is taking place during the Philippines’ APEC host year, 2015.
The signing of these two MOUs makes it easier for legitimate tourists, students and business travellers to travel between our two countries, while making it more difficult for persons who seek to enter unlawfully.
The benefits of the RMAS initiative, and the lessons that we have learned in going through the process of implementing it, will benefit not only Australia and the Philippines, but also all other APEC economies. Discussions are taking place with other APEC economies to develop similar arrangements.
I warmly congratulate and commend the Philippines for being the first country in South East Asia to participate in the RMAS initiative. Australia looks forward to working with the Philippines on the next stages of its implementation