Immigration bureau deploys additional staff for Holy Week


BusinessWorld Online

MORE THAN 100 employees of the immigration bureau will be assigned to international ports, including Manila’s international airport, in anticipation of the tourist influx this Holy Week, the agency said.

One hundred fifty employees will be assigned to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), Bureau of Immigration (BI) Spokesperson Atty. Ma. Antonette H. Mangrobang said in a phone conference with reporters.

Meanwhile, an additional 71 more staff, which will come from other ports and nearby offices, will be assigned “to augment our personnel requirement temporarily,” BI Ports Operations Division Chief Marc Red Mariñas, in a separate text message.

These additional employees will start work in the international ports on April 8, Saturday, Ms. Mangrobang said.

Reports of understaffed immigration ports started in February due to officers ruing over their unpaid overtime service. Their overtime pay was discontinued after President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed the General Appropriations Act (GAA) for the Fiscal Year of 2017, effectively barring them from using the express lane charges as fund.

The GAA in part sought to “directly veto the use of express lane charges collected by the BI... for payment [of] salaries of casual and contractual personnel, confidential agents and job employees, augmentation of salaries of personnel who render services beyond office hours, and payment of health insurance premium.”

As a result, charges paid by foreigners who avail of the bureau’s services will now go to the national treasury.

Since the veto took effect on Jan. 1, Justice Secretary Vitaliano N. Aguirre II on Tuesday said 32 bureau workers have resigned while 50 have signified filing six-month leaves to look for new jobs. As of February, more than 3,000 employees filed leaves, according to BI Personnel Chief Grifton Medina.

He added that the tourism industry, as well as national security and the economy, may be affected following the increasing leaves and resignation of immigration employees due to unpaid overtime pay.

For its part, Malacañang on Tuesday blamed the Bureau of Immigration (BI) for its supposed inaction over the Department of Budget’s (DBM) move to create new positions to support the currently understaffed bureau.

In a press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto C. Abella defended the DBM, saying the agency has already created 887 additional positions in the BI to address long lines at immigration counters.

“Now, the bonus, the burden of response is now upon the [BI] officials, they have not accepted it. They choose to stick to their guns about overtime pay,” Mr. Abella said. “The Executive branch is saying, we’ve already offered you, please act on it. However, up to this point, they have not.” -- K.J.V. Patag and I.N.P. Cigaral