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Duterte allows BI to get salaries, overtime pay of employees from express lane fees

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Duterte allows BI to get salaries, overtime pay of employees from express lane fees

This file photo shows queues at immigration counters at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. File

MANILA, Philippines — Taking “special note” of the plight of the bureau’s employees, President Rodrigo Duterte has allowed the Bureau of Immigration to put collected express lane fees and charges into a “trust fund” for the payment of salaries and overtime of its employees.

That was among the provisions in the 2018 national budget that the president subjected to “certain conditions” to ensure “consistent and faithful execution of existing laws, policies, and rules and regulations.”

The conditional implementation of the said item in the spending plan for next year was written in Duterte’s veto message to Congress — a copy of which was released by Malacañang on Wednesday.

According to Duterte, the trust fund — which will be subject to guidelines of the Commission on Audit and secretaries of Justice and Budget — will exist until Congress has enacted a new Immigration Modernization Law that will upgrade BI’s compensation system.

“I take special note of the plight of our employees at the Bureau of Immigration, who constitute the first line of defense in securing our borders,” Duterte said.

“Sadly, their basic monthly pay, on which overtime rates are based, has remained extremely low in relation to the nature of work that they perform, thereby leading to a large number of resignations and causing prejudice to the efficient delivery of front-line service,” he added.

The BI used to put the express lane fee — paid by foreign tourists to speed up processing — into a trust fund. The money was then used to pay the additional benefits of those who render overtime.

However, Duterte vetoed it in the 2017 national budget, effectively barring BI employees from using the express lane charges as fund source, thereby prompting many bureau workers to resign and leave the BI undermanned.

The employees had said the express lane fee has been in place for almost 30 years and has been their source of ultimate compensation.

They added that only the passage of the New Immigration Act will answer the deficiencies that the express lanes have effectively addressed.

READ: Immigration staff ask Duterte to let bureau use express lane fees

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