EMPLOYEES of the Bureau of Immigration thanked President Rodrigo Roa Duterte for “recognizing the plight of immigration officers nationwide.”
Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente yesterday said the President has approved the collection of the Express Lane Fees (ELF) to “augment the meager salaries of Immigration personnel.”
In Duterte’s veto message, the Bureau’s Special Provision No. 1 or Immigration Fees and Collections authorized the Bureau to collect ELF as a special trust fund to protect government employees.
“This is to recognize the efforts put forth by the BI in securing our national borders, and motivate them to improve further,” Duterte said in the message.
Morente noted that the collection of ELF will boost in attracting more qualified personnel to work and stay in the bureau.
The use of ELF to augment Immigration personnel’s salaries was a result of an order from the late Miriam Defensor Santiago, then the Immigration commisioner who saw the low pay of its employees due to an outdated Immigration law.
“The basic monthly pay of BI employees is extremely low despite the nature of our work. Our officers, especially those assigned in the ports, have no weekends and holidays and are required to work long hours due to lack of personnel,” Morente said.
“We have only around 1,900 organic personnel all over the country, which requires us to work doubly -- even triply hard,” he added.
Morente stressed the need of an interim measure to raise the salaries of BI employees, until a new law is passed.
“Currently, an Immigration Officer I is on salary Grade 11 -- the same level as public school teachers, which translates to a take home pay of P15,000. We experience the same difficulties, and add that to the fact that our jobs involve a lot of risks,” he explained.
According to Morente, the arrangement will require BI to deposit the funds collected in a special trust fund account with a government bank.
At least 64 percent of the ELF will be used to augment the salaries of BI personnel, 24 percent for salaries of their contractual personnel, and 11 percent will be remitted to the National Treasury as income of the general fund.
“It’s a win-win solution. We are able to provide decent salaries to our personnel without added expense for the government,” Morente noted.
Meanwhile, when asked about the vetoing of the provision on Special Work Permit in the national budget, Morente clarified that they are already in talks with the Department of Labor and Employment to create guidelines in issuing permits to foreign workers.
“The veto mentioned that the intricacies brought about by the influx of foreign workers and immigrants in the country require collaborative efforts, and it is imperative the regulation should be a shared responsibility of the BI and DoLE,” Morente said.