Palace looking at long-term solution to ease long lines
Malacanang said the government is looking for a long-term solution to prevent long lines at the immigration counters at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport by hiring more personnel.
This came after Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno did not agree to a proposal by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on paying overtime to immigration personnel..
In Monday night’s Cabinet meeting, Aguirre again asked the budget department to temporarily allow using funds from airport express lane fees to defray unpaid overtime pay of immigration personnel until an amended immigration law is enacted.
"There should be a bill in Congress to address this problem on overtime pay of the Immigration officers," Aguirre said in an interview. Aguirre said unpaid overtime has reached P2 billion.
Diokno said the proposal would violate the General Appropriations Act (GAA) for 2017, according to Aguirre. Aguirre said 32 immigration personnel quit and others have gone on leave to find new jobs.
In a press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella apparently blamed the Bureau of Immigration for not yet making a "proper response" on approval of the budget department to create more positions.
Abella quoted a recent statement of the DBM creating additional positions to "address the concerns" of the immigration bureau regarding the salaries of confidential agents and job orders and overtime pay to its personnel as a result of the veto by President Rodrigo Duterte on express lane charges under 2017 General Appropriations Act.
The budget department, in a statement on March 29, said 887 immigration positions would be created. The number is on top of the existing 1,203 positions.
The creation of new positions will increase the immigration officer and immigration assistant positions in the BI by 74 percent, and will require an estimated personnel services cost of P365 million to be charged against the miscellaneous personnel benefits fund under the FY 2017 General Appropriations Act, the DBM has said.
"But based on results, by not acting on suggestion of the DBM, we have these queues," said Abella.
"Well, at this stage, according to the explanation of (Budget) Sec. Ben(jamin) Diokno that they have made a proposal and they’re waiting for the BI to make the proper response. It’s as simple as that. In a sense, it’s almost a household accounting job," he added.
Asked if Malacanang was not concerned that there would be longer queues at the airport in the coming days due to Holy Week, Abella said, "short term...it's an urgent situation. However, long term, we're referring to a particular aspect of our Filipino character and psyche." Celerina Monte/DMS