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Immigration employees want OT pay restored

Low pay has decimated the ranks of officers manning the immigration counters resulting in long passenger queues at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

Thirty-five immigration officers have resigned since overtime pay was disallowed last January.

Two hundred more have indicated their desire to follow suit, according to Red Marinas, chief of the NAIA immigration port operations division.

“We cannot control our personnel especially if they have financial problems,” said Marinas.

Bureau of Immigration (BI) employees have asked Malacañang for the reinstatement of their overtime (OT) pay that was slashed under the 2017 general appropriations act.

President Duterte vetoed a provision allowing the BI to use its collection from express lane charges in paying the salaries of its contractual employees and augment the salaries of its organic workers who render OT services at the airports and seaports.

“Time is running out. Many of my colleagues have already started to look for other jobs. How can you survive with only P14,000 monthly take home pay. It’s degrading for someone who prides himself at being the country’s gatekeeper,” said a retiring immigration supervisor at the NAIA 3 terminal.

For three months now, immigration officers at the NAIA had to tighten their belts just to report for work but those who could no longer afford that sacrifice have started to absent themselves from duty or have gone on vacation and forced leaves.

An average of 18 immigration officers has not been showing up for work a day, according to Marinas.

To help ease congestion, Marinas said that he asked members of the Travel Control and Enforcement Unit (TCEU) and supervisors to man the vacant counters.

Despite a policy prohibiting them from going on leave during holiday breaks, including Holy Week, there are signs that these unmanned immigration counters will continue to be a common sight at the NAIA in the coming days.

No less than Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre warned that the continued absence of immigration officers could compromise the country’s national security as there will be lesser gatekeepers who will man the ports and thwart the entry of aliens whose presence here is inimical to the public interest.

He said that more than 30 immigration officers had already retired due to withdrawal of OT pay and 50 others have filed six-month leave of absence.

The BI is one of the attached agencies of the DoJ.

BI employees appealed to the Palace to reinstate their overtime pay pending enactment by Congress of a new Philippine immigration law.

They also cited the important role that immigration officers will play as Manila prepares to host the summit of leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) scheduled at the end of the month.
(JUN RAMIREZ • ARIEL FERNANDEZ)

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