BUREAU of Immigration (BI) officers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and other major airports have dropped earlier plans to resign en masse or go on mass leave despite their low pay and non-payment of their overtime pay out of patriotic duty.
Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente on Tuesday disclosed that most of the immigration officers assigned to the NAIA, the country’s premier airport, have been reporting for work, citing a report from the bureau’s port operations division that daily attendance of BI’s airport personnel is at 95 percent.
“Despite their financial problems, the bulk of our workforce at the NAIA are continuing to persevere and make sacrifices for the sake of the traveling public. I commend them for doing a remarkable job in the face of adversities,” the BI chief said.
A total of 940 immigration officers and supervisors are assigned at the NAIA terminals and other major airports nationwide.
Morente debunked reports that hundreds of immigration officers have resigned en masse or have gone on leave over President Rodrigo Duterte’s veto of the express lane fund (ELF), which effectively stopped the BI from using it as source of funding for overtime pay, hiring of confidential agents and other contractual jobs.
He said only 36 immigration officers have resigned since the start of the year and only a few have gone on leave for various reasons.
“Passenger queues at the airport have returned to normal,” according to Morente, even as he said the basic pay of BI employees was too low that they could barely afford to shoulder the cost of their meals and transportation in going to work.
But the militant Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) does not buy his claim, saying the problem is far from over.
“The problem will remain for so long as the benefits that have been taken away from immigration personnel are not restored. It is a violation of the law,” BMP chairman Leody de Guzman said.”
The Labor Code of the Philippines, he pointed out, prohibits removal of benefits due the employees, including privileges on security of tenure, health and service incentive leave, among others.
Immigration spokesman Antonette Mangrobang earlier said lower salary grade employees were the most affected by the presidential veto on the use of ELF, particularly those receiving below the minimum wage.
“There are immigration employees whose salary grade level is only P9,000 a month, which is below the minimum wage,” Mangrobang added.
“They [have]low morale,” she said.
At present, the BI has 2,671 personnel, composed of organic/permanent, presidential appointees and 975 confidential agents, job orders and computer personnel, among others.
It needs at least 4,000 workers. WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL