President Rodrigo Duterte honored his commitment to give Bureau of Immigration employees the pay that they deserve after he allowed the BI to use its Express Lane Funds (ELFs) to pay for their salaries and overtime pay.
BI Commissioner Jaime Morente repeatedly appealed to the President and to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to allow the use of ELFs to augment the agency’s low salary level.
Malacañang released Memorandum Order No. 39 on 1 October adopting MO No. 24 that allowed the use of the fees to increase BI workers’ salaries and set guidelines for a special provision. It recognized the indispensability of BI employees and disparity between the basic pay of the employees and other agencies performing comparable functions.
The pay will be retroactive and will be implemented as soon as possible, according to the Office of the Commissioner, saying the new memorandum order is effective from 1 January to 31 December this year.
President Duterte said the overall protection of government employees remains one of his priorities.
BI used to put the express lane fees, paid by tourists to speed up processing of their documents, into a trust fund. The money was then used to pay employees who render overtime work. However, President Duterte vetoed it in the 2017 national budget, effectively barring BI employees from using the ELFs as a source of funds. It prompted workers to resign and left the BI undermanned.
The express lane fees have been at the BI’s disposal for almost 30 years.