The Bureau of Immigration will assign more employees to the airports to deal with a staff shortage caused by mass resignations and leaves of absence involving immigration officers.
President Duterte’s order to stop payment for overtime work has led to the departures, according to Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II.
Malacañang said on Tuesday that a solution to the staff shortage at airport immigration counters had already been worked out, but the bureau had yet to carry it out.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said that as early as January, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Department of Justice and the immigration bureau agreed to add more positions in the bureau so that current employees need not render too much overtime work.
Overtime pay stopped
The President has barred the immigration bureau from using airport express lane funds for overtime pay.
The bureau is appealing Mr. Duterte’s order.
The loss of overtime pay has forced poorly paid immigration officers to resign or go on leave to look for new jobs.
Aguirre said on Monday that 32 immigration officers had resigned and 50 more had filed for leaves of up to six months to go job-hunting.
He said more 3,000 immigration employees had been on leave as of Feb. 17 following the suspension of overtime payments.
Abella said the DBM had approved 49 positions for the immigration bureau’s financial and management division and administrative division, and 887 positions for additional immigration officers and assistants.
The new positions will increase by 74 percent the number of immigration officers and immigration assistants, he said. The increase in staff would reduce the need for the current employees to render overtime work, he added.
But the positions have yet to be filled, and the current employees prefer overtime work, he said.
“In other words, the whole argument of the DBM is that they did act and they did add. Now, the onus, the burden of response is now upon the [immigration] officials. They have not accepted it. They choose to stick to their guns about overtime pay,” Abella said.
Had the immigration bureau filled the positions, there would be shorter lines at the airports, he said.
“It’s as simple as that. In a sense, it’s almost a household accounting job,” he said.
Abella said the immigration staff shortage at the airports was a short-term problem, to be felt mostly during Holy Week, a peak travel period.
To ease the situation the immigration bureau is assigning more employees to the airports.
Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente ordered the deployment of 171 immigration officers during Holy Week, said Antonette Mangrobang, spokesperson for the bureau.
The contingency plan takes effect on April 9, Palm Sunday, and through Holy Week in anticipation of heavy passenger traffic at airports, she said.
Of the 171 immigration officers, 150 will be assigned to Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) and the rest to immigration counters at international airports in Cebu, Davao and Iloilo, she said.
The augmentation force will be composed of division, section and unit chiefs, immigration officers from the bureau’s main office in Intramuros and subports, and other employees.
Although Naia is the only airport affected by resignations and leaves, the immigration bureau is preparing for a spike in passenger traffic in other international airports.
Mangrobang said all available employees, such as administrative staff and supervisors, were ordered to render counter duty in addition to their regular work as part of the bureau’s manpower augmentation measures.
“These are immigration officers, intelligence officers, so they are also very familiar with the operations at the airport,” she said.
“I myself will be rendering counter duty at the airport on Maundy Thursday,” she added.
Mangrobang said the Immigration Officers Association of the Philippines had reiterated its appeal to its members to report for duty.
She gave assurance that the immigration bureau was doing everything to ease the staff shortage at Naia.
Records at the bureau showed that the agency has more than 2,000 employees. The bureau needs more to meet the ideal staff force of 4,000.