Lawmakers agree to BI's plea to use express lane fees for operations
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MANILA, Philippines -- Several lawmakers are backing the appeal of the Bureau of Immigration to use Express Lane Fee collections for its operations, including the pay of personnel rendering overtime work for the undermanned agency.
At Thursday's hearing on the budget of the Department of Justice, which oversees the BI, Representatives Terry Ridon of Kabataan party-list, Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro, and Henry Oaminal of Misamis Oriental, said they would seek the deletion of a special provision in the proposed 2016 national budget directing the BI to deposit revenues from the ELF, including charges, with the National Treasury.
"For the first time, there is now this provision … It is the collective sense of the House of Representatives that both the Express Lane Fees and the overtime fees to be paid by the airlines and shipping companies will be retained," Rodriguez said.
He said the same provision was contained in the proposed amendment to the Immigration Act, which has been approved by the House.
The 1988 Immigration Law allows the BI to keep ELF revenues, which are collected for services to foreign nationals, as part of its Special Trust Fund.
BI Commissioner Siegfred Mison lamented that the lack of personnel has forced the bureau to compel some of its staff to work extra hours to sustain operations 24/7.
He said the bureau only has 1,473 personnel, way below the ideal of 4,000.
The DOJ’s proposed P12.8-billion budget for next year allots the BI P740 million.
The other agencies under the DoJ are the National Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Corrections, Parole and Probation Administration, Public Attorney’s Office, Office of the Solicitor General, Land Registration Authority, Office of the Government Corporate Counsel and the Presidential Commission on Good Government.