The Bureau of Immigration (BI) has cut its office opening hours due to issues about unpaid overtime.
Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said today (Wednesday, May 3) that BI offices would now be open from 8am to 5pm instead of 7am to 5.30pm.
BI staff at airports will continue to work nine-hour shifts (4am-1pm, 12pm-9pm, and 8pm-5am) and 100 extra officers have been promised to help tackling increased congestion at Manila’s NAIA immigration counters.
The new hours have been adopted due to President Duterte’s order to stop the use of express lane charges to augment the salaries of staff and pay the wages of contractual workers.
The president ruled that such use of these funds had no legal basis and said they should be deposited directly to the national treasury.
This effective wage reduction of up to 50 per cent has led to a rash of absenteeism, with at least 2,000 workers requesting sick leave since the beginning of February.
In other cases, officers are simply not turning up for work, leading to ever worsening congestion at the NAIA.
Furthermore, there were 26 resignations from January to March this year, compared to only five in the same period last year.
The move also stoked fears that lower wages could lead to increased corruption — such as the infamous planted bullet scam — as officers struggle to make ends meet.
However, Mr Morente said that despite the shortened hours “we remain steadfast in our commitment to deliver fast and efficient services to the public.”
He added that he had also asked the president to support a bill to update the agency’s 77-year-old charter and upgrade the pay scale of its workers.
Most BI employees get basic pay ranging from 9,981 to 19,620 pesos, which Mr Morente said meant they “could barely afford to shoulder the cost of their meals and transportation in going to work.”
Gregorio Sadiasa, chief of the employees’ union BUKLOD-CID, said morale in the bureau was at rock bottom. “We are really demoralised, we no longer have a source for our daily expenses, we cannot afford to send our children to school.”