Seventy new immigration officers set to ease congestion at Manila airport

Passengers form long queues to the immigration counters at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) has hired 70 new immigration officers to cut queues at ’s airport as the peak season for travel looms.

BI Commissioner Jaime Morente on Wednesday said the officers were already in place at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

“Before the year ends, we expect to hire hundreds more immigration officers who will be deployed at the NAIA and other international airports throughout the country,” he said.

This influx of new officers is in preparation for the peak tourist season from November to April.

Mr Morente added that another 70 officers had been hired and would start their training within a week.

The new manpower consists of applicants from Metro Manila, Cebu and Davao. Most of them are “old timers” —or former contractual employees who have now been given permanent employment.

“This time we made sure that these old-timers, who for so long had persevered in their work as contractual employees, are finally rewarded for their services by including them in our roster of permanent employees,” Mr Morente added.

As we have previously reported, retention of customs and immigration staff has been an issue for the BI this year, due to the scrapping a scheme whereby “express lane” fees were used to bolster workers’ pay.

Wage reductions of up to 50 per cent have led to a rash of absenteeism, with 1,759 workers requesting sick leave in June and July alone.

In other cases, officers have simply not turned up for work, leading to ever worsening congestion. Furthermore, there were 26 resignations from January to March this year, compared to only five in the same period last year.

The pay cut follows a decision to scrap a pay-boosting scheme that was implemented in 1988. When the late senator Miriam Defensor Santiago was BI commissioner, she introduced the express lane service at the NAIA, with profits used to cover overtime and bonuses, helping staff secure wages of up to 50,000 pesos a month.

Because of this scheme, low salary grade workers — who can earn as little as 6,000 pesos per month as basic pay — received decent wages until last December.

However, when President Duterte passed the 2017 national budget, he scrapped the express line fund.