By Leonel Abasola

Bureau of Immigration personnel (File photo)

MANILA – The salaries and benefits of Bureau of Immigration (BI) employees will not be affected despite a provision in the 2024 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) that allows the reimbursement of thousands of passengers who missed their flights due to long immigration assessment.

Senator Francis Escudero said there is nowhere in the 2024 GAB that says that the funds to be used to compensate affected passengers will be sourced from the budget meant for employees.

“Any diminution from the salary and augmentation of BI personnel is illegal and unauthorized,” Escudero posted on his social media account X over the weekend, as quoted in a news release Monday.

He said based on his proposal that was adopted in the final GAB, the reimbursement fund will come from the excess income of the BI that is returned annually to the national treasury.

“I will look closely into this to ensure that the intent and mandate of Congress regarding this is followed to the letter,” Escudero said.

Earlier, Escudero said the proposed payment will not need additional budgetary requirement since the money will be charged against the BI’s earnings from collections.

“Ang ginalaw ko lamang na pondo ay iyong 10 percent na nakokolekta ng Bureau of Immigration na hindi naman nila nagagamit at binabalik naman nila kada taon sa national treasury (The only funds I touched on were the 10 percent collected by the Bureau of Immigration which they do not use and which they return every year to the national treasury),” Escudero said in a previous interview.

According to BI records, 32,404 Filipino passengers were not allowed to proceed with their flights last year, of which 472 were found to be victims of human trafficking or illegal recruitment.

Escudero also remains hopeful that President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. will not veto the provision in the GAB.

Marcos is set to sign the PHP5.76-trillion 2024 national budget into law within the week.

Last week, the Senate and the House of Representatives ratified the GAB, which is 9.5 percent higher compared to the PHP5.268 trillion 2023 budget. (PNA)