BI modernization bill gets House nod

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Metro Manila, CNN Philippines (May 30) — A bill seeking to modernize the Bureau of Immigration (BI), including the professionalization of its staff, has hurdled the House of Representatives.

House Bill (HB) No. 8203 or the proposed BI Modernization Act was approved with 287 affirmative votes during the plenary session on Monday.

House Speaker Martin Romualdez said that passing the bill is among the Marcos administration’s legislative priorities.

"This bill's importance cannot be overstated, being one of the listed Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) bills. It is two-pronged in that it will improve travel experience and at the same time tighten up our border security," he said in a statement.

Under HB 8203, the BI can keep an Immigration Trust Fund (ITF) of no more than ₱1.2 billion from its annual income sourced from fees, fines, and penalties.

It will be used to fund the BI’s information technology (IT) projects, among other modernization plans, and to build up the capabilities of immigration officers.

To attract qualified staff, the salary grades assigned to junior immigration officers would also be elevated by two notches under the measure.

The low pay has been pinpointed as chief reason for the vacancy of 742 out of the BI’s 2,795 authorized permanent positions.

The bill also provides additional benefits to its employees, such as night shift differential, which shall be subject to Republic Act (RA) No. 11701, and overtime pay for actual work rendered in accordance with the existing rules and regulations.

The measure also states that no person shall be appointed to the position of immigration officer unless they meet the qualification standards set by the BI and approved by the Civil Service Commission (CSC).