Long lines back at NAIA immigration counters
Rudy Santos (The Philippine Star) - May 9, 2017 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Long lines were back at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) terminals yesterday as only a few immigration officers (IOs) were available to process passengers’ documents.

The lines first started in January when Malacañang prohibited immigration officers from receiving overtime pay, saying it is illegal.

Several IOs went on leave and complained that their take home pay was slashed by more than 50 percent due to non-payment of overtime.

Red Marinas, Bureau of Immigration’s port operation division chief, said the officers were having a hard time making both ends meet, their take-home pay not even enough for rent and their children’s schooling.

He said some officers were looking for extra jobs to augment their incomes.

“Malacañang has promised to expedite the processing of the Immigration Act that will raise the grade levels of our salary. Nothing has come out of that promise,” Marinas said.

Airport manager Ed Monreal last month talked to immigration officers who promised him that there would be enough personnel to man the booths. 

The officers promised Monreal that they would cooperate and not cause any delay to the airport’s operation.

Marinas said the job of an immigration officer is among the most dangerous in the world.

He said these officers deal everyday with all kinds of people - both local and international - without knowing if one of them could be a terrorist.

Tourism authorities have been luring foreign tourists to visit the country, but the long queues at the airport might make them change their mind. 

The situation irritated even Filipino passengers who were worried they might miss their flight.

One woman complained to a security guard that she developed abdominal pains from waiting too long.

Immigration supervisors and agents from the travel control and enforcement unit were compelled to man the vacant counters and perform the duties of immigration officers.

IOs from airports in other parts of the country were sent to Manila to fill the vacancies.

“Most of them refused to be transferred to NAIA because of unpaid overtime service,” a BI official said.  – With Evelyn Macairan

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