The 2024 national budget has a special provision for the travel expenses of foreign-bound Filipino passengers who missed their flights due to prolonged secondary inspection by immigration officers, Makati City Rep. Luis Campos Jr. said.
“In the 2024 General Appropriations Law, the travel expenses incurred by Filipino passengers who were deferred or denied boarding without a court order shall be charged from the balance of the Bureau of Immigration’s (BI’s) special trust fund account of accrued collections of express lane fees and charges,” Campos said.
“The special provision strikes a balance between the right of every Filipino to travel, and the BI’s obligation to enforce immigration laws,” Campos, vice chairperson of the House committee on appropriations, said.
“Right now, we are still awaiting the guidelines to be issued by the BI, the Department of Budget and Management, and the Commission on Audit with respect to the implementation of the special provision,” Campos said.
Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero had pushed for the reimbursement of the travel expenses of Filipino passengers who were offloaded from their flights due to lengthy interrogation by immigration officers “in the guise of fighting human trafficking.”
Citing BI records, Escudero said a total of 32,404 Filipino passengers were not allowed to proceed with their flights in 2022 alone, and “only 472 of them were found to be victims of human trafficking or illegal recruitment.”
In the past, Filipino passengers who missed their flights on account of extended immigration secondary interviews had also vented their frustration on social media.
Article III, Section 6 of the 1987 Constitution provides that: “The liberty of abode and of changing the same within the limits prescribed by law shall not be impaired except upon lawful order of the court. Neither shall the right to travel be impaired except in the interest of national security, public safety, or public health, as may be provided by law.”
Liberty of abode refers to the right to choose one’s residence, to leave it whenever one wants to, and to travel wherever one wishes to – all under the limits prescribed by law.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., in his budget message agreeing to the “conditional implementation” of the special provision, said:
“Moreover, I acknowledge the noble intent of Congress in including the proviso in DOJ-Bureau of Immigration (Bl), Special Provision No. 1, “Immigration Fees and Collections,” Volume l-A, page 1131, that travel expenses incurred by Filipino passengers who were deferred or denied boarding without a court order shall be charged from the balance of the special trust fund account. However, it must be clearly understood that this should not render nugatory the mandate of the Bl to administer and enforce immigration laws, as well as RA No. 11862 (Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act).
Therefore, the guidelines to be issued by the Bl, Commission on Audit (COA), and Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to implement this special provision shall prescribe the necessary and sufficient standards to ensure the balance between the protection and convenience of Filipino passengers and the duty of the Bl to effectively enforce immigration and related laws.”
At present, express lane fees and charges collected by the BI are deposited in a special trust fund account with a government bank to be used exclusively for the following purposes:
- 64 percent to augment the salaries of the BI’s organic personnel working beyond regular office hours;
- 25 percent for the salaries of the BI’s contractual personnel; and
- The remaining 11 percent is remitted to the national treasury as income of the general fund.