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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Payment for airline passengers delayed by BI queries pushed

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Sen. Chiz Escudero expressed hope the government will reimburse Filipino passengers who were offloaded from their flights due to prolonged immigration interrogation in the name of fighting human trafficking.

The reimbursement is part of the 2024 General Appropriations Bill, which is being discussed by the bicameral conference committee. Escudero said that the provision is likely to be approved, as it will not require additional funding.

The money for the reimbursement will come from the Bureau of Immigration’s earnings from collections, he said.

Escudero, who proposed the special provision in the 2024 budget of the Bureau of Immigration (BI), said the should pay back more than 32,000 affected passengers in 2022 who were not able to board their flights.

Escudero also called on the Department of Justice and the BI to create guidelines for screening outbound Filipino passengers to protect them against human trafficking.

He said the proposed payment would not need additional budget as the money will be charged against the BI’s earnings from collections.

“I am confident that the bicam will accept this because the funds touched was the 10 percent collected by the Bureau of Immigration which were not used and were returned to the National Treasury,” Escudero said.

Records from the bureau showed that 32,404 Filipino passengers were not allowed to proceed with their flights last year, including 472 who were found to be victims of human trafficking or illegal recruitment.

Escudero said the Department of Justice and the BI should produce a document that would serve as a policy guideline or check list in screening outbound Filipino passengers to protect them against human trafficking.

He also expressed hope President Marcos would not veto the said provision as the allocation amounting to P200 million represents a small fragment of the government’s P5.7-trillion budget next year.

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