PAL to passengers: Be 4-5 hours early at NAIA due to immigration woes

MANILA, Philippines – The ongoing salary dispute involving employees of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) continues to take its toll on airport operations, prompting Philippine Airlines (PAL) to issue an advisory to its passengers.

The country's flag carrier on Tuesday, April 4, advised passengers taking international flights to be at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 2 at least 4-5 hours before their flight's departure.

PAL said passengers should "come early" due to "insufficient staffing at the airport's immigration counters resulting to long lines."

This advisory also comes just several days before Holy Week, one of the busiest times of the year for Filipinos to travel.

The salary dispute stems from President Rodrigo Duterte's decision to veto the provision in the national budget which allowed the use of express lane charges to augment the salaries of BI personnel. The augmentation came in the form of overtime pay and bonuses.

"Without a separate substantive law as legal basis, the collected fees from the express lane charges should now be deposited as income to the General Fund," the President said then.

As a result, the BI has been struggling to pay its 960 contractual workers since December 2016. Regular workers also went back to receiving only their basic pay.

Around 1,600 or 80% of the BI's regular workforce belong to salary grades 1 to 11, earning P6,000 to P13,000 monthly. Frontliners such as immigration officers in the airport belong to this group. (READ: Duterte's veto leaves thousands of BI workers scrambling for money)

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said 32 immigration personnel have resigned since the budget cut. BI workers have also filed mass leaves of absences and skipped workdays at the airport. Some are asking for their certificates of employment, indicating they are looking for other jobs.

Gregorio Sadiasa, head of the employees' union Buklod-CID, told Rappler there would be more resignations if the Duterte administration does not resolve the matter. – Rappler.com