MANILA – The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved on second reading a priority bill of the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) that proposes to modernize the Bureau of Immigration (BI).
During her sponsorship speech, Committee on Justice chair Juliet Marie Ferrer said the passage of the proposed immigration modernization law under House Bill 8203 is in line with the economic agenda of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.
"The improvement and modernization of our immigration system -- making it more efficient and effective -- will boost economic growth, attract more foreign investments, encourage tourism and create more jobs," Ferrer said.
Ferrer said it is imperative for the government to provide the BI and its personnel with the necessary funding and tools in order to improve their services and enhance their capabilities as the country's first line of defense on Philippine borders.
"Our immigration officers are the frontliners in our country's fight against terrorism, human trafficking, illegal recruitment and other illegal activities perpetrated by foreigners on our soil and against Filipino citizens," she said.
Ferrer recognized the hard work of immigration officers during the pandemic as they made sure that Filipinos were safe while traveling to and from the country, while minimizing the effects of the global pandemic on Philippine shores.
"We have seen our immigration officers exert herculean efforts to protect our citizens from human trafficking and illegal recruitment, as well as preventing terrorists, sex offenders, and other undesirable foreign nationals from entering the country," she said.
She pointed out that the immigration officers are among the lowest paid employees in government service with the entry level IO-1 position holding Salary Grade 11.
The measure, she said, seeks to upgrade the salaries of immigration officers and other BI employees, as well as provide additional benefits and incentives.
Ferrer said an Immigration Trust Fund shall be created for the modernization and professionalization of the bureau, including new equipment and facilities.
"With this bill, we will be giving the bureau and its personnel the resources to perform their functions to the best of their abilities," she said.
The bill seeks to harmonize existing immigration laws, such as the Commonwealth Act No. 613 or the Philippine Immigration Act of 1940, in order to make them more responsive and in touch with international developments in the 21st century.
The chamber approved House Bill 8203 through voice voting. (PNA)