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House panel OKs bill to improve BI services

THE House committee on appropriations has approved a substitute bill that seeks to modernize, professionalize and improve the compensation of officials and personnel of the Bureau of Immigration (BI).

The bill is a consolidation of several related measures, including House Bill (HB) 4103, authored by Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez, who represents Cagayan de Oro City’s second district.

Rodriguez said the consolidated measure endorsed by the appropriations committee will now go to the plenary for second-reading deliberation.”

Rodriguez, who was BI commissioner during the Estrada administration, said the proposed Philippine Immigration Act would replace the 1940 immigration law known as Commonwealth Act No. 613.

“It defines the powers and functions of the immigration bureau, its commissioner, two deputy commissioners and other officials, and directorates and offices under it. It also upgrades the salaries of BI officers and personnel,” he said.

Rodriguez added that although changes in the 1940 law had been made in the past, the statute “has ceased to be responsive to present-day conditions and realities.”

He pointed out that aside from the pastillas scam that protected mostly illegal Chinese nationals, “many aliens in the country have been involved in various crimes, including kidnapping, smuggling, human trafficking, labor recruitment, and terrorism.”

“The proposed new immigration law aims to make the BI more responsive to the challenges and developments of migration and immigration, which require streamlining and modernizing the bureau and expanding its powers and functions,” Rodriguez stressed.