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COA recommends charges vs BI personnel for not collecting fines from airlines

/ 02:49 PM June 14, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Audit (COA) has suggested that officials and personnel of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) be charged for neglect of duty, after allegedly allowing airlines to operate without paying administrative fines (AF).

In its audit report of the BI for 2018 released on Monday, COA said the imposition of sanctions for airlines was not strictly monitored, causing the uncollected AF to reach P273 million.

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“In view of the foregoing observations, we recommended that Management […] let the concerned officers and employees be charged administratively for neglect of duty to implement the policy and be held answerable for not imposing fines and implementing the policies of the Bureau,” COA said.

According to the COA, the penalties were for bringing an undocumented foreigner onboard to the Philippines, which is a violation of the Philippine Immigration Law (PIL). The fine was set at P500 per passenger,  the COA said.

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According to the commission, the collection of the fine became “optional” because it was not immediately required.  The PIL states that the vessel carrying the undocumented alien would not be cleared until the AF is settled.

“Per inquiry, the AF charged to erring airlines were not immediately collected on the day these were imposed.  The airlines paid the fines only, when they were willing to pay.  In effect, the AF became merely optional on their part,” COA explained.

Numbers provided by COA said the uncollected fines were totaled from 2013 up to 2018.  A huge chunk of the fines were recorded from 2013 to 2016 when the penalty was still at P50,000 per passenger, which COA said was based on an unnumbered memorandum dated April 12, 1999.

It was reverted back to P500 in 2016 by an order from the Department of Justice.

COA speculates that questions on the legality of the memorandum may be the reason why airlines have not settled their obligations.

“The fine of ₱500.00 was increased to ₱50,000.00 based on an Unnumbered Memorandum Circular dated 12 April 1999 but its legality was questioned by the airline companies resulting in non-payment of imposed AFs by some airlines,” the commission said.

Another issue that COA pointed out was the BI’s low rate in terms of collecting the AF.  In 2013, out of the P153 million fines, only P4.6 million or 2.99 percent was collected; in 2014, only P2.30 million out of the P48.9 million or 4.70 percent was collected by the BI.

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The COA also revealed that in 2015, P1.05 million out of P50.8 million or 2.06 percent was collected by the BI; P1.10 million out of P27.6 million or 3.98 percent in 2016; only P7,500 out of P477,500 or 1.57 percent in 2016, and P49,000 out of P473,000 or 10.35 percent in 2018.

“Apparently, the said provisions were not strictly enforced/implemented considering that collections were very minimal and receivables outstanding in the books remained uncollected.  Likewise, scrutiny of the Guaranty Deposit account did not show security payment from any airline to cover fines as required in the aforementioned provision of Section 44(d),” COA noted.

Flag-carrier Philippine Airlines tops all the airlines with unsettled fines at P34.0 million, followed by Cebu Pacific (P33.4 million), China Southern Airlines (P20.0 million), Cathay Pacific (P19.5 million), Emirates (P18.0 million), and Malaysia Airlines (P11.5 million).

Other airlines also have P136 million worth of unpaid fines.

Aside from charging the officials concerned, COA also recommended that the BI create guidelines for its offices to effectively collect AFs.

“Formulate and implement policies defining the responsibility of each Section/Division to ensure effective billing, recording, collection and monitoring of accounts receivable, including the imposition of penalties and surcharges on uncollected accounts,” the COA said. (Editor: Mike U. Frialde)

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TAGS: administrative fines, airline fines, Bureau of Immigration, COA, Commission On Audit, Neglect of Duty, Philippine Immigration Law, Philippine news updates
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