By Macon Araneta | FilAm Star Correspondent
The Commission on Audit (COA) directed the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to collect more than PHP 249.950 million in administrative fines from airline companies that have allowed illegal aliens to enter the country, saying the Philippine government was deprived of income because the law is not being implemented.
In a 2015 report released most recently, state auditors said the BI’s failure to ensure payment of such penalties from as far back as 2001 violates the provisions of the Philippine Immigration Law of 1940.
The COA report said the BI should immediately and properly address the questions raised by its clientele on the legality of the increase in fines from PHP 500 to PHP 50,000 and strengthen its internal control in the collection of fines.
State auditors said the Agency is authorized by law to collect or impose administrative fines on airliners and shipping companies for bringing to the Philippines passengers not properly documented.
“If any vessel or aircraft or aircraft arriving at a port in the Philippines from a place outside thereof brings on board any alien bound for the Philippines who is not properly documented as required by this Act, the pilot, master, agent, owner, or consignee of the vessel or aircraft shall be subject to a fine of PHP 500 in the case of each person brought,” the Philippine Immigration Law reads.
State auditors however bared that “uncollected receivables from administrative fines had tremendously accumulated” considering that as of December 31, 2015, uncollected receivables from airlines have reached PHP 249,950,000.
“The Cash Section had previously issued demand letters to the concerned airlines companies pertaining to uncollected receivables from 2001 to 2012 while the Accounting Section sent billing statements for Order of Exclusions received from CY 2013-2014 but the receivables remain uncollected,” the audit team said.
Part of the failure to collect the penalties was blamed on the BI’s failure to implement the law, internal control issues, and failure to resolve questions raised against the 1999 decision to increase the fine from PHP 500 to PHP 50,000.
The COA report, reiterating the previous year’s recommendations, said the BI should strictly enforce the provisions of Section 44(d) of the Philippine Immigration Law in order to minimize uncollected receivables and generate income for the government.
State auditors also advised the agency to assert the legality and validity of the amount of administrative fees and demand immediate collection from airline companies.
The chief accountant of the BI, in response, committed to coordinate with concerned sections and divisions to come up with the necessary guidelines to simplify monitoring and recording of administrative fines, which will be elevated to the Administrative Fine Committee for approval.
“The questions raised by the airline companies on the legality of increase in fees were forwarded to the BI Legal Division for guidance. It was also mentioned during the exit conference that the Bureau will make proper representation with the airline companies to demand payment,” the COA said.