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COA: BI lost P869 million in potential revenue due to confusion over Duterte’s orders

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Travelers line up at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1. -- BW FILE PHOTO

By Dane Angelo M. Enerio

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) in 2017 lost around P869 million of potential revenue from express lane fees due to confusion with a previous veto message by President Rodrigo R. Duterte, according to the Commission on Audit (COA).

The express lane service charges foreigners P500 for faster processing of applications, the COA explained in their annual audit report of the BI.

Mr. Duterte for fiscal year 2017 vetoed the practice of depositing the collected fees to the BI’s General Fund and said the funds should all go instead to the National Treasury. COA however, pointed out the BI completely stopped collecting express lane fees following the President’s veto message.

COA noted express lane collections for 2017 amounted to P568,519,310.92, less than half of the previous year’s P1,437,754,431.63.

“The team believes that it is only the use of express lane charges collected that was vetoed by the President and not the collection from express lane charges inasmuch as the veto message also provides that, ‘the collected fees from the express lane charges should now be deposited as income of the General Fund,'” the COA auditors said.

According to the report, “[t]he termination of the said collections resulted in the loss of income on the part of the government that could have been utilized for the improvement of the economy.”

COA recommended in their report for the BI to submit an explanation for stopping the collection and for non-compliance with Mr. Duterte’s veto message.