Duterte bans travel junkets for all gov’t officials, employees

Published March 22, 2019, 12:00 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By Genalyn Kabiling 

President Duterte has prohibited government officials and employees from taking “travel junkets” and adjusted the rates and allowances for their official foreign and local trips.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers his speech during the 1st Anniversary of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) at the Malacañan Palace on March 6, 2019. (TOTO LOZANO / PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

The President issued Executive Order No. 77 prescribing the new rules and regulations and rates of expenses and allowances for official local and foreign travels of government personnel.

The modified travel regulations and allowances were made upon the recommendation of the Travel Rates Committee following a review of “outdated” travel rates. The President’s latest order sought to ensure the new travel rates are “fairly reasonable, cost effective, and within financial capability of the government.”

“All forms of travel junkets shall be strictly prohibited,” the order read.

“The conduct of strategic planning workshops or team building activities abroad shall not be allowed,” it added.

The authorized official local or foreign travels will cover those essential to the effective performance of an official or employee’s mandates or functions; required to meet the needs of the concerned department or office or “there is a substantial benefit derived by the State;” the presence of the government personnel is critical to the outcome of the meeting, conference or consultation; the projected expenses are not excessive or involve minimum expenditure.

The President also “highly” discouraged government personnel from taking a personal leave immediately before or after the official activity. “If travel circumstances such as the nature of activity, purpose and itinerary, indicate the trip is mainly intended for personal purposes, no part thereof shall be considered as official,” the order read.

The President has also asked officials authorized to approve local or foreign travels to minimize travel cost “as far as practicable.”

Teleconferencing, videoconferencing, submission of briefs and position papers, and other forms of communications must be explored as alternatives to travel provided they do not compromise national security and confidentiality of official communications.

The order noted that private individuals, government consultants, and spouses or children of government officials “except when diplomatic protocol of international practices provide otherwise” shall not be given foreign travel authorities and not entitled to government funding for such trips.

On official local travels, the heads of national government agencies, chairs of governing boards commissions, heads of government corporations and state universities and colleges, and regional governors of autonomous regions, governors and mayors of highly urbanized cities do not need to get approval from higher authorities for local trips.

Government personnel planning local travel for less than 30 days, however, must get the consent of the heads of the concerned agencies, state firms, and local government units.

Local travels beyond 30 days must be approved by the concerned department secretaries and heads of agencies and LGUs.

For travel beyond 50-kilometer radius from the office, government personnel will be entitled to transportation expenses and miscellaneous expenses.

The maximum Daily Travel Expenses (DTA) shall be P1,500 in Cluster I (Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Bicol Region, Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula, SOCCSKSARGEN, Caraga Administrative Region, and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao); P1,800 in Cluster II (Cordillera Administrative Region, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Davao Region; and P2,200 in Cluster III (National Capital Region, CALABARZON, MIMAROP). The travel expenses include hotel/lodging, meals, and incidental fees.

The agency head must determine the “most economical and efficient” mode of transportation and type of hotel/lodging to be availed of.

On official foreign travels, the EO stated that such form of trip shall refer to international conferences or meetings to which the government has commitments or undertake missions that cannot be assigned to government officials posted abroad; scholarships, fellowships, trainings and studies abroad that are grant-funded or undertaken at minimal cost to government; and invitations for speaking engagements or receiving of awards upon the endorsement of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

In case of trips involving delegations, the approving authority must ensure the number of participants is “kept to the barest minimum” and their roles are specified and justified.

Regardless of the length of foreign travels, department secretaries, chairs and members of governing boards, chief executive officers of state firms, and heads of national government agencies must obtain the approval of the Office of the President (OP).

The foreign trips of government personnel, on the other hand, must be approved by concerned department secretaries and heads of state firms and government agencies.

Pre-departure expenses not exceeding P3,500 shall be allowed to cover miscellaneous expenses such as taxi fare, passport processing, and airport terminal fees.

Government personnel traveling abroad will be allowed transportation expenses for the economy class. For long-haul trips, department secretaries, undersecretaries, assistant secretaries and those of equivalent ranks may take business class airfares subject to the approval of the OP.

For foreign travel in summer and spring season, government personnel would be granted clothing allowance worth US$200 if the trip will be more than a month but less than three months; $300 for three months but less than six months; and $400 for six months and more.

When foreign travel coincides with autumn and winter seasons, the clothing allowance will be $200 if the trip will last two weeks or less; $300 for more than two weeks but less than one month; and $400 for a month and more.

Those who travel abroad will be granted the Daily Subsistence Allowance (DSA) based on the daily rates by the International Civil Service Commission of the United Nations.

EO 77 also allowed the reimbursement of representation expenses of Cabinet members at $1,000, department undersecretaries and those of equivalent rank, $700; department assistant secretaries, $500; and those lower than an assistant secretary designated as head of delegation, $300. Such expenses may cover entertainment, contributions, flowers, wreaths when justified by circumstances.

Government personnel on foreign travel may be entitled to travel insurance at the minimum amount required by the country of destination.

Foreign trips partially or fully sponsored or funded by private sector must also be disclosed, according to EO 77.

The order, signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on behalf of the President last March 15, took effect immediately.