Bureau of Immigration (BI) Commissioner Jaime Morente thanked President Duterte for urging Congress in his State of the Nation (SONA) to pass a law that will modernize the agency and replace the country's old Philippine Immigration Act of 1940.
Morente noted that it was the first time in recent memory that a President asked Congress to pass a new Immigration law in his or her SONA.
"We are elated and gratified upon hearing the President exhorting our lawmakers to pass a new immigration law which was long overdue," Morente said.
Morente thus appealed to members of Congress to heed the President's call by finally prioritizing the approval of pending bills designed to modernize the bureau.
The President's SONA speech was also welcomed by officers of the BI employees' union Buklod-CID and Immigration Officers Association of the Philippines, Inc. (IOAP).
They decried that the present Immigration act, which was passed during the US Commonwealth period, is no longer attuned to present realities.
The group said the act should be replaced with a new law that will not only modernize the BI but also equip it with stronger powers to thwart the entry of unwanted aliens and implement programs that will draw more foreign tourists and investors into the country.
Buklod-CID and IOAP also urged Congress to upgrade the salary scales of Immigration personnel in order to prevent corruption and professionalize the agency's rank and file.
They also said the current salary grades and take home pay of BI employees are far lower than those of their counterparts from other frontline government agencies.