By Ralph Villanueva /Manila Times
President Rodrigo Duterte has issued an executive order (EO) prohibiting government officials and employees from going on junkets abroad.
Under EO 77, an official local or foreign travel and assignment would only be allowed if there were essential to the effective performance of an official or employee’s mandates or functions; if they were required to meet the needs of the department or government offices; if the presence of the official or employee is critical to the outcome of the meeting, conference, seminar, consultation or any official activity to be attended, and if projected expenses are not excessive.
“The conduct of strategic planning workshops or team building activities abroad shall not be allowed.
The taking of a personal leave immediately before or after the official activity is highly discouraged,” stated the order, dated March 15.
In his speeches, Duterte often discourages government officials from travelling overseas. He has fired a number of government officials for going on junkets, including the heads of the National Anti-Poverty Commission and Maritime Industry Authority.
Duterte, however, has also come under criticism for bringing large entourages to his overseas trips.
Under the new EO, officials are required to minimise travel cost, if travel is allowed.
If possible, teleconferencing, videoconferencing or submission of briefs and position papers could be made as alternatives to travel, as long as these do not compromise national security and confidentiality of official communications.
Private individuals, consultants and family members of government officials, except when diplomatic protocol or established international practices provide otherwise, will not be issued foreign travel authorisation.
They will also not be entitled to government funding for foreign trips. The only foreign travels that may be authorised under the measure are international conferences or meetings, which the government has commitments to, or to undertake official missions or assignments which cannot be assigned to government officials posted abroad; scholarships, fellowships, trainings and studies abroad, which are grant-funded or undertaken at minimal costs; or invitations for speaking engagements or receiving awards from foreign governments or institutions, whether fully or partly funded by the government, upon the endorsement of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The foreign travels will also be approved first by heads of offices. The officials who will go on foreign travels will be given pre-departure expenses not exceeding P3,500, which will be used for taxi fare, passport processing, immunisation and medical laboratory fees, photographs, porterage, airport terminal fees and other possible expenses.
Reimbursement of airport terminal fees will be allowed upon completion of the trip.
Clothing expenses are also provided for personnel who travel to certain countries for a certain period.
The funds range from $200 to $400, to be given once every two years. Trips of department secretaries, undersecretaries, assistant secretaries and such ranks that are more than four hours without lay-overs will be allowed to have business class airfares, but are subject to the approval of the Office of the President.
The same goes for local travels. Government officials will have to seek the approval of the appropriate heads for local travels. Travels paid for by a private source should also be fully disclosed, according to the EO.
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