Departing passengers at NAIA, file photograph by Bernard Testa, InterAksyon.com
MANILA, Philippines – Twenty senators authored a resolution urging the recall of the memorandum circular that directs the collection of P550 terminal fee from overseas Filipino workers, despite the exemption provided by the law.
Senators Cynthia Villar, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, Nancy Binay, and Senate Majority Leader Alan Cayetano initiated the resolution, which was also signed by 16 more senators.
Proposed Senate Resolution No. 1179 strongly urges the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) to recall Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 8 Series of 2014, integrating the international passenger service charge (IPSC) into the airline tickets at the point of sale.
The senators believe MC 8 should be recalled or held in abeyance “until after the appropriate computer system that will automatically exempt OFWs as well as other locally-recognized exempt passengers from paying the IPSC or airport terminal fee” has been developed.
Villar said she is not against any change that would put things in order such as the contention of MIAA in coming up with the Memorandum Circular – “to address the congestion in all NAIA terminals with the increasing volume of passengers.”
“However, if the change would affect the rights of a vulnerable and valuable sector such as our OFWs or migrant workers, then we have to exhaust all efforts to further look into these and find ways on how to remedy it or improve the mechanism of its implementation so as not to unnecessarily inconvenience our OFWs,” she added.
As implemented starting February 1, “the memorandum circular does not distinguish between exempt and non-exempt passengers when airline tickets are bought online or abroad, thereby requiring even exempt passengers especially OFWs, to pay the IPSC.”
Section 35 of Republic Act No. 8042 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995, as amended by RA 10022, exempts OFWs from paying the travel tax, airport fee or terminal fee, and documentary tax.
During the Committee on Public Services Subcommittee “E” hearing presided over by Villar last Monday, John Dennis Poyotas of Microsoft Philippines, testified that it is possible to adopt a computer program that will allow recognition of the exemption of OFWs or the online verification of documents showing exemption of OFWs.
Usec. Hans Leo Cacdac, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) administrator, reiterated his willingness to share the database of OFWs with the airlines to ease the creation of an automated system that will honor the exemption.
Villar also said the cost of developing the computer application should not be a hindrance, given the significant contribution of OFWs in propping up the Philippine economy with their remittance through formal and informal channels of US$48 billion in year 2013 alone.
Susan Ople of the Blas Ople Policy and Training Institute, also said the order causes OFWs inconvenience and violates their rights under the law, which specifically provides for exemption from paying airport fees, “not the refund of terminal fees.”
The Board of Directors of MIAA are composed of its chairman, Sec. Joseph Emilio Abaya (Department of Transportation and Communication); Vice Chairman and General Manager Jose Angel Honrado (MIAA); members Sec. Cesar Purisima (Department of Finance); Sec. Ramon Jimenez (Department of Tourism); Usec. Jose Vicente Salazar (Department of Justice); Director General William Hotchkiss III (Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines); Cesar Buenaventura; and Helen Osias.