Groups contesting the integration of terminal fee with airplane tickets have found an ally in Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, who agreed with the argument that the new scheme violates the law exempting migrant workers from paying terminal fee.
In a statement Wednesday, Pimentel said the new scheme, to be implemented by the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) starting November 1, should be scrapped as it is “illogical, legally questionable, and extremely unfair” to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
He said the scheme particularly violates Republic Act 8042 as amended by RA 10022, which mandates the exemption of migrant workers from the payment of travel tax, documentary stamp and airport fee upon proper showing of the overseas employment certificate (OEC) issued by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.
Pimentel said he will be filing a resolution seeking a Senate inquiry on Memorandum Circular No. 08 to be implemented by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and the MIAA.
Under the memorandum circular, terminal fees otherwise known as “international passenger service charge” (IPSC) amounting to P550 per passenger will be integrated in all air tickets, subject to remittance to MIAA by international airlines.
The OFWs who purchase their tickets in the Philippines will be able to claim their exemption by showing their OEC.
However, for tickets that OFWs will purchase online and outside the country, the IPSC will be collected by default subject to refund by returning OFWs upon presentation of their OECs at the airport’s designated counters or through the MIAA office.
MIAA said this scheme would ease congestion in airports, but Pimentel said this is unlikely to happen.
“Removing the terminal fee counters at the airport will not ease congestion because you will have another line where our modern-day heroes need to line up to refund a fee that they are legally exempted from paying,” he said.
Baldoz vs. integration
The senator said this is also the position of Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz in her letter to DOTC Secretary Joseph Abaya, which the DOTC received on October 7, 2014.
Pimentel said Baldoz believes that while there is a refund scheme the MIAA has put in place for terminal fees to be integrated into the airline tickets, OFWs should be continuously and automatically exempted from paying the IPSC even for tickets purchased abroad or via online.
He said Pimentel’s position is clear — MIAA and the DOTC should undertake all the necessary preparations and systems to ensure the continued automatic exemption of OFWs from payment of terminal fee and other fees provided by existing laws.
“We cannot have two major departments at odds with each other over the collection of terminal fees by airline companies,” Pimentel said.
“By default, this scheme will deprive our OFWs of a benefit that they have been enjoying since 1995, when the Migrant Workers’ Act was passed. While we favor moves to ease the congestion in our airport terminals, existing laws must be respected,” he added.
The senator further said that airline companies should not be caught in between such differences in opinion between the DOTC and DOLE.
“Let’s resolve these issues by hearing all sides, and agreeing on a common interpretation of what the law actually says,” Pimentel, a Bar topnotcher, said.
He said they will question the DOTC and MIAA on why they continue to insist on a November 1 implementation of the IPSC scheme even after getting Baldoz’s position on the matter.
(Source: KBK, GMA News )