Solons Say Terminal Fee Integration Disadvantageous to OFWs

Overseas Filipino workers (OFW) will be the sector hardest hit by the Manila International Airport Authority’s (MIAA) decision to integrate terminal fees into the price of airline tickets starting next month, a lawmaker said Monday.

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares echoed the position of OFW rights group Migrante that the integration of terminal fees violates Republic Act 10022 or the amended Migrant Workers’ Act of 1995, which exempts OFWs from paying it.

“The automatic inclusion of the Php550 terminal fee on airline tickets… will not only offset the scrapping of the fuel surcharge due to the plummeting price of oil but would also adversely affect our OFWs,” he said in a statement Monday.

Under the MIAA’s new policy, OFWs will have to line up for a refund after paying the terminal fee and show their Overseas Employment Certificates (OECs) to validate their OFW status.

MIAA general manager Jose Angel Honrado has released a memorandum announcing the integration of the terminal fee will proceed beginning Feb. 1.

The MIAA originally planned to implement the integration starting Jan. 15, but moved it to February to give way to the upcoming papal visit this week.

In October last year, a Pasay City court issued a temporary restraining order against the integration.

Unfortunate decision

Colmenares said he will demand for an accounting of the terminal fee when the House of Representatives investigates the violations of airline passengers’ rights on Jan. 20.

“These terminal fees have been going on for many years now but we still have to receive an accounting to where these were spent.  We will demand for an accounting of all airport fees in various provinces and the reason for the continuing and growing collection of terminal fees. The GAA (General Appropriations Act) has been appropriating budgets for airports, so there is no need to collect terminal fees,” he said.

Akbayan party-list Rep. Walden Bello, chair of the House committee on overseas workers affairs, slammed Honrado for proceeding with the terminal fee integration even if he has yet to respond to the issues raised by the panel during its hearings and recent visit to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

“It is unfortunate that the general decided to go ahead without first answering the issues we raised. An appeal for him to reconsider his stand was drafted and signed by several members of Congress and civil society groups, [but] he has not yet responded to this,” he said in a text message.

Bello said the panel will discuss its response to MIAA’s decision on the resumption of its hearings on the integration of terminal fees later this month.

Refund not a cure

For his part, OFW party-list Rep. Roy Señeres Sr. said the refund of the terminal fees to OFWs will not cure the MIAA’s violation of the law.

“[With the collection of terminal fees], the violation of RA 10022 would have been consummated. The refund will not cure it,” he said.

Based on MIAA’s data, around 7.6 million international passengers passed through NAIA in 2013. Of this figure, 2 million were exempted from paying terminal fees. Around 1.9 million of those given the exemption were OFWs.

Of the OFWs exempted from paying the terminal fee, the agency estimates that some 190,000 were eligible for reimbursement because they purchased their airline tickets online.

According to Migrante, MIAA stands to collect some P1 billion annually from terminal fees collected from the estimated 5,031 OFWs who leave the country every day.

(Source: Xianne Arcangel/KBK, GMA News)

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