MAJORITY of the senators on Friday urged Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA)officials led by Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya to recall its memo implementing the collection of P550 terminal fee from Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) despite their being exempted under 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 other senators.
Senate Resolution No. 1179 strongly urges MIAA to recall Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 8 Series of 2014, which integrated the international passenger service charge (IPSC) into the airline tickets at the point of sale.
The senators said the circular should be recalled “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 was not against any change that would put things in order such as claimed by MIAA, which said the circular would “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,” Villar said.,
Pimentel noted that a mere administrative circular cannot override an existing legislation that grants OFWs exemption from payment of travel taxes and terminal fees.
“The irony is that the circular, in effect, inconveniences those whom the law exempts from payment of the fees in the first place,” said Pimentel, chairman of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, who had earlier filed Senate Resolution 1015 to seek an inquiry in aid of legislation on the circular.
During the senate committee on public services hearing presided by Villar, the committee members noted that the Philippines is on a unique situation because it has the most number of migrant workers compared to other ASEAN countries and no other country exempts by legislation their migrant workers from payment of travel taxes and airport fees.
MIAA general manager Jose Angel Honrado, however, said that seven million passengers line up at airports to pay for terminal fees, and only 200,000 of the two million OFWs who book their tickets online will be affected by the circular.
But Loreto Soriano of the LBD Recruitment Solutions disputed Honrado’s claim, saying that 1.2 million travelling OFWs will be affected by the circular since the employers of the migrant workers are contractually bound to pay for their air tickets.
John Dennis Poyotas of Microsoft Philippines said 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.
Undersecretary Hans Leo Cacdac, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) administrator, said he is willing to share the database of OFWs with the airlines to ease the creation of an automated system that will honor the exemption.