Scrap terminal fees for OFWs, court asked

MANILA — At least 12 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) groups and non-government organizations (NGOs) filed on Tuesday a court petition to stop the government from collecting a P550 airport terminal fee from OFWs leaving for abroad, saying it is illegal.

The leaders of at least 10 OFW organizations asked the Regional Trial Court of Pasay City to issue a temporary restraining order that would prevent the Department of Transportation and Communications and the Manila International Airport Authority from imposing the fee starting November 1. The group was led by OFW Family Rep. Roy Seneres.

The OFW groups have resorted to a court action after failing to convince President Aquino to heed their complaint against the allegedly unlawful airport collection.

EXEMPTION FROM TERMINAL FEES

The petitioners said Memorandum Circular No. 8 (MC8) Series of 2014 that was issued by MIAA General Manager Angel Honrado and approved by DOTC Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya is contrary to Section 35 of Republic Act No. 10022 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995. RA 10022 grants OFWs exemption from payment of terminal fees.

However under MC 8, terminal fees for outbound passengers will be integrated in the cost of airline tickets.  Thus, all OFWs will be forced to pay for terminal fees first and will have to demand refund from government later.

In their petition for certiorari, the petitioners said the MIAA directive is a “clear violation “ of Section 35 of RA 1022. The section grants migrant workers exemption from “payment of travel tax and airport fee” as soon as they can show proof of entitlement as granted by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.

According to Seneres, various OFW organizations have asked the MIAA and the DOTC to recall the questioned memorandum circular which directed airlines and travel agencies to collect terminal fees of OFWs travelling abroad.

REFUND

He stressed that while a refund has been promised, the collection of fee is already considered “a fait accompli violation of the law”.

According to Seneres the petitioners have also assailed the notion of government that only a handful OFWs will be affected because most of employers pay for the airfare.

“Aren’t laws designed precisely to protect the minority from infringement of rights? Besides, what would prevent a foreign employer from passing the cost of the terminal fee to the Filipino worker?” they asked.

The petitioners stressed that the refund requirements and processes would be “too cumbersome” for affected OFWs who have only a few days to spend with their family.

“Yet, we will impose on them to forego at least a day to secure the requirements and another day to line up for refunds,” they said.

TRUST FUND

The protesting organizations also slammed the MIAA proposal to create a trust fund for unclaimed terminal fees as unworthy of belief.

According to them there can never be an assurance that a new set of government officials would impose the merging of the funds to the General Appropriations “thus diminishing accountability and transparency.”