A coalition of civil society groups and labor advocates today welcomed the Department of Foreign Affairs’ (DFA) call on the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) to suspend the implementation of the integrated airport terminal fee in view of the exemptions granted by law to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
Susan Ople, president of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and one of the convenors of the #Noto550 Coalition, noted that the DFA position is similar to the earlier position taken by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
Both DFA and DOLE view the current implementation of the terminal fee integration as a clear violation of the exemption granted to OFWs under Section 35 of the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 or R.A. 8042, as amended by R.A. 10022.
“Two major departments more knowledgeable about the Migrant Workers’ Act of 1995, 20 senators, including the Senate President, the House committee on overseas workers affairs, and civil society groups including leaders of the recruitment industry all agree that MIAA’s Memorandum Circular No. 8 infringes on the rights of our OFWs. MIAA refuses to listen. Who is unreasonable now?,” Ople said, reechoing the sentiments of the #Noto550 Coalition.
Ambassador Renato Villa, a senior special assistant of the DFA-Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs, furnished the Senate a copy of Acting Secretary of Foreign Affairs Laura Q. Del Rosario’s letter to Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya dated last March 13.
According to Del Rosario’s letter, the DFA has a presence in 84 countries and cities conveys the sentiment of OFWs worldwide in objecting to the collection of the airport terminal fee, as it may cause inconvenience and unnecessary burden on them.
“The DFA supports the proposal to suspend the implementation of Memorandum Circular No. 8 while the said Memorandum is under review,” Abaya said in his letter, a copy of which was formally submitted during the hearing of the Senate Committee on Government Corporations and Public Service chaired by Sen. Cynthia Villar.
“The gains in the reduction of queues in the airport are not worth the loss of goodwill in government,” Ambassador Villa added.
Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac, representing the DOLE in the said hearing, said, “The position of DOLE is that while we support the principle to ease the queuing at the airport, the matter on tickets purchased online and abroad is not in line with RA 10022.”
Meanwhile, the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) admitted it had no data on the number of Filipinos overseas who buy tickets online or abroad. This led Senators Villar and Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III to question the implementation of the memorandum circular without knowing how many overseas workers would be affected.
Sen. Pimentel advised the OFW groups that attended the meeting to file a case before the Office of the Ombudsman which he said has the power to correct a wasteful practice or a wrong interpretation of the law on the part of any government agency.
Pimentel noted that MIAA continues to implement the terminal fee integration “despite the clear language of the law.”
MIAA General Manager Jose Angel Honrado said the MIAA Board of Directors met last March 10 and decided to push through with the implementation of the terminal fee integration in all airline tickets, also known as the International Passengers Service Charge (IPSC), since Feb. 1. This decision was reached despite a Senate resolution signed by 20 senators urging MIAA to withdraw its directive until a solution can be found that would spare OFWs from its implementation.
By disregarding the Senate resolution, Sen. Villar told Honrado, “On the part of the Senate, parang binastos kami ng MIAA.” She said it is the obligation of MIAA and not the OFWs to find a solution on how to integrate the terminal fees in air tickets without violating the law.
The #No to 550 Coalition is composed of the following: Philippine Migrants Rights Watch (PMRW), Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute (BFOC), Office of Senator Cynthia Villar, Office of Rep. Roy Señeres (OFW Family Party-List), Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, Filipino Migrant Workers’ Group (FMWG), United Filipino Seafarers (UFS), Daughters of Charity Migrant Workers’ Desk (DC), Kabalikat ng Migranteng Pilipino Inc. (KAMPI), Pinoy Expats/ OFW Blog Awards Inc (PEBA), Center for Migrant Advocacy Philippines (CMA), Lito Soriano of LBS Recruitment Solutions, Inc., Kapisanan ng mgaKamag-anak ng MigrantengManggagawang Pilipino, Inc (KAKAMPI), Filipino Lifeline Inc., Former OFW Sectoral Representative Omar Fajardo, Federated Association of Manpower Exporters (FEDAMANEX), and Ang Bagong Bayani OFW Labor Party. (30)