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OFW groups, NGOs welcome TRO against integration of terminal fees issued by Pasay city judge

The Blas F. Ople Policy Center, one of the organizations belonging to the #Noto550 Coalition, welcomed the decision of Pasay City Judge Tingaraan U. Guiling of RTC Branch 109 to restrain the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) in pushing through with the integration of airport terminal fees in international tickets tomorrow, November 1.

“The OFW sector is very grateful to Judge Tingaraan for his timely decision otherwise the MIAA circular would have taken effect tomorrow (Nov. 1) to the detriment of our modern-day heroes,” Susan Ople, who heads the Center, said.

The decision released this morning (October 31, 2014) is in response to a petition for certiorari with request for temporary restraining order filed by 21 individual petitioners representing 14 OFW groups and non-government organizations last Wednesday.

“After hearing the arguments of both parties as to the urgency of the issuance of TRO, the Court believes that there is a need to restrain respondents from implementing Memorandum Circular No. 8 series of 2014 and hereby grants the same,” Presiding Judge Tingaraan Guiling wrote in his order.

The first hearing was held yesterday with lawyers from both the respondents and petitioners present. Atty. Apollo Sangalang appeared for the petitioners while the DOTC and MIAA were represented by Assistant Solicitor Tristan Carlos Cristobal assisted by Attys. Donna Diana Dumpit and Princess Jasmin Logronio.

The petitioners were led by OFW Party-List Representative Roy Seneres, and included OFW advocates Gemma Comiso ), Nelson Ramirez, Beinvenido Lorque, Carmelita Nuqui, Ellen Sana, Alfredo Palmiery, Elso Cabangon, Rodolfo Rashid Fabricante, Francisco Aguilar, SisterTeresa Evaso, Luther Calderon, Fe Nicodemus, Rep. Mohammad Omar Fajardo, Edward Era, Milagros Juare, Rildga Ongcal, Susan Cuenca and Patrick Itao.

“This shows the our justice system does work,” Lito Soriano, a former OFW based in Saudi Arabia who now heads LBS Recruitment agency, said.

In his position paper coursed through the Ople Center, Junie Fernandez, a community leader in Afghanistan, said OFWs in Afghanistan are against the integration of terminal fees in international air tickets.

He questioned the logic behind MIAA’s scheme to make OFWs pay the Php 550 terminal fee only to give them a refund upon arrival. “We believe that this new policy is anti-OFW! If they are saying that we can refund the terminal fee later, then why include it in the airfare in the first place?”

A Filipino domestic worker based in Kuwait sent a video to the Ople Center to voice her own objections against the MIAA circular. “Akala ba ng gobyerno pinupulot lang namin ang pera dito?” (“Does the government think we don’t work hard for our money?”)

The #Noto550 Coalition believes that the DOTC and MIAA should respect the exemptions bestowed to OFWs through Republic Act No. 8042 as amended by RA 10022.

“This is not about numbers. This is about a benefit provided by law to our OFWs for the past 19 years – they are exempt from paying the airport terminal fees. Obtaining refunds will not only be extremely difficult for our OFWs but also a clear violation of their rights under existing laws,” the Ople Center stressed. (30)