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OFW groups to show solidarity VS MIAA’s terminal fee integration scheme

 

Seventeen overseas Filipino workers’ organizations and advocates belonging to the Coalition #No to 550 today called on millions of Filipino migrant workers all over the world to show a united front against the government’s move to integrate the airport terminal fee in all air tickets on February 1 despite a law exempting OFWs from paying the PHP550 airport fee.

In a press conference held at the CBCP Building in Manila, the coalition members urged the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) to put on hold the International Passenger Service Charge (IPSC) scheme or the terminal fee integration until it can come up with a fair and lawful scheme that would honor the exemption granted to OFWs by law.

In their call to action, the coalition urged OFWs around the world to:

  1. Write to or seek a dialogue with embassy officials to express their objections to the terminal fee integration;
  2. Use their Facebook accounts and other social media platforms to convey their objections using #Noto550 as a unifying hashtag;
  3. Turn their profile photos into black on February 1, the date of the IPSC implementation.
  4. Join, support or duplicate the Coalition’s campaign against the IPSC in their respective areas by spreading the word about the MIAA’s new policy that would favor foreign airlines over the rights and welfare of OFWs.

“Respect the law. That is all we ask,” the OFW groups said in its position paper, citing the provision in the 19-year old Migrant Workers’ Act of 1995 that bestows them exemptions from paying the travel tax and airport terminal fees.

The coalition intends to hold a rally in Mendiola to call attention to MIAA and DOTC’s utter disregard for the sentiments of the OFWs. “We feel that government is forcing our backs against the wall with this new scheme. MIAA is set to implement this on Sunday without even an education campaign to inform our OFWs about it. Why the haste, General Honrado?”

The group also urged Pasay City RTC Branch 109 to issue a decision on the OFW sector’s motion for a prmanent injunction against the IPSC.

Under the IPSC, OFWs who purchase their tickets online or abroad would have to pay the integrated terminal fee then line up upon their return to the country at any of the NAIA terminals to claim a refund.

The coalition members pointed out that nowhere in the law was there any mention of preconditions or a refund system attached to the exemption. “They are modifying or amending the law via a mere memorandum circular. What is alarming is MIAA’s insistence to implement the terminal fee integration by February 1 despite an ongoing court case wherein the judge has yet to issue a decision,” the OFW groups stressed.

“We believe that the main causes of airport congestion are the lack of space for more airline counters, the long queue for check-in and immigration procedures, and frequent flight delays.”

“Why not focus on solving these problems first while letting the court and Congress proceed with its hearings on the IPSC? Judge Tingaraan Guiling of RTC Branch 109 in Pasay City has yet to rule on several pending motions, and yet, the MIAA had already announced its plan to implement the IPSC.”

The OFW sector expressed full support to the move of the Senate to conduct its own inquiry into the IPSC on February 9, as well as the move of the House Committee on OFWs to cite MIAA for contempt for carrying out the implementation of the IPSC without informing the committee that has been carrying out an inquiry into the said policy.

They said that the Senate should look into the IPSC particularly because most OFWs would not be able to claim a refund at the NAIA terminal. “Every minute of their brief stay in the country is earmarked for time with the family. Why shift the burden on the OFWs in asking them to line up for a refund of PHP550, for a fee that by law they are exempted from paying?” the Coalition explained.

The Coalition also expressed concern over the unrefunded airport terminal fees paid beforehand by the OFWs who bought tickets online or overseas.

“What is the legal basis for MIAA to create a trust fund for the unrefunded terminal fees? Who will exercise oversight over this Fund considering that it will surely run up to millions within a few months of implementation? Why is government willing to pay the airlines a service fee to collect the terminal fees while forcing OFWs to line up for a refund despite an existing law exempting them from paying such fees? So many questions, yet MIAA has taken it upon itself to implement this lopsided and illegal scheme by Sunday, February 1.”

The #No to 550 Coalition is composed of:

  1. Philippine Migrants Rights Watch (PMRW)
  2. Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute (BFOC)
  3. Office of Senator Cynthia Villar
  4. Office of Rep. Roy Señeres (OFW Family Party-List)
  5. Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines
  6. Filipino Migrant Workers’ Group (FMWG)
  7. United Filipino Seafarers (UFS)
  8. Daughters of Charity Migrant Workers’ Desk (DC)
  9. Kabalikat ng Migranteng Pilipino Inc. (KAMPI)
  10. Pinoy Expats/ OFW Blog Awards Inc (PEBA)
  11. Center for Migrant Advocacy Philippines (CMA)
  12. Lito Soriano of LBS Recruitment Solutions, Inc.
  13. Kapisanan ng mgaKamag-anak ng MigrantengManggagawang Pilipino, Inc (KAKAMPI)
  14. Filipino Lifeline Inc
  15. Former OFW Sectoral Representative Omar Fajardo
  16. Federated Association of Manpower Exporters (FEDAMANEX)
  17. Ang Bagong Bayani OFW Labor Party