The impending implementation of the integrated terminal fee in all airline tickets on Nov. 1 will violate a 19-year old law that grants benefits to millions of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), OFW Family Partlylist Rep. Roy V. Seneres said today.
Seneres, speaking on behalf of various Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) groups and advocates opposing Memorandum Circular (MC) 08, Series of 2014 of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), said he is asking President Aquino to repeal the directive.
“I am respectfully urging Your Excellency (President Aquino) to totally abrogate the memorandum circular in question,” he said in his letter to President Aquino.
MIAA’s MC No. 8 which was supposed to have been implemented last Oct. 1 but was moved until Nov. 1, mandates airline and travel agencies to integrate the terminal fee of PhP550 in the price of airline tickets for all international passengers, including OFWs.
OFWs are objecting to the circular because it violates an existing law that exempts them from paying airport terminal fees. With the integration policy, migrant workers who buy tickets online or whose employers send them e-tickets will be forced to pay the Php 550 terminal fee despite an exemption that has been in effect for the past 19 years.
Various OFW groups including the Blas F. Ople Policy Center expressed concern over the new policy of MIAA, describing it as a major setback to the continuous struggle of Filipino migrant workers for economic advancement and recognition of their rights under existing laws.
The #Noto550 Coalition composed of different OFW groups appealed to the President to direct MIAA to respect the law, and to shelve MC No. 8 until such time when a system can be developed in partnership with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and the Department of Foreign Affairs that enables such integration to push through without prejudice to the existing exemptions meant for OFWs.
According to Susan Ople, founder of the policy center, the intervention of President Aquino is urgent and necessary considering that many OFWs are already in the process of booking their tickets home for Christmas vacation. “If MIAA pushes through with the integration of the terminal fee on November 1, this will likely cause confusion and affect the holiday spirit of our kababayans, many of whom are not even aware about this memorandum circular.”
“We appeal to President Aquino to heed our call to repeal the MIAA directive which contravenes the very spirit of the law that exempts our modern-day heroes from paying airport terminal fees, especially at this time when they are planning how to maximize their brief Christmas vacation,” she said. Under the MIAA circular, OFWs with tickets bought overseas or online would have to line up at the international airport upon their return to claim a refund for the Php550 terminal fee after filling up a form and upon submission of certain documents.
Representative Seneres explained the circular flagrantly violates the right of OFWs to be exempted from payment of the airport terminal fee, pursuant to Section 35 of Republic Act 8042 as amended by Republic Act 10022, also known as the amended Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act.
According to him, MIAA could not simply dodge violating RA 8042 by claiming that the amount collected may be refunded to the OFW upon presentation of an Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC).
“The refund will not in any way cure a consummated violation of the law as it would already be a fait accompli. A mere circular cannot amend or disregard a clear provision of the law,” he added.
Seneres noted a groundswell of opposition from among OFW groups and advocates all over the world are protesting the memorandum circular through SMS and social media.
He also sent President Aquino a copy of the position paper from these OFW groups and advocates who formed the #noto550 Coalition to protest the implementation of MIAA circular that they claimed deprives the OFWs the benefits due them.
Aside from the Ople Center, the other members of the #noto550 Coalition are Gemma Comiso of PinoyExpats/OFW Blog Awards, Engrs. Nelson Ramirez and Bienvenido Lorque of United Filipino Seafarers, Carmelita Nuqui of Philippine Migrants’ Rights Watch, Ellene Sana of Center for Migrant Advocacy, Loreto Soriano of the LBS Recruitment, Elso Cabangon and Rashid Fabricante of Filipino Migrant Workers Group, Sis. Teresa Evasco of Daughters of Charity Migrants Desk, Luther Calderon of KAMPI, Ma. Fe Nicodemus of KAKAMMPI, Patrick Itao and Lizabeth Platero of the Office of Senator Cynthia A. Villar. (30)