MANILA, Philippines - The House committee on overseas workers affairs on Thursday conducted an ocular inspection at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 to check the flow of passenger line, if the integration of airport terminal fees into the airline tickets would push through.
During the ocular, a heated debate erupted between MIAA General Manager Jose Angel Honrado and the members of the OFW partylist group.
They argued on how will the integration of fees would shorten queues and address congestion at the NAIA 1.
Presently, the OFWs will have to present their Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) three times during the process of availing of the exemption from payment of terminal fees. First, at the POEA's Labor Assistance Counter to validate the OEC; second, at the airline check-in counter and lastly at the terminal fee counter for exemption of the said fees.
The OEC will also be shown to the immigration counter, where it will be double checked.
With the integration of terminal fees, there would no longer be a need to queue at the terminal fee counter.
However, for OFWs who bought the tickets abroad, they can have the terminal fee refunded at the counter, located after the immigration booth.
If not, there will be no refund because the exemption has been granted at the point of sale of airline ticket.
Honrado reiterated the removal of the OFW terminal fee counter will definitely shorten the lines.
According to MIAA, 7.6 million passengers line up at OFW terminal fee counter a year.
Of the total, 1.9 million are OFWS.
Honrado pointed out that after the integration, the number will decrease to 200,000.
Federated Association of Manpower Exporters President Alfredo Palmeri said adding a refund counter will be redundant.
He questioned why should the OFWs line up at the OFW counter terminal since they have already passed through Labor Assistance Counter to submit their Overseas Employment certificate as proof that they are OFWs and should be exempted from paying the P550 terminal fee.
He also pointed out that there should be no refund since the OFWs should not be paying the said fees in the first place.
"Wag na nating pahirapan ang OFW, tungkulin niyang magpakita ng pruweba kung paalisin na siya, kung wala siya at magbabayad siya, idagdag niyo sa counter sa travel tax," he said.
Palmeri added that OFWs should not be blamed for congestion in the terminals.
He asked MIAA to reconsider the plan for integration of fees.
Honrado explained to the House committee that the terminal fee is still being collected at the NAIA 1 because the airports are going through a transition period for the integration of fees and there are passengers who already availed tickets months ago.
Airlines currently have no capacity to trace the authenticity of OECs since initially they are not obligated to check the OECs.
However, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration is willing to cooperate with the airlines to integrate their data with the airlines.
Carmelita Nuqui, President of Philippine Migrant Workers, emphasized that the integration of the fees will violate the rights of OFWs.
Since 1995, OFWs are exempted from paying the travel tax and terminal fee.
Honrado, however, said MIAA will follow the decision of the court.
"Trabaho lang ito walang personalan," he added.