MANILA – Overseas Filipino workers, their families and supporters marched to Mendiola to protest against the airport terminal fee integration scheme implemented on Sunday, February 1, by the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA).
The #Noto550 Coalition composed of more than 30 OFW groups including non-government organizations in Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong and Italy denounced the move of MIAA to implement the integration of the so-called International Passenger Service Charge (IPSC) in all air tickets citing an existing law that provides an exemption for OFWs from paying such fees.
"We were taken by surprise because MIAA chose to disregard the ongoing legal process and congressional hearings on the IPSC. For us, MIAA acted in defiance of the two branches of government," the coalition members said.
The case is still ongoing at the Pasay City Regional Trial Court Branch 109 where Judge Tingraan Guiling has yet to render a decision on the coalition's motion for a preliminary injunction.
The court has set a hearing on Friday, February 6 while the Senate committee on public services will begin its inquiry into the IPSC on February 9.
Under the IPSC, the P550 airport terminal fee is integrated in all air tickets but OFWs who purchase their tickets online or overseas would need to line up to claim a refund at the airport terminals.
Under the Migrant Workers' Act of 1995, OFWs are entitled to an exemption from paying airport fees and the travel tax upon presentation of the Overseas Employment Certificate or OEC issued by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.
However, under MIAA's IPSC scheme, only OFWs who buy their tickets within the country can avail of the exemption since they are able to present their OEC to the airline or travel agent. Those who are outside the country would have to pay the integrated fee and line up for a refund.
"The cumbersome and inconvenient process of refund confronting OFWs will result in millions of pesos in non-refunded terminal fees in the hands of MIAA. What is the legal basis for MIAA to collect the IPSC from OFWs who are legally exempted from paying the same, only to hold on to the non-refunded without even a fig leaf of a law to govern these funds?" the group said.
The coalition is composed of more than 30 organizations including: Philippine Migrants Rights Watch, Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, United Filipino Seafarers, the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, LBS Recruitment, Inc, Federated Association of Manpower Exporters, Inc (FEDAMANEX), OFW Family Party-List, Pinoy Expats/OFW Blog Awards (PEBA), Filipino Migrant Workers Group, OFW Movement, Daughters of Charity Migrants Desk, Kabalikat ng Migranteng Pilipino, Ang Bagong Bayani OFW Labor Party, Filipino Lifeline, Kapisanan ng mga Kamaganak ng Migranteng Manggagawang Pilipino, Patnubay Riyadh, Ang Nars Party-List, Office of Senator Cynthia Villar, Task Force OFWs Italy, Global Asia Alliance, Philippine Recruitment Agencies Accredited to Saudi Arabia (PRAASA), Pinoy Tayo SanMan (HongKong), OFWs in Afghanistan, and several others.