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Returning OFWs exempted from paying airport terminal fees starting March 2017

MIAA General Manager Ed Monreal: early Christmas gift for OFWs by way of scuttling terminal fees. INTERAKSYON FILE

InterAksyon.com
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA - Returning Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) whose tickets were purchased abroad will be exempted from paying airport terminal fees starting March 2017.

Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Ed Monreal said airlines have agreed to automatically relieve OFWs who purchased their return tickets to the Philippines abroad from paying terminal fee.

At present, the P500 terminal fee of returning OFWs is integrated with their ticket fee and is refunded through MIAA refund counters in Philippine airports, which cause inconvenience to OFWs.

“Airlines have already agreed in principle, so, hopefully by March 2017, OFWs will now be exempted from paying terminal fee,” Monreal told the “Kapihan sa Manila Hotel” organized by Samahang Plaridel Monday.

The exemption will be implemented by March next year in order to give time for airlines to update their systems and programs for this policy.

The move was described by OFW advocate and former labor undersecretary Susan Ople an "early Christmas gift" for OFWs.

Ople's group was among the first that strongly lobbied authorities against keeping the terminal fee in the OFWs' payment, saying the refund system was cumbersome to the migrant workers and violated their rights.  

“The heartless policy of then MIAA General Manager Angel Honrado shall soon be laid to rest, hopefully never to be resurrected. The law is very clear: our OFWs are exempted from paying the P550 airport terminal fee,” Susan Ople, head of the non-profit Blas F. Ople Policy Center, said.

MIAA’s target date of March 2017 is understandable because there are systems changes involved that would require the cooperation of the airlines, said Ople.

“We were never against the integration of terminal fees in air tickets for other travelers. However, the law grants an exemption to our OFWs and it has always been our position that this specific benefit, enjoyed for more than 9 years by our modern-day heroes, should not be removed by MIAA through a mere Memorandum Circular,” Ople stressed.

She added that millions of OFWs have not been able to redeem their refund due to lack of material time, low level of awareness, and at times, because of the long lines at the refund counter.

“Thank you, MIAA General Manager Ed Monreal, for this early Christmas gift to our OFWs. Although the actual implementation would be in March of 2017, we appreciate the new management’s desire to follow the law and honor the sacrifices of our OFWs,” Ople said.

The Ople Center was among several civil society groups and individuals who filed a case against the DOTC and MIAA for implementing Memorandum Circular No. 8, which formalized the integration of terminal fees in all air tickets with OFWs getting a refund after presentation of certain documents.  The case has yet to be decided by an RTC Pasay court.

The development on the OFW terminal fee was cited among other accomplishments of the DOTr in the aviation sector.

Other reforms

Among these achievements is the enforcement of a slot management system to ensure that flight departures are on time. The system has improved the on-time performance of airlines at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport from 47 percent to 71 percent since the new administration took over.

The MIAA is also coordinating with Villamor Air Base to allow vehicles to pass through, especially along Andrews Avenue, to address traffic congestion in the airports. A two-minute waiting time is also being implemented for people welcoming and sending off passengers at the airport.

Capt. Jim Sydiongco, Director General of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, also reported the addition of Legzapi, Butuan, Dumaguete, and Caticlan airports to the country’s night-rated airports. Roxas airport will also be able to accommodate evening flights before Christmas.

Meanwhile, DOTr officials also reiterated the need for emergency powers to implement further improvements in the transportation sector.

DOTr spokesperson Cherie Mercado assured the public that the emergency powers will expedite the implementation of vital infrastructure projects and will not be abused.

“Emergency Powers was proposed to get projects moving fast. We have safeguards such as Congress oversight, TROs/injunctions to be filed only in the Supreme Court, and its compliance with the FOI,” Mercado said.

She also guaranteed that the department led by Secretary Arthur Tugade continues to perform while waiting for the emergency powers to be granted.

“Sec. Tugade works hard with no need of any fanfare. He is a man of accomplishments. He’s impatient for accomplishments, but he’s also a man of transparency,” Mercado added.

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