• Airlines told: Account for terminal fee take

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    Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd on Friday sought an immediate accounting of the “illegal” collection of travel tax and terminal fee from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) for the last three years.

    “They [airline companies]have to account to us how much they collected for the last three years and up to now and how much they have remitted to CAAP [Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines]. We will also ask the CAAP to account to us how much has been remitted to them by the airlines, and then ask them to remit this amount immediately to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration because OWWA is the trustee of the OFWs,” Bello told reporters.

    According to the Labor secretary, the amount that will be remitted by the airlines will be added to the estimated P200 billion trust fund of the OFWs.

    OWWA, along with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), are adjunct agencies of the Labor department.

    Bello threatened legal action against the airline companies to compel them to immediately stop the collection of travel tax and terminal fee from the OFWs as they do not have legal basis to do so.

    “The continuous collection of travel tax and terminal fee from the OFWs is not correct because the law exempting them took effect three years ago. They should have stopped the collection as early as three years ago,” he said.

    The Labor chief was reacting to reports that the airline companies will only cease collecting the tax and the fee starting April 30.

    “[We] will confer with the Office of the Solicitor General to come up with the legal action to stop it immediately. Not April 30, but now,” Bello said.

    Under Presidential Decree 1183 and Republic Act 8042, or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipino Act of 1995, as Amended by RA 10022, OFWs are exempted from paying travel tax and terminal fee.

    The CAAP administers the collection of prescribed charges and fees pertinent to operations of public air services, as well as maintaining national airports and air navigations.

    Late last month, Bello wrote Director General Jim Sydiongco of the CAAP.

    A copy of the letter was sent to Secretary Arthur Tugade of the Department of Transportation, General Manager Eddie Monreal of the Manila International Airport Authority and Guiller Asido of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, which were asked to make the necessary representation to concerned government offices in various airport terminals to cease and desist from collecting the travel tax and terminal fee from the OFWs.

    WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL

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