THANK God for the judiciary, another Aquino administration act of betrayal of our Overseas Filipino Workers has been stopped. But only for 20 days, which will be up today!
This betrayal is the integration of airport terminal fees with the price of airline tickets.
Our economic heroes, the OFWs, are exempted by law from paying the P550 Philippine airport terminal fee. An estimate places at between 10 million to 11 million the number of Filipinos working abroad. The conventionally accepted estimate is that at least one million Filipinos leave to work abroad annually, some of these first timers, others returning to their employers after a vacation back home and still others regaining new overseas employment after staying home for a period upon coming home on the expiration of their previous overseas contracts.
If our worker-economic-heroes were not granted this exemption, the government take from each year’s departing one million OFWs would be more than half a billion pesos (P550,000,000).
The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) on Wednesday, Oct. 29, announced that beginning November 1 the P550 terminal fee would be integrated into the cost of airline tickets. Before integration, all OFWs would go to a government counter and get a Certificate of Exemption (COE) from the POEA-Labor Department. With the Certificate, the OFW would not have to pay the P550 terminal fee. After integration of the fee with the cost of the airline tickets, the OFW would have to line up at a counter to get a refund upon showing her or his COE. This would be a tedious process.
And another oppressive aspect of this integration is that an OFW who buys his or her ticket in a location abroad would not be granted the exemption. This is because foreigners —travel agencies or airline counter personnel—selling the ticket would not recognize the DOLE-POEA- issued COE.
An alliance of OFW and civil society organizations, labor unions (including the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines or TUCP), and OFW-welfare institutions—among these the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute, the Center for Migrant Advocacy, the Philippine Migrants Rights Watch, the Filipino Migrant Workers Group, the Daughters of Charity Migrants Desk, KAMPI, KAKAMMPI—organized protests against the MIAA imposition. They launched the #noto550 Coalition.
They filed a motion for a temporary restraining order against MIAA General Manager Jose Angel Honrado’s memorandum for the integration to start on Nov. 1. On October 31, Presiding Judge Tingaraan Guling of Pasay City Regional Trial Court Branch 109 directed Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya and MIAA chief Angel Honrado to halt implementation of Honrado’s Memorandum Circular No 8 for 20 days.
The integration of the terminal fee with airline ticket costs violates the Migrant Workers’ Act of 1995. That law, in the words of former senator Ernesto Herrera, a principal author with the late Blas F. Ople, “was one of the ways we could alleviate the financial burdens of OFWs.”
The OFWs are hailed as our economic heroes. Their remittances have been one of the reasons our economy has “sound fundamentals.”
But, true to the character the Aquino administration has demonstrated all these four years that it has been in power, it now again betrays the OFWs—and therefore also our people.
With at least 10 million of them, each one representing a Filipino family, all the OFWs represent at least half of our 100 million population.
President Aquino, Secretary Abaya and MIAA Boss Honrado, by moving to integrate terminal fees with airline ticket costs, are simply doing their usual thing—stab us, the Filipino people, in the back.