OFW advocate Susan “Toots” Ople has chided the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) for violating the Migrant Workers’ Act of 1995 in collecting the P550-terminal fee from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
“There is a continuing injustice going on when OFWs are forced to line up to refund the P550 that they are not even supposed to pay under the law. Some have decided to forego their refund for fear of missing their flights. Why treat our OFWs this way?” she said on Wednesday.
Ople is part of a broad coalition of OFW groups that filed a case before the Pasay City Regional Trial Court for a permanent injunction against the MIAA’s controversial Memorandum Circular No. 8, s. 2014 which established the refund system for OFWs last year.
“How can a mere memorandum amend a law that has been in effect for 19 years? What happens to the non-refunded OFW-paid terminal fees? How much in non-refunded terminal fees have been raised since MC No. 8 took effect? Millions of OFWs around the world deserve to know these answers,” the president of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center said.
Last year, 20 senators signed Senate Resolution 1179 urging the MIAA to recall the memorandum until after the MIAA and concerned government agencies found an appropriate computer system that will automatically exempt OFWs from paying the terminal fee.
Under Republic Act 8042 or the Migrant Workers Act, as amended by RA 10022, OFWs are exempted from paying the International Passenger Service Charge (IPSC).
Other existing laws also exempt Muslim pilgrims, national athletes and individuals approved by the Office of the President.
The senatorial candidate of the Nacionalista Party in the May 2016 elections called on the MIAA to open more refund counters to service departing OFWs so that they would not miss their flights because of queues at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
The Ople Center has received complaints from OFWs who tried but failed to secure a refund in other international airports outside Metro Manila.
“Since the MIAA’s jurisdiction is confined to the NAIA terminals, where will OFWs departing from Cebu or Clark, Pampanga or other airports claim their refunds? This is yet to be clarified,” Ople said.
Meanwhile, the Blas F. Ople Policy Center joined the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines and other allied labor groups in mourning the loss of its founder, lawyer Democrito T. Mendoza.
“As one of the pioneers in the trade union movement, Mendoza blazed a trail in union organizing and tripartite initiatives that would always be remembered. He leaves a giant void in the international and local trade union movements,” it said also on Wednesday.