Senator Cynthia Villar thanked the Manila International Airport Authority for reversing the policy of the previous administration to collect airport terminal fees from overseas Filipino workers despite a unanimous resolution approved by the Senate describing such collections as unlawful.
Villar, a staunch OFW advocate, noted that former MIAA General Manager Angel Honrado backed up by then Transportation and Communications Secretary Emilio Abaya Jr., proceeded to collect the PHP550 terminal fee from OFWs in February 1, 2015 despite the overwhelming objections of OFWs and civil society groups such as the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, Migrante International, and the Philippine Migrants Rights Watch.
"I am happy that the new MIAA general manager, Ed Monreal is attuned to President Duterte's policy of treating our modern-day heroes with respect and compassion. We in the Senate have always believed that the integration of terminal fees in airport tickets can be accomplished without having to tread on the toes of millions of our OFWs. In fact, I had made repeated appeals to the MIAA, DOTC and the DOST to look at IT solutions to spare our OFWs from paying a fee that the law exempts them from," Villar said.
The senator presided over a series of Senate hearings held last year on the issue of terminal fees for OFWs where she took then General Manager Honrado to task for implementing Memorandum Circular No. 8 without any public hearings or direct consultations with the OFW sector.
According to GM Monreal of MIAA, efforts are now underway to modify the collection system so that OFW exemptions as mandated under the Migrant Workers Act of 1995 and its amendatory law, Republic Act No. 10022, will not be affected.
MIAA sources said more than a billion pesos has been collected since the inclusion of terminal fees in air tickets with half of this amount still unclaimed by some OFWs making it part of MIAA's general fund.
Villar said that she will recommend to MIAA that it puts up an online verification system in coordination with the POEA and the Bureau of Immigration to make it easier for OFWs who have left the Philippines to request for a terminal fee refund.
"We need an online platform that would make it easier for our OFWs to claim their refunds which may soon reach a billion pesos," the lady senator pointed out.
Source: Senate of the Philippines