Temporary relief to OFWs

A coalition composed of civil society groups and advocates for migrant workers’ rights known as #Noto550 rejoiced over the grant of a temporary restraining order by Pasay City Judge Tingraan Guiling of regional trial court no. 109 against the implementation of a policy to integrate airport terminal fees into international air tickets.

The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) was about to implement the new scheme known as the integration of the International Passengers Service Charge (IPSC) otherwise known as airport terminal fees on Nov. 1 based on its Memorandum Circular No. 08 series of 2014.

Thankfully, the court decided to restrain the MIAA from implementing its circular just in the nick of time. In his decision, Judge Guiling wrote, “After hearing both arguments of both parties as to the urgency of the issuance of TRO, the Court believes that there is a need to restrain respondents from implementing Memorandum Circular No. 8 series of 2014 and hereby grants the same.”

“Wherefore, public respondents, Department of Transportation and Communication, Joseph Emilio A. Abaya (in his capacity as DOTC Secretary) and Manila International Airport Authority, Angel A. Honrado (in his capacity as the General Manager of MIAA) are hereby restrained to implement Memorandum Circular No. 8 series of 2014 for a period of twenty (20) days.”

Prior to the expiration of 20 days, the court scheduled a hearing for the preliminary mandatory injunction against the MIAA scheme to take place on Nov. 17 at 8.30 o’clock in the morning. Twenty-two petitioners representing different OFW groups led by OFW Party-List Representative Roy Seneres are actively monitoring this case in behalf of the sector. Included among the petitioners are Engineers Nelson Ramirez and Bienvenido Lorque from the United Filipino Seafarers (UFS) as well as OFWs Milagros Juare, Rilda Ongcal and Susan Cuenca.

Of course, the Department of Transportation and Communication as well as MIAA are set to file an appeal with the regional trial court, citing figures to show that not all OFWs will be affected by said integration. For the OFW sector, however, the law is very clear and has been clear for the past 19 years — upon showing proof of entitlement referring to the overseas employment certificate issued by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, all OFWs regardless of how they purchased their tickets are exempted from paying airport terminal fees.

While understanding the desire for reforms on the part of MIAA, we cannot abdicate our role as responsible citizens in making sure that benefits granted by law to our modern-day heroes will not just be swept away to oblivion or diminished in any manner in the name of good faith and best intentions.
The petitioners in behalf of the OFW sector are: Rep. Roy Seneres, Susan Ople, Gemma Comiso, Nelson Ramirez, Binevenido Lorque, Carmelita Nuqui, Ellen Sana, Loreto Soriano, Alfredo Palmiery, Elso Cabangon, Rodolfo Rashid Fabricante, Francisco Aguilar, Sister Teresa Evasco, Luther Calderon, Rep. Mohammad Omar Fajardo, Edward Era, Milagros Juare, Rilda Ongcal, Susan Cuenca, and Patrick Itao. By the way, Patrick is the designated program coordinator for OFW services of the Office of Senator Cynthia Villar.

Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said that it is illogical to ask OFWs to pay the terminal fee and then ask them to line up for a refund. He vowed to initiate a Senate inquiry into this issue. Hopefully, MIAA and DOTC can look for a compromise without sacrificing the legal benefits of our OFWs. Meanwhile, the fight continues.

Email: toots.ople@yahoo

Author: Susan Ople

Susan "Toots" Ople is the President of the Blas F. Ople Policy and Training Institute. She's an OFW and labor advocate based in the Philippines.

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