MANILA, Philippines – The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) is set to start including terminal fees in plane ticket costs on February 1, and migrant workers’ groups want the court to hold the agency in contempt.
The groups said the government agency should be made to explain why it is enforcing a policy that the Pasay Regional Trial Court earlier ruled was “unenforceable.”
The court earlier said merging terminal fees and airfare was not enforceable due to a technicality: MIAA had not complied with the requirement to publish the new policy before implementation. (READ: Court: Merging of terminal fee and airfare ‘unenforceable’)
Pasay Judge Tingaraan Guiling earlier ruled that the disputed MIAA circular, which was the basis of the integration of fees, “needs publication as mandated by law” but “no proof of publication in the Official Gazette nor in any newspaper of general circulation” exists.
However, the MIAA claimed it had since complied with the requirement.
“The decision of the court was only based on the non-publication…. I suppose now that it’s been published, there is no longer an issue,” MIAA Public Information Office chief Connie Bungag told Rappler in a mix of English and Filipino.
Rappler tried to get MIAA executives to comment, but it did not receive replies.
OFWs will be affected
The new policy will affect overseas-bound passengers departing from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), which is under the supervision of MIAA.
In a motion, migrant workers’ groups asked the Pasay Regional Trial Court to stop the implementation of the MIAA circular. They argued that the integration of fees violates the law that exempts overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from paying terminal fees.
While MIAA has a mechanism to refund the departing OFWs, the groups said the exemption is futile if they are made to pay to begin with.
The petitioners have also criticized the arrangement where the airlines get a commission from outsourced services to collect the terminal fees. They say it is a form of “extortion,” as airlines would profit from the collection of fees even from passengers who should not pay these fees in the first place.
Of the P550 ($12.23) terminal fee that will be charged per passenger, 3.5% or P19.25 will go to the airline as service fee.
Earlier testifying before the court, MIAA finance department head Irene Montalbo said the government presently shells out P52 million ($1.15 million) for tellers who manually collect terminal fees in NAIA and for other needed equipment.
MIAA believes the scheme is meant to address congestion in NAIA, enabling international passengers departing from the Philippines to no longer wait at terminal queues to pay fees.
Petitioners said OFWs are unlikely to ask to be reimbursed their P550, so the millions that the government is projected to gain from the integration of fees should be used for airport upgrade or expansion such that congestion will no longer be a problem. – Rappler.com
US$1 = P44.96