‘Terminal fees in airfares won’t ease NAIA congestion’

Buena Bernal
‘Terminal fees in airfares won’t ease NAIA congestion’
A House report says that long queues in NAIA are at the airline check-in, baggage check, and immigration counters, not at the travel tax and terminal fee counters

MANILA, Philippines – Claims by the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) that the merging of terminal fees and airfares will ease congestion at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) are misplaced, a lawmaker observed.

In a press briefing, Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) Family Party-list Rep Roy Señeres pointed out on Tuesday, January 27, the findings of a House committee that congestion in NAIA is not at the travel tax and terminal fee counters.

Instead, he said House representatives observed that long queues in the international airport are at the airline check-in, baggage check, and immigration counters.

These observations were unanimously adopted by the House of Representatives committee on overseas workers affairs (COWA), chaired by Akbayan Party-list Representative Walden Bello.

The report was the result of hearings conducted by COWA, whose members likewise conducted an ocular inspection of NAIA in late 2014. 

The airport is notorious for traveler complaints and had been cited as being among the world’s worst airports.

MIAA claimed that international passengers departing from the Philippines will no longer wait at terminal queues to pay fees once the policy is implemented. But Señeres said the planned terminal fee integration into plane ticket costs set to be implemented on February 1 is “clearly without basis.”

Señeres leads the groups petitioning to stop the fee integration before the Pasay Regional Trial Court (RTC). 

Petitioners had argued MIAA’s plan of reimbursing OFWs’ terminal fees paid upon sale of plane tickets violates their exemption from terminal fee payment as mandated by law.

The new policy will affect only overseas-bound passengers departing from the NAIA, which MIAA supervises.

Contempt charges to be filed

The lawmaker also announced it will file contempt charges against MIAA for proceeding with merging terminal fees and airfares. 

Señeres called MIAA’s February 1 terminal fee integration a “blatant display of arrogance and disrespect of the law,” given an earlier court ruling that the move is “unenforceable.”   

The party-list representative warned MIAA General Manager Jose Angel Honrado that he will eventually file a complaint against the latter before the Ombudsman if the integration proceeds.

Pasay Judge Tingaraan Guiling earlier ruled that a 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.

The MIAA claimed it had since complied with the requirement. (READ: Court asked to call out MIAA on terminal fees)

Still, Señeres’ camp believes the MIAA did not follow correct procedures when it did not first present to the court proof of the publication, which it claims, had been satisfied.

His camp will file the contempt charges “within the week.”

Rebates of airlines

He reiterated a previous concern that airlines are set to earn from their government-outsourced collection of terminal fees at the point of sale of plane tickets. (READ: OFW groups protest airlines’ earnings from terminal fees)

Of the P550 ($12.48) terminal fee that will be charged per passenger, 3.5% or P19.25 ($0.45) will go to the airline as service fee.

Carriers will earn from its collection of terminal fees even for passengers who are exempted by law from paying the fee in the first place.

Señeres said the airlines are projected to earn P112 million ($2.54 million) annually from the arrangement, given the yearly estimate of 5.8 million passengers departing from NAIA bound overseas.

But MIAA finance department head Irene Montalbo had previously said in court the government presently shells out P52 million ($1.18 million) for tellers who manually collect terminal fees in NAIA and for other needed equipment.

Still, the lawmaker suspects there might be “some surreptitious arrangements for a rebate from the service fees between the airlines and the MIAA and projected earnings from bank interests of the unrefunded funds, all at the expense of hard earned money of the OFWs.” 

He said OFWs who have more pressing concerns during departure will likely no longer line up for the refund. He then questioned where the bank interest from deposited terminal fees pending refund or those not refunded at all will go.

Montalbo had argued the integration will help NAIA modernize as the Philippines gears up for ASEAN integration.

Señeres’ camp insists their objection is only insofar as it affects OFWs and not the integration in general. – Rappler.com

*$1 = P44.06

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