The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) slammed the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) for imposing a $3.50 or P175 “security surcharge” on departing overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
According to TUCP secretary general Ernesto Herrera, the imposition of the surcharge is in violation of an existing law that exempts migrant workers from any fees for their travel.
The former senator pointed out Section 35 of the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act, which he authored in the Senate, expressly exempts migrant workers from paying the travel tax and other airport fees.
Herrera made the statement following the announcement of MIAA General Manager Alfonso Cusi last week of the surcharge to be collected from all departing international passengers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) starting this month.
MIAA originally wanted to impose a $5 security surcharge but this was lowered to $3.50.
The security surcharge would be on top of the P550 terminal fee collected from passengers boarding international flights.
Cusi said the surcharge will bankroll the P1.25-billion updated security and emergency systems at the airport.
The money is needed to buy additional communication equipment, surveillance cameras and monitors, metal and explosive detection devises, ID system for airport staff and security mobile vans, Cusi said.
But Herrera said the law is clear against collecting any fees from departing migrant workers as long as they can present a valid Overseas Employment Certificate issued by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).
Citing POEA records, Herrera said that from January to June this year, a total of 564,920 Filipino migrant workers went abroad.
This is 1.7-percent higher that the 555,533 workers who left during the same period in 2005, he said.
MIAA stands to collect more than P200 million annually from OFWs alone, assuming that the security charge will be implemented.
“The surcharge is really an oppressive indirect tax and a totally unnecessary burden on departing OFWs,” Herrera added.
At present, OFWs will to pay $100 processing fee at the POEA, another $25 for Overseas Workers Welfare Fund membership fee and P900 for OWWA medicare.
“This, apart from the fact that workers have to shell out a lot of money to pay for recruitment and documentation fees, including passport and visa charges,” Herrera added. –Sheila Crisostomo, Philippine Star