The new rule was enforced via a Memorandum of Agreement between the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) and airline carriers and will be effective come October 1.
Republic Act 10022, or the amended Migrant Workers’ Act, exempts OFWs from paying terminal fees. They just have to present their Overseas Employment Certificates (OECs) to validate their OFW status.
“This blanket scheme is another vehicle for state exaction and ‘kotong’ from our OFWs. It is illegal and should not be implemented. Instead of saying that OFWs can ‘refund’ the fees paid, what the government should do is spare our OFWs from all that hassle. They’ve already gone through all the trouble of fulfilling requirements for the OEC, tapos ngayon ito pa? Ang siste ay tila iniisahan na naman ang mga OFW,” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson.
He said that the “refund/reimbursement” process is another unnecessary step that OFWs have to face. “It’s nothing but another extortion scheme banking on OFWs’ exasperation. Kikita sila sa pag-asang, para huwag na lang maperwisyo, hindi na lang magre-refund ang mga OFW natin. Utak-magnanakaw talaga itong gobyernong ito.”
The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) estimates 5,031 OFWs leave the country everyday. “That would mean a total of Php2.8 billion in earnings for the government daily from OFWs alone, or Php1.009 trillion for a year! Gatasang-baka talaga ang turing sa mga OFW natin.”
Martinez called on all OFWs to defy the new rule and refuse to pay the inclusive terminal fee when purchasing their airline tickets. “Huwag po tayong pumayag na maisahan tayo sa bagong iskemang pangongotong na ito. Nakasaad sa batas na exempted dapat tayo sa paniningil ng terminal fee.”
Time to abolish OEC
Martinez added that this development is yet another reason to renew calls to abolish the useless and money-making OEC.
The OEC is a requirement imposed by the POEA on OFWs. To be able to acquire it, OFWs are obligated to pay an assortment of fees otherwise they won’t be allowed to leave the country.
A study by Migrante International estimates that, since 2010, the BS Aquino government has been collecting an average of at least Php26,267 from every OFW processed by the POEA. This amount was higher than the average Php18,000 the government collected before 2010.
With the recent increases in the Philhealth premium, NBI clearance fees, e-passport fees, barangay clearance fees, and the mandatory contributions to Pag-Ibig, OWWA and mandatory insurance, among other requirements, the average cost for every OFW for the processing of their OECs has now reached an estimated Php31,000 per OFW.
“However, it has been proven time and again that the OEC is nothing but a tool by the government to impose mandatory state exactions. In terms of it being a document that ensures and assures proper welfare and services for OFWs, the document is ineffective and is not honored by service providers. This latest development with the terminal fee is but another proof of its futility,” Martinez said.
“We have stated time and again that the OEC is merely a stamp-pad for legalized ‘kotong’ on OFWs and should therefore be abolished,” the migrant leader said. ###