Pasay court stops integration of airport fee with airplane fare
MANILA, Philippines — The Pasay Regional Trial Court has found the government’s memorandum circular that sought to integrate the airport terminal fee with the cost of an international airline ticket as “unenforceable” mainly due to its lack of publication.
Presiding Judge Tingaraan Guiling of the Pasay RTC Branch 109 penned the seven-page resolution issued on Wednesday, essentially halting the implementation of the airport authority’s integration plan.
“The Court holds and believes that the Memorandum Circular No. 8 needs publication as mandated by law as well as jurisprudence on the matter. (With the) absence of any publication, the said Memorandum Circular No. 8 is unenforceable,” the resolution reads.
Earlier, the Pasay RTC issued on Nov. 1 a temporary restraining order, which stopped the MIAA from implementing its integration plan. This TRO expired on November 20. Among the respondents in the petition were Transportation Secretary Jose Emilio Abaya and MIAA general manager Jose Angel Honrado. But a day before the TRO expired, the Pasay court ruled that the integration plan was unenforceable due to the failure of government agencies to duly publish memorandum circular in general newspapers.
Sought for his reaction, Honrado, the supervisor of all four terminals of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, said the agency would comply with the court’s order.
“We have to respect the court order. The Office of the Solicitor General, our legal counsel, will determine our next step,” Honrado said in a text message.
Under the contentious memorandum circular no. 8, international airlines operating at the NAIA must include the P550 airport terminal fee in the tickets so the airport authority will be able to get rid of the long lines of passengers queuing up to pay for the fees before their flight.
As a result of the circular, however, overseas Filipino workers who were exempted from paying fees like the travel tax and terminal fee by virtue of the Republic Act 10022 or the amended Migrant Workers and overseas Filipino Workers Act of 1995, will now have to do so when buying the ticket overseas or online.
They may, however, get their refunds upon the presentation of their overseas exemption certificate.
The court’s resolution came following a hearing on Monday on the petition for certiorari filed by OFW Family Club Rep. Roy Seneres Jr. At the hearing, the MIAA’s counsel defended the memorandum circular and the benefits to the passengers it could bring once implemented.
At the hearing, Irene Montalbo, the finance officer of MIAA, told the court that while dialogues, consultations, and meetings with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and the Department of Labor and Employment were done before the memo circular was promulgated on September 15, 2014, it was never published in any newspaper of a general circulation.
In its decision, the Pasay judge noted that according to the Article 2 of the Civil Code. “laws must take effect after 15 days following their publication in the Official Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation in the Philippines.”
The MIAA has been pushing for the integration scheme, arguing that passengers need not fall in line to pay for the terminal fee.
In 2013, a total of 7,671,643 passengers departed from NAIA and only 1.9 million, or 10 percent, were OFWs.
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