The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) wants travel taxes and terminal fees that have not been refunded to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to be turned over to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

With this, DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III said that OFWs should stop paying airport fees, at present and should not wait for April 30, 2017, the start of the waiving of terminal fees.

Last week, the Department of Transportation-Manila International Airport Authority (DOTr-MIAA) and 40 airline firms operating at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) waiving the fees imposed on Filipino workers abroad.

“The law mandates that OFWs are exempted from such fees at the airport,” he said.

Under R. A. No. 8042, or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipino Act of 1995, as Amended by R. A. No. 10022 and Presidential Decree No. 1183, the said fee should be waived.

Bello noted the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) should give them an accounting of the said fees starting from 2014 up to the present and also return them to the OWWA.

“We would like to know the total amount of fees they have collected for the past three years and eventually remit it to OWWA,” he added.

CAAP administers the collection of prescribed charges and fees pertinent to the operation of public air services, as well as maintains national airports and air navigations.

The MOA states that terminal fees worth Php550.00 will be waived for OFWs, pilgrims, Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) delegates and others authorized by law and the Office of the President traveling outside the country starting April 30, 2017.

OWWA, which holds migrant workers funds in trust and administers OFW welfare programs.

At the same time, Bello threatened legal action against airline firms to compel them to immediately stop the collection of said fees from Filipinos working abroad.

“The continuous collection of travel tax and terminal fees from OFWs is not correct because the law exempting them took effect three years ago. They should have stopped the collection as early as three years ago,” he added.

Last month, the DOLE chief wrote CAAP Director General Jim Sydiongco, copy furnished to DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade, MIAA General Manager Eddie Monreal, and Atty. Guiller Asido of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, to make the necessary representation to concerned government offices in various airport terminals to cease and desist from collecting tax and terminal fees from OFWs. (PNA) RMA/FGP/RSM