Opinion: Terminal Fees Should Be Waived Until NAIA is Fixed

The airlines operating out of NAIA 1 want the terminal fees rolled back until air conditioning and other amenities are fixed. Makes sense but the proposal should go further: stop collecting the terminal fees until things are fixed and civilization restored in that terminal.

"A passenger is treated after collapsing from heat and long queues inside Terminal 1"
Image Credit: Raoul Esperas / ABS-CBN
This suggestion to drop the fees in the meantime is not as outrageous as some bureaucrats may think. In fact, it is the only fair thing to do given decades of fee collection that didn’t all go into giving airlines and passengers value for money.

I don’t have the latest numbers but I recall that three years ago, the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) had been collecting over P8 billion in terminal fees a year. Less than half of that had been used for the maintenance and upgrading of the terminals with the rest going into the general fund.

In other words, the terminal fee has become some kind of a tax rather than a fee for use of a facility. Early this year, Sen. Ralph Recto estimates a total annual collection of over P16.5 billion by three government agencies operating at the airport: Tieza (travel tax), CAAP and MIAA.

Other than the travel tax, the fees are supposed to be for services given to and facilities used by airlines and travelers. But most of the money end up in the general fund. This surreptitious taxation is immoral, at the very least.

But that is not happening at the airports alone. As I reported last week, the National Telecommunications Commission is also collecting about P5 billion in supervision fees that all go into the General Fund. They have a budget that covers employee costs and not much else. They even have to borrow test equipment from the telco companies they supervise.
I realize this kind of practice had been going on for years. The guys in DOF will justify it on the grounds that people don’t pay enough taxes to cover the costs of running government. I don’t think the justification is acceptable.

Strictly speaking, this practice may even be illegal in the sense that it is a misappropriation of funds. When terminal fees are collected from each passenger, it is on the pretext of providing adequate airport services. When the money is turned over to the general fund, the real purpose for the collection is lost.

There is no reason for NAIA to be this badly managed. Major airports all over the world make money. Turn over the management of the terminals to the private sector, preferably to the companies that effectively run malls. That’s the only way we can redeem the national honor we lose every day in that poor excuse of an international airport.

Yogi Dominguez Zaragoza, a former Bb. Pilipinas, came back as a balikbayan last month. Her experience at NAIA when she went back home to Los Angeles last week was well described by my fellow columnist Babe Romualdez. Yogi was a contemporary of mine at UP Diliman in the late 60s and my current Facebook friend. Here is what she posted on my timeline reacting to her experience:

I think that the airport tax should be cancelled, all together. Passengers go through a disservice, when exiting the country.

The airline and airport staff was very nice, in spite of their working conditions day in and day out. What an inhuman imposition on these people who need their jobs to support their families, while the people in command seem so unconcerned and smug in their positions because of their affiliations to the top brasses.

When can we ever be proud, again, to say that we come from a respectable country? I remember the 50s and the 60s when the peso had a high exchange rate; when we had a good reputation in the world during the presidential reigns of Ramon Magsaysay, Carlos P. Garcia, and Diosdado Macapagal. Our country has retrogressed so far that it is among the top in various embarrassing global rankings. What can we do to take back the power from corrupt officials?

In any other country, the officials who miserably failed to do their jobs would have resigned in shame, but not here. Why? Here is an explanation PhilStar editor-in-chief Amy Pamintuan wrote in her column last Friday:

Those long lines of passengers fanning themselves as they swelter in the heat are proof that the MIAA failed to anticipate the enormous inconvenience to travelers using the nation’s principal gateway.

Bodet Honrado and his boss Transport Secretary Joseph Abaya have been under fire for the NAIA mess, but the betting is they are secure in their posts. Bodet is a member of the original Yellow Army of the Aquino clan while Abaya is a former military aide of Cory Aquino. And Abaya’s patron, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, can do no wrong in the eyes of his BFF, President Aquino.

That answers the question of many why P-Noy isn’t doing anything about NAIA despite the obvious mismanagement. If we also get power blackouts in Luzon and Visayas in addition to the one prevailing in Mindanao, P-Noy’s watch will be seen as a failure, the international credit upgrades notwithstanding.

P-Noy is sacrificing the Filipino people to keep his incompetent friends happy. Next time we amend our Constitution, we should make that a ground for impeachment.

Disclaimer: This article was authored by Boo Chanco, a columnist at the Philippine Star. Philippine Flight Network does not claim any ownership or rights to this article and it has been shared solely for personal interest. The views expressed in the article belong solely to the author and do not represent the opinions of Philippine Flight Network. To view the original article, please visit the Philippine Star.

1 comment:

  1. People pay terminal fees for the maintenance of the terminal, not for the money to be siphoned off into the general fund - and after that, God knows where!
    Recent allegations about billions being stolen by politicians and government officers makes this matter only more acute. People are becoming fed up with lousy government service and having their pockets bled to feed the high living of public servants and elected officials.
    Another place where money leaks into the general fund is Immigration. Last year, it collected P2 billion in fees, principally from the excessive departure tax of more than P2,000 levied on each foreigner legally residing in the country (and note, the RP is one of the few to do this kind of thing!) Of that P2 billion, only P600 million was used for operations of Immigration. The rest went into the general fund and then, again, God knows where. Meanwhile, Immigration functions slowly (look at the lines at the airports!) and inefficiently (too much paperwork), as computers purchased are the cheapest possible. Legal foreign residents and businesses are increasingly angered by bureaucracy and inefficiency.
    It's time people, both Filipinos and foreign residents, begin to demand service for what they pay. Too much money leaks into that black hole called the General Fund - and too much of that is leaking into people's pockets!
    Get angry, folks!


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