A WORK slowdown over overtime pay has hit Customs’ counters at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, threatening the services there and worrying Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim about its potential effect on the country’s image abroad.
Passengers are now actually delayed twice at the premier airport: once when they line up for about 30 minutes to pay the travel tax, and then again when they return to the country at night or early in the morning, when only one or two Customs staff attend to them at the counters.
Lim noticed the anomaly on Tuesday, when he attended the departure ceremonies for President Benigno Aquino lll’s trip to Hanoi to attend the 17th Asean Summit.
“The Customs at the [Ninoy airport] should operate on a twenty-four/seven basis and must hire additional personnel to man the airport counters on three-shift operations,” he told the Manila Standard.
He said that since Customs personnel were government employees, the government should be paying for their overtime, meal and transportation allowances.
Only a few Customs staff continued to man the counters at night and early in the morning after the Board of Airline Representatives refused to continue paying their overtime, which it did after the Court of Appeals found for it and said an order compelling it to pay was illegal.
The irritant between the airlines and Customs started from the July 30, 1974 Administrative Order 9-74 by former Finance Secretary Cesar Virata under the Tariff and Customs Code, which mandated all international airlines at the then Manila International Airport to shoulder the overtime pay and other allowances of Customs personnel who work in excess of eight hours.
The overtime was computed using the US dollar, and before the airlines stopped paying, the officers and employees at the Ninoy airport received P30 to P38 per hour, P50 in traveling allowance, and a 50-peso allowance per meal.
In 2005 the Finance Department increased the remuneration to P66 to P83, a 110-peso traveling allowance, and a 110-peso allowance per meal.
The airlines balked at the increase, and on Oct. 12, 2005 they met with then Finance Secretary Margarito Teves and appealed to reverse his department’s order, but he refused. The airlines then brought their case before the Office of the President and the Office of the Executive Secretary, and they were again refused.
Still, on March 14, 2008, the Board of Airline Representatives petitioned the Court of Appeals to review their case, and in July 2009 the court found for them, ruling that Customs’ order did not apply to the group or to its members.
The group is composed of BAR is composed of Asiana Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Cebu Pacific, China Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Continental Micronesia Airlines, Delta Airlines, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Eva Air Airways, Federal Express Corp., Gulf Air, Japan Airlines, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Korean Air, Kuwait Airways Corp., Malaysia Airlines, Philippine Airlines, Qantas Airlines, Qatar Airlines, Royal Brunei Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, and Thai International Airways.
Eric Apolonio, Philippine Star