By Macon Araneta i FilAm Star Correspondent

Before increasing terminal fees, Sen. Grace Poe  said  the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA)  must first focus on “passenger service.”

“I take it that the most important words are “passenger” and “service,” said Poe, chair of the Senate committee on public services.

MIAA  is eyeing to increase the terminal fees at the NAIA, by April next year to fund on-going improvements of its facilities. It is proposing a PHP 20 -terminal fee hike for international flights and PHP 100 for domestic flights.

Terminal fees at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport are PHP 850 for international flights and PHP 300 for domestic while Clark International Airport charges PHP 650 for international and PHP 150 for domestic.

Terminal fee for international flights will be pegged at PHP 750 from PHP 550 and PHP 300 for domestic from PHP 200 original fee.

“What are they doing right now with the existing ‘passenger service charge’ or terminal fee? What are they going to do if ever it increases? “ asked Poe.

“How about the rights of a passenger?” she also questioned.

She said there should also be real public consultations because of the sheer number of people – 42 million – who will be affected.  She said this is the number of passengers who flew through NAIA  last year.

“Another reason why the holding of public hearings is a must is the recent imposition of fuel charges on Filipino air travelers. There are multiple taxes and fees embedded in a ticket, including travel tax,” said Poe.

The Senator also said there are still millions in unrefunded terminal fees that have yet to be returned to the passengers.

“What happened to these? “ also asked Poe who is seeking re-election in next year’s mid-term elections.

Poe also pointed out that the dust hasn’t settled from the Xiamen incident that paralyzed NAIA for at least 36 hours.

She said some stranded passengers testified in her committee’s hearings that the sound system at NAIA malfunctioned and they did not get their  boarding time and boarding gate location in time.

MIAA Gen. Manager Ed Monreal said the increase in the terminal fees is projected to generate at least one percent increase in the gross revenue of NAIA.

He hopes the terminal fee hikes will be able to sustain NAIA as one of the world’s most improved airports.

“We are no longer considered as one of the world’s worst airports and we need to sustain this. If we don’t have the additional revenues we might revert (back),” he said.

NAIA ranked 10th on the list of the world’s most improved airports by United-Kingdom based consultancy firm Skytrax.

The MIAA expects a deficit on its revenues within the next five years if the terminal fees are not increased.

Overseas Filipino workers will still be exempted from paying the terminal fees.