IS THE P20 lounge fee collected by Sands Gateway Mall in Danao City from Camotes-bound passengers proper, legal and authorized?
This is what Fifth District Rep. Vincent “Duke” Frasco wants to find out through a formal congressional investigation after receiving complaints from residents of the Camotes group of islands who use the Danao port to get to their work in the mainland.
Frasco filed a resolution on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019, asking the Lower House to direct its committee on transportation to investigate the lounge fees collected from ship passengers who are made to go to the mall’s private waiting lounge located beside the Danao port.
The passengers are made to pay the P20 lounge fee on top of the P5 terminal fee being collected by the Cebu Port Authority (CPA).
“Camotes Island residents work hard to provide for their families, but part of their earnings are taken by Sands. Before the operation of the private mall, they did not have to pay the P20 fee,” Frasco said.
Frasco also requests Congress to urge the Department of Transportation and the CPA “to immediately prohibit” the mall from further collecting lounge fees from boat passengers who are unwilling to avail themselves of and pay for the mall’s facility. He also requests Congress to urge the two agencies to open the public terminal.
A former commissioner of the CPA, Frasco said he does not remember any agreement being signed for the purpose of closing the public terminal and directing passengers to the private mall during his stint at the CPA.
For him, the collection is “unjustly adding financial burden and unduly hampering passengers’ constitutional right to travel.”
Frasco cited Section 6, Article III of the Constitution, which states that the right to travel “shall not be impaired except in the interest of national security, public safety or public health.”
“The Port of Danao City is a public commercial port owned and operate by the CPA and currently has a 150-seater passenger terminal that is in good working condition,” Frasco pointed out.
The Sands Gateway Mall Danao is a private establishment owned and operated by Sands Danao Realty and Development Corp. When the mall was opened to the public, the public passenger terminal was closed and passengers were required to enter its premises.
“Passengers do not see the necessity or benefit of using the waiting lounge of Sands Gateway, as there was a 150-seater passenger terminal available at the Port of Danao that they could use without incurring additional and unnecessary travel cost,” Frasco stated in the resolution.
“There is no basis under law to mandate the passengers to pay lounge fees to Sands Gateway, a private corporation, to gain access to the Port of Danao City, a public port... (This) is illegal,” he said. (PR)