Stranded aliens blamed on Phil Air Asia; locked down bldgs in Binondo fake news

IT took landing in the social media before two foreigners who were stranded in the NAIA for nearly 100 days were finally processed by the same airline that flew them in.

It was learned from Connie Bungag, chief of the public affairs office of the Manila International Airport (MIAA), that as early as March 30, the officer-in-charge terminal manager of the NAIA Terminal 1, Ely Torrecampo, had written Hsieh Hsu, station manager of Phil Air Asia, Inc., about the matter.

Based on records, Bungag said passengers Roma Trofimov who arrived March 20 via Z2 288 and Faisal Konan Zafa who arrived Feb 29 AK582, both Estonians and male, were denied entry by the Bureau of Immigration (BI) upon arrival at the NAIA Terminal 3.

On March 27, they were brought to the NAIA Terminal 1’s Day Room since the NAIA Terminal 3 was shut down during the lockdown period.

NAIA authorities said that Air Asia paid for their lodging and reasoned that they cannot send back the two foreigners due to lack of flights.

Airport sources said this is not true,  since despite the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), there were still international departure flights available.

The same sources lamented that the airline concerned had to wait for the issue to land in social media before finally acting on it or doing what it should have done right away.

Bungag said that in its letter to Phil Air Asia dated March 30, Torrecampo asked the airline to ferry the two aliens home pursuant to the Philippine  Immigration Act.

The letter read in part: “Excluded passengers are presently accommodated at the Passengers Lodging Facility at NAIA Terminal 1 since March 27 at 11:40 a.m. … please coordinate with our passengers amenities office with telephone number 8771109 loc. 4343 for proper documentation and processing of accommodation in reference to MIAA memo circular 03 series of 2019 (Revised  Policies, System and Procedures for the use/availment of airport passengers lodging facility dated February 4, 2019).

Grifton Medina, ports operation division of the BI, said that pursuant to Philippine Immgiration Act of 1940, particularly Sec. 35 to 36 on the obligation of transportation vessesls in case of detention and exclusion, passengers brought to the Philippines and considered excluded or inadmissible shall immediately be sent back to the country where he/she came from on the same airlines or vessel that brought him to the Philippines.

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Maj. Jhun Ibay, chief of the Manila Police District’s special mayor’s reaction team (SMART), branded as nothing but ‘fake news’ a post that circulated on social media about the supposed lockdown of five buildings ---two of which are condo buildings--- a mall and even an entire street  establishments and a street in Manila, allegedly due to COVID-19 cases detected there.

These were identified as Metrobank Downtown Center (Tytana building), Escolta Twin Towers, Yuchengco Building (Quintin Paredes), Cityplace Residence, Sta. Elena Street going to 168 Mall, United Group Building (Juan Luna Street) and Lucky Chinatown Mall, all in Binondo, Manila.

According to Ibay, even Mayor Isko Moreno and Vice Mayor Honey Lacuna received the said message and asked him to look into the matter so that he was able to establish that it was fake.

In the post that found its way in social media, the public was warned against going to the said areas purportedly because of COVID-19 cases there.

In these very hard times, I cannot fathom how some could still afford to cause additional worries and anxiety among the already stressed out population.

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