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Ten flight attendants may face charges for ‘onion’ mess

Confiscated items
Some of the confiscated items from flight attendants. (JERRY S. TAN)

TEN flight attendants are in hot water and may face charges after officials from the Bureau of Customs and Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) based at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1 confiscated from them fresh onions and fresh fruits as they had just flown in from Riyadh and Dubai.

A report from Celeste Barrios, Plant Quarantine Officer of the BPI, said that the ‘shipment’ consisted of imported fresh onions weighing 24 kilograms and 11.5 kilograms of fresh lemons and strawberries from Riyadh and Dubai.

The ten attendants are from Philippine Airlines (PAL) which is now investigating the incident.

PAL spokesperson Ma. Cielo Villaluna said that a probe is now underway involving ten crew members who were found to be carrying undeclared vegetables and fruits in their baggage.

“Philippine Airlines does not condone any violation of customs regulations. We will impose the appropriate disciplinary sanctions subject to the results of the investigations,” she said.

Villaluna added: “We are fully cooperating with the the customs authorities on this matter. We reiterate to all our personnel the need to adhere strictly to customs regulations at all times.”

According to the report, the incident happened last January 10, 2023. A Bureau of Customs Officer called the Plant Quarantine Officer/Inspector on duty informing that there are consignments from Riyadh and Dubai needed for inspection.

Barrios, along with Plant Quarantine Inspector (PQI) Darren Ebuen went to the customs examination area and inspected the consignments of flight attendants.

Upon the inspection of the commodities, the owners reportedly failed to provide the necessary documents needed for the release of the said agricultural products.

Barrios explained to them the regulations regarding the shipment of plants, plant products and planting materials without proper documents.

Once apprised that the said items will have to be confiscated, the flight attendants reportedly reacted by destroying the commodities themselves right at the BOC Examination area, causing a scene and drawing attention to them.

Pursuant to the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, Importations of plant products are considered “Regulated Importations” which require a prior clearance or permit from the concerned government regulatory agency.

Further investigation is underway for the charges of Smuggling for violation of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act and Presidential Decree 1433 for Violation of Plant Quarantine Law by Customs and Bureau of Plant Industry against the 10 said flight crew.

BOC-NAIA District Collector Carmelita ‘Mimel’ Talusan said she and her team remain committed in their mandate on revenue collection, trade facilitation and border protection.

Itchie G. Cabayan
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