Bureau of Quarantine System at NAIA lacks transparency

The current system of confiscation being done by personel from the Bureau of Quarantine (BoQ) at the NAIA Terminals from arriving passengers is wanting, particularly in terms of courtesy and transparency.Here’s a classic example as shared by a Chinese-Filipina passenger who asked to be identified only as ‘Angelica,’ obsiously for fear of reprisal.

She  arrived from  Jinjiang, China last February 21 at around 6 p.m. aboard Phillippine Airlines (PAL) flight PR-357 with a handful of dried mushrooms placed inside a small plastic bag. Afer exiting the Customs area, she approached a media member who happened to be in the area and inquired, apparently sensing that something had gone wrong somewhere, in so far as how things went with her and her stuff.

She said a BoQ  personnel whom she identified as Maria Gracita Otibo confiscated the said plastic.  Angelica said she stood there, waiting for Otibo to tell her what to do next, like either to wait for them to issue the corresponding receipt or document as proof of the confiscation made or for her to leave already.

According to Angelica, the plastic seized from her was merely put on the floor by Otibo and then she proceeded to do other things, leaving Angelica hanging. When it became apparent that Otibo was done with her, Angelica said she decided to leave as she had no guts to ask for a receipt or ask if she would be issued any at all.                                                                                                          

After hearing Angelica’s story, the said media member went to the BoQ area and asked Otibo if  the said passenger’s complaint was true, that no document was issued relative to the goods confiscated from her.

To the surprise of the said media member, Otibo, instead of addressing the issue in a professional manner, began raising her voice while saying she will just issue a receipt for the said confiscated items. Just asking— wasn’t she supposed to do this right away and not after the passenger had left and a media member questioned her?

In addition to this, she also reportedly prohibited any picture-taking of all the plastic bags confiscated from various passengers. Those in the know say that Otibo’s behavior was a far cry from that of his fellow examiner,  Edwin Espiritu.                                                                                                                       

While  Otibo claimed that Angelica ‘abandoned’ the said plastic bag, the latter said she left in the absence of any instruction or even just a hint from Otibo that she should wait for the BoQ’s issuance of a receipt or proof of confiscation. Angelica said she would have obliged if told to wait and stayed awhile.

Since time immemorial and on many occasions, the manner of  confiscation by the BoQ of certain goods that are supposedly prohibited from being brought into the country had always been put under a cloud of doubt, just like in the case at  hand.

I inquired with veteran insiders and was told that under normal circumstances, the BoQ, upon confiscation, must record the incident and hand over to the owner of the confiscated items a piece of paper as receipt or proof of the confiscation made, right there and then and not only  when the passenger asks for it.  In fact,  the passenger concerned must even be informed when and where the goods confiscated from him will be destroyed so he could witness it himself, should he want to.

Whether or not the style employed by Otibo is the new norm at the BoQ-NAIA, there is a need to assure the passengers that the goods confiscated from them, if any, are indeed destroyed, so as not to raise any suspicion on the part of the passengers concerned that such goods are either recycled or merely taken home by some unscrupulous employees for their own, personal consumption.                      

Angelica also pointed out that her plastic was not the only one she saw lying on the floor as there were many more, but that none of them had any labeling or attached documents.

The BoQ better put a large, transparent trash bin in the area where, in the presence of passengers, the goods confiscated from them may be thrown.  This will somehow erase any doubt on the minds of the passengers that such goods will just be used or taken home by  the confiscating authorities themselves.

Too, more courteous personnel must frontline for BoQ. If the likes of Otibo can afford to raise her voice at a media member merely inquiring about the processes of confiscation, what more if the one asking is an ordinary passenger? Can you imagine?

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