Extortion of Tourists Continues at Ninoy Aquino International Airport

The following letter was originally published on Rappler. It is written by Alain Pascua, the co-founder and vice president of the Wild Bird Photographers of the Philippines and vice president of Philippine Bird Photography Workshops and Tours. Philippine Flight Network has obtained permission from the author to share the letter for the benefit of our audience and other travellers.

Copyright Photo: Alain Pascua/WBPP
Is it More Fun in the Philippines?

Last night, May 30, 2014, Rey Sta Ana and I sent off five foreign bird photographer tourist guests to NAIA Terminal 4 for their 8:15pm Air Asia flight to Shanghai. We have just finished guiding them in their 12-day Philippine Bird Photography Tour in Coron and Puerto Princesa in Palawan (with Atty. Carlo Benitez Gomez, Chin Fernandez and Alex Ting) , in Mt. Makiling in Laguna, in Bangkong Kahoy Valley in Quezon, in Mt. Palay-Palay in Cavite and in the University of the Philippines in Quezon City (with Prof. Bert Madrigal). 

Image Source: Alain Pascua
Copyright Photo: Alain Pascua/WBPP
We thought that the only complain we have in Terminal 4 is the security guard detailed at the international departure door/gate. Mr. Mario Santos of Lanting Security is so strict, a trait that we often appreciate, but is not people-friendly, and not good as a last impression for foreign tourists leaving the country after their tour. He was strict in enforcing the no-ticket no-entry policy given to him (a real cadre of the no-ID no-entry code), and turns away everybody without it. His stance and feature is like that of battle-hardened soldier who never smile and more similarly like a goons who exudes arrogance a mile away. He is best fitted as a perimeter guard, but not a tourist reception officer. Anyway, we sent off our guest and just viewed their checking-in via the windows outside.

Copyright Photo: Alain Pascua/WBPP
After sending them off and on our way back to Manila, we received a call from one of them informing us that the airport authorities were not allowing him to board the plane because of excess baggage. He was willing to pay the extra baggage, but the airport personnel insisted that he check-in his entire hand carry bag because it exceeds the 7-kilogram limit. Indeed his hand carry bag exceeds the limit because it contains three lenses - Canon EF 500mm f/4, 100-400mm zoom, and 20-700mm and two bodies - Canon EOS 1D Mark 4 and 5D Mark 3. These are his gears for wild bird photography that must be hand-carried and not checked-in, despite exceeding the limit, because these are breakable and sophisticated precision equipment. As long as the bag conforms with the size specifications, it must be allowed for checked-in. But since our guest Mr. SHI XIAO JUN can not speak English, but only Mandarin, and could not explain these matters clearly and thoroughly to the authorities, he was forced to hand-over his camera bag for check-in. Being held in abeyance and not allowed to proceed to return flight is one big pressure for one in a foreign country. 

Copyright Photo: Alain Pascua/WBPP
But the airport authorities would not just accept his camera bag without payment, so he gave US$100. They said it was not enough. And then he gave US$200, which they got with his camera bag. No receipts given. Just like that, plain and simple extortion! That was about 7:00 to 7:30pm of May 30, 2014.

Copyright Photo: Alain Pascua/WBPP
There are four possible stages where this extortion could have happened: 1) at the check-in counter with attending Air Asia personnel, 2) at the cashier for excess baggage payment, 3) at the second security check-in of Immigration personnel, and 4) at the tube before entering into the plane where personnel usually eye for big bags. With all the details provided herein with regards the date, time, etc. the appropriate government authorities can easily narrow down the personnel involved in this extortion scheme.

Copyright Photo: Alain Pascua/WBPP
As of this time, 10:30am of May 31, 2014, Mr. Huqiusheng has not yet informed us if his camera bag has been retrieved by him as checked-in baggage. This is the greater worry, horror rather - not to retrieve the forcibly checked-in camera bag as the airport personnel already saw the contents which would amount to more than one million pesos and may be tempted to keep, or to find the contents broken. Either way, the airline usually could not guarantee its handling safety so it usually allows the passenger to hand carry it as long as the size conforms to standard specifications.

Copyright Photo: Alain Pascua/WBPP
As this was happening, we were informed by the group's foreign tour leader that an incident happened on their way to Puerto Princesa City, Palawan last May 22, 2014. At the last security check-in counter in NAIA Terminal 3, the airport personnel ask Mr. ZHAN LIN WANG to show the contents of his belt bag which he did. And when the airport personnel saw his small pack of medicines, he was asked to show the prescriptions. The tour leader who was with them explained that the medicines are his daily maintenance meds as he is already 80 years old (Yes, he's 80 years old and is doing wild bird photography with Nikon D4 and 800mm lens!), and that he has no prescriptions for those meds. The airport personnel insisted that he show the same. So when their foreign tour leader asked what they should do, the airport personnel gestured with his thumbs and fingers that could only mean "money." Stunned by such blatant insinuation, Mr. Wang suddenly swallowed his meds and together with the tour leader immediately left the place.

Copyright Photo: Alain Pascua/WBPP
That happened between 3:00-4:00 pm of May 22, 2014. Their flight to Puerto Princesa City was Cebu Pacific 5J638. Again, the government authorities can easily narrow the personnel involved with all the details provided herein.

Image Source: Alain Pascua
Are these the ways we treat foreign guests to our country? While the Department of Tourism and other travel and tour-related offices, companies, and individuals try so hard luring tourists to visit our country and providing the best services they can offer while they are here, our airport personnel will just blow these things away instantly because of their extortionist doings at the very gates of the country.

Copyright Photo: Alain Pascua/WBPP
We may take our shortcomings and failure to show all or most of our avian treasures to our foreign guests with deep regret, but these extortionist attitudes of our countrymen manning the country's gates deserve not just public condemnations at the strongest sense but outright investigation and penalty. 

Copyright Photo: Alain Pascua/WBPP
Let us clean up this mess, Mr. President! Let heads roll!

Alain Pascua
Co-Founder and Vice President
Wild Bird Photographers of the Philippines, Inc. (WBPP)

16 comments:

  1. It's more fun in the Philippines!

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  2. I hope Philippines can learn from our neighbours like Vietnam and Thailand how to threat tourists. Airports are and clean, very nice food culture and the cities are way cleaner than in the philippines. Taking taxi there to is way safer.

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  3. I recommend going to Danang in Vietnam. Hotels are affordable and food is very fresh, healthy and cheap.

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  4. Shame for our country! this is the meaning of more fun in the philippines!

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  5. I have encountered numerous happening in Philippines where the person in charge adhere to strict and totally unproportionate policies which leads to a very frustrating experience not leads because the person involved is usually not willing to listen or act in order to get around whatever obstacle it might be. Once tourists experience this once, they will never come back.

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  6. I there any latest news for new Manila International Airport?

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  7. If the Philippines is serious about Tourism,

    CLEAN UP THE AIRPORTS!

    Air travel in the Philippines is such a horrid experience for most people. Worst of all, as a tourist, its also your FIRST and LAST experience from a Country!

    Which also means its your most well remembered...

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  8. NAIA leaves an unpleasant and horrible experience to everyone who travels through it. Should be named also "Shithole Airport of the World"

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  9. last time ive been in the philippine airport is that before i could have the baggage push cart i have to pay this woman 100 pesos for asking me if i need a baggage pushcart.she didnt have any uniform nor an i.d. that i coulf file my complain but what amazed me us that it seems they hold all the pushcarts and offer it departing passengers that needs it..What a crap!!

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  10. ...so that's why finalize the plan for new airport and start the construction.

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  11. Wala na ba bago? tagal na nitong article

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  12. at first, I do not mind what is fun in NAIA. But when I went home for vacation lately, I do not found the ramp going down to the exit of the airport funny, but disgusting! it is too steep that my teenaged daughter drop all the baggage from the cart. thanks to a good Samaritan who helped her. is there any way that we could resolve this?

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  13. Its a sad fact that for many years now the Philippines is not serious about attracting tourist except it seems from Korea and Russia. In the meantime much if the traffic from North America and Europe has been lost, Central and South America, South Asia and Africa do not feature at all. Vietnam has overtaken us in terms of tourist numbers. Flights to and from Manila i.e. from Europe are rare, Cebu even lost Qatar. Add to that the bureaucratic mess that one encounters, the problems with bringing in cash and taking out cash, the almost total lack of advertising for the Philippines as a tourist market (compare that with Malaysia!) and the unattractive surroundings of many resorts (squatter villages are one feature, noisy karaoke bars another) and you have a recipe for failure. Its all so sad. It seems in the DOT nobody observes and nobody cares.

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  14. 뱃할맛이 나는곳 먹튀검증 안전한메이져

    ReplyDelete

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