What my friends Joey and Donna Sarasola experienced with other passengers arriving at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) was bureaucratic hell.
âOh my God, Monday you wouldn’t believe what we went through at our airport! It was hilarious, stupid and terrible, âJoey said.
Joey and Donna, coming from vacation in Spain, went through a maze of red tape from their plane to the terminal exits.
Their Turkish Airlines jet arrived at the NAIA at 6:15 p.m., but they and the other passengers were able to leave the airport around 9 p.m.
In short, nearly three hours were lost between the plane and the immigration counters.
The Sarasola couple said they expressed embarrassment towards strangers who were with them on the same flight, due to “repetitive processes and the large number of people handling our passports from office to office”.
Foreigners told the couple that they have never experienced such a mess at airports in other countries, even those with COVID-19 issues.
NAIA airport staff, lab staff and even the Coast Guard couldn’t explain why the process was so long and repetitive, according to Donna.
Before arriving at the immigration counters, passengers went from office to office.
âAfter we disembarked, we first stood in line for about an hour, not even knowing why we were in line, until someone came to check our Filipino QR codes and get our health cards,â he said. Joey said.
What was ridiculous, Donna interjected, was that in addition to filling out all the information online in Madrid, they had to fill out the arrival and health cards on the plane, which were the same information.
After that, the passengers were rounded up in a blocked area and ordered to wait, as the coast guard would give them direction.
It appeared that the coast guard was in charge of the quarantine measures at the airport. Are Coast Guard personnel not supposed to be assigned to guard our seas and piers, not airports?
âThat’s the reason we lost the West Philippine Sea to China, (it’s) because our coastguards are here at the airport,â one Filipino passenger joked.
After some time, passengers learned that all non-OFW (Filipino Overseas Workers) could leave the area. But why separate the OFWs? Strangers among the arriving passengers were puzzled.
First window: the staff of the Ministry of Tourism took their passports to register their personal information; They were also asked for a copy of their confirmed hotel reservations.
Counter 2: This was where they had to book and pay for an RT-PCR (COVID-19) test. Arriving passengers asked why they couldn’t choose their own lab that could come to their hotel. They were told that they could only use those at the airport, mainly the PADLAB (Philippine Airport Diagnostic Laboratory) or the Red Cross.
Question: By the way, who owns PADLAB?
When Donna and Joey asked to be tested by the Red Cross, they were told they had no representative that day. So they had no choice.
A Filipino diplomat among the passengers who works for the United Nations informed the office that his UN doctor will take care of the test. He was allowed to leave without the test.
Third Window: After paying the test fee, the last booth was marked “Verification” which reviewed all passenger documents to ensure the RT-PCR test was paid for.
âAnother waste of time. Wasn’t payment and receipt at the second counter sufficient proof? Joey said, exasperated.
After verification, the passports were returned to the passengers.
âThe time at the immigration counter was quick, barely five minutes maybe, because it was already 8:30 pm and there weren’t too many arrivals,â Donna said.
The suitcases were already on the floor near the carousel, but passengers had to show coastguard staff a piece of paper that was handed to them at the screening desk before their luggage was handed over to them.
The coast guard man who accompanied the passengers in vehicles that would take them to their respective quarantine hotels told them they were in luck. Other arriving passengers took four hours or more to exit the airport terminal, he said.
Their experiences at Manila Airport compared to that at Madrid Airport were very different.
âIt took us about 15 minutes from disembarking until we had to call a cab,â Joey said.
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It is high time we took a close look at OCTA Research’s credentials, which causes our government to go into panic mode every time it releases its findings on COVID-19.
The House committee on good government is on the right track in calling for an investigation into the “qualifications, research methodologies, partnerships and membership of OCTA Research.”
OCTA was responsible for the government’s order for a full lockdown from August 6 to 20 after saying the “serious push” in Metro Manila was due to the Delta variant.
“The rapid growth rate suggests the possibility of community transmission of the Delta variant in the NCR (National Capital Region),” OCTA said.
Why the hell did OCTA disclose its findings to the media without first submitting them to the government?
Has the group been mandated by the government?
Is the think tank really part of the University of the Philippines (UP)?
What was the basis for saying that the rapid growth rate of COVID-19 in the metropolis was due to the highly transmissible Delta variant?
It appears that OCTA pulled the government’s paw out when it claimed that “the UP-OCTA team is an independent, interdisciplinary research group made up primarily of faculty members and UP alumni.” .
The UP, the first state university, has since disowned OCTA.