Arrival nightmare

What my friends, Joey and Donna Sarasola, went through along with other arriving passengers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) was bureaucratic hell.

“Oh gosh, Mon, you wouldn’t believe what we experienced at our airport! It was hilarious, stupid and terrible,” said Joey.

Joey and Donna, coming from a 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 fellow passengers were able to leave the airport at close to 9 p.m.

In short, nearly three hours were wasted between the plane and the immigration counters.

The Sarasola couple said they expressed their embarrassment to the foreigners who were with them on the same flight, because of the “repetitive processes and so many personnel handling our passports from one desk to another.”

The foreigners told the couple they had never gone through such a mess at airports in other countries, even those with COVID-19 problems.

NAIA airport personnel, laboratory personnel and even the Coast Guards could not explain why the process was so lengthy and repetitive, according to Donna.

Before arriving at the immigration counters, the passengers went from desk to desk.

“After we deplaned, we first stood in line for about an hour, not even knowing why we were lining up, until someone came to check our Philippine QR codes and get our health cards,” said Joey.

What was ridiculous, Donna chimed in, was that aside from filling in all the information online in Madrid, they had to fill in arrival and health cards on the plane, which was the same information.

After that, the passengers were herded to a blocked-off area and told to wait, as the Coast Guard would give them orientation.

It seemed that the Coast Guard was in charge of quarantine measures at the airport. Aren’t Coast Guard personnel supposedly assigned to guard our seas and piers, and not airports?

“That’s the reason we lost the West Philippine Sea to China, (it) is because our Coast Guards are here in the airport,” quipped a Filipino passenger.

After a while, the passengers were told all non-OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) could leave the area. But why separate the OFWs? Foreigners among the arriving passengers were perplexed.

First desk: Department of Tourism staff took their passports to record their personal information; they were also asked for a copy of their confirmed hotel bookings.

Second desk: This was where they had to book and pay for an RT-PCR (COVID-19) test. The arriving passengers asked why they couldn’t choose their own lab that could come to their hotel. They were told they could only use the ones at the airport, mainly PADLAB (Philippine Airport Diagnostic Laboratory) or the Red Cross.

Question: Who owns PADLAB, by the way?

When Donna and Joey asked to be tested by the Red Cross, they were told that they didn’t have any representatives that day. So, they had no choice.

A Filipino diplomat among the passengers who works for the United Nations informed the desk that his doctor from the UN would take care of the test. He was allowed to leave without the test.

Third desk: After paying the fee for the test, the last booth was marked “Verification” which reviewed all the passengers’ documents to make sure that the RT-PCR test was paid for.

“Another waste of time. Wasn’t paying and getting a receipt at the second desk enough proof?” Joey said, exasperated.

After the verification, the passports were given back to the passengers.

“The time spent at the immigration counter was fast, just five minutes, perhaps, because it was already 8:30 p.m. and there were not too many arrivals,” said Donna.

The suitcases were already on the floor by the carousel, but the passengers had to show the Coast Guard personnel a slip of paper that was given to them at the verification desk before their luggage was released to them.

The Coast Guard man who accompanied the passengers to vehicles that would take them to their respective quarantine hotels told them they were lucky. Other arriving passengers took four hours or more to get out of the airport terminal, he said.

Their experiences at the Manila airport compared to the one at the Madrid airport were very different.

“It took us around 15 minutes from deplaning ‘til the time we had to call a taxi,” Joey said.

* * *

It’s high time we took a hard look at the credentials of OCTA Research, which makes our government go into a panic mode whenever it makes its findings on COVID-19 public.

The House committee on good government is on the right track in calling for an investigation into the “qualifications, research methodologies, partnerships and composition of OCTA Research.”

OCTA was responsible for the government’s ordering a total lockdown from Aug. 6 to Aug. 20 after it said that the “serious surge” 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 heck did OCTA release its findings to the media without submitting them first to the government?

Was the group commissioned by the government?

Is the think tank really part of the University of the Philippines (UP)?

What was its basis for saying that the rapid growth rate of COVID-19 in the metropolis was due to the highly transmissible Delta variant?

It seems OCTA pulled the government’s leg when it claimed that “UP-OCTA team is an independent and interdisciplinary research group composed primarily of UP faculty members and alumni.”

The UP, the premier state university, has since disowned OCTA.

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Credit belongs to : www.philstar.com

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