Video: Filipino cabin crew who brought 27kg onions from Dubai, Riyadh charged with smuggling

'Let's destroy the items so they won't be able to use them,' one flight attendant was overheard as saying, according to customs authorities

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Photo Courtesy: Bureau of Customs, Philippines
Photo Courtesy: Bureau of Customs, Philippines

By Kirstin Bernabe-Santos

Published: Sat 14 Jan 2023, 9:35 AM

Last updated: Sat 14 Jan 2023, 7:03 PM

Philippine authorities are filing smuggling charges against 10 Filipino cabin crew members who tried to bring home onions and fruits from the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

The Philippine Airlines staff—who arrived on two separate flights from Dubai (PR 659) and Riyadh (PR 655) on January 10 —were caught with 27kg onions, 10.5kg lemons, and 1kg strawberries and blueberries, according to an incident report filed by officers of the country's Bureau of Customs.

The items were found in suitcases upon the cabin crew’s arrival at Terminal 1 of Manila’s international airport, the report added.

They did not declare the items in the customs baggage declaration form, neither did they have any import permit which was necessary for bringing such products. Since they failed to provide the documents, the goods were confiscated, the Customs officers said.

During the incident, one flight attendant asked the officer if he could "destroy the goods" on his own. He then "stomped and crushed the onions and lemons", prompting other cabin crew members to do the same in public view.

The incident is seen in this video shared by the Bureau of Customs:

"Let's destroy them so they won't be able to use them," one flight attendant was overheard as saying, according to the authorities.

"The other crew members started to stomp on the goods, sprayed disinfectant, and poked the goods with their chopsticks and pens also in public view," the customs report stated.

In a previous Khaleej Times report, a government official clarified that bringing onions or any other agricultural products in one’s luggage is considered importation — even in quantities for personal use.

“Importation is done through a certain process, where various clearances have to be sought,” said Nolet Fulgencio, agriculture attaché at the Philippine Consulate-General in Dubai and the Northern Emirates.

The reminder comes as many Filipino expats have been flying home with luggages filled with onions, considering how the vegetable’s price had skyrocketed to Dh40 per kilogramme in Manila.


Customs authorities had handed over the haul to the Bureau of Plant Quarantine for immediate destruction.

The cabin crew members are set to face charges of smuggling in violation of the Customs Modernisation and Tariff Act and Presidential Decree 1433 for violation of the Plant Quarantine Law.

Airline acknowledges incident

Ma. Cielo Villaluna, a spokesperson for Philippine Airlines, confimed in a statement that they are investigating the incident.

"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.

"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.”


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