Philippines onion crisis: Senators slam officials who charged flight attendants with smuggling

10 cabin crew members of Philippine Airlines tried to bring home 27kg of onions, 10.5kg of lemons, and 1kg of strawberries and blueberries



FILE. A worker stands on top of piles of red onion sacks. Photo: Reuters
FILE. A worker stands on top of piles of red onion sacks. Photo: Reuters

By Web Desk

Published: Mon 16 Jan 2023, 5:02 PM

Last updated: Tue 17 Jan 2023, 10:01 AM

Several Philippine senators on Monday slammed Customs authorities for shaming the 10 flight attendants caught with around 40kg of onions and fruits upon their arrival from Dubai and Riyadh.

The items were confiscated after the cabin crew members failed to present import permits, which is required for all fresh food brought inside the country, including those for personal use.

The senators called the Customs officers’ action “cruel” and “unacceptable” during a meeting on the country’s onion crisis. In Manila, prices of the staple vegetable had skyrocketed to Dh40 per kilogramme.

Senator Raffy Tulfo criticised the seizure, stressing that the Bureau of Customs should be chasing after “big-time smugglers” instead.

“Why are you after these (flight attendants) and not the big-time smugglers? Perhaps those real criminals are in your offices all the time. Shame on you. You humiliated these cabin crew who only wanted to bring something for their families,” Tulfo was quoted in a local media report.

Senator JV Ejercito also questioned how millions of worth of other goods are able to pass through Customs inspections.

“Philippine Airlines crew charged for smuggling of onions — with a value of only $100 to $150, and yet smuggled shipments worth millions are able to enter the country. Are we really zeroing in on these cabin crew members while the big-time smugglers and protectors can get away with the crime?” Ejercito said, as reported by local media.

The 10 flight attendants of the country’s flagship carrier Philippine Airlines tried to bring home 27kg of onions, 10.5kg of lemons, and 1kg of strawberries and blueberries.

Charging these people with smuggling is “cruel” and “unusual”, said Senator Imee Marcos, sister of the current Philippine president, Bongbong Marcos.

kirstin@khaleejtimes.com

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