Ten Philippine Airlines flight attendants under investigation by Customs Bureau (BOC) for attempted “smuggling” more than 40 kg of agricultural products into the country.
The crew members were caught with food in their luggage at Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL) on their return from Dubai (DBX) and Riyadh (RUH) on 10 January. In total, the group had over 40 kg of vegetables, including 27 kg of onions, which had not been approved by the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) for import into the country.
The customs officials explained that all imported products are classified under “regulated imports”; in accordance with the Philippine Customs and Tariffs Act. An investigation is now underway on charges of smuggling and violating relevant laws. However, no arrests have been made so far.
In an interview with the Philippines' oldest and largest English-language newspaper, the Manilla Bulletin, Philippine Airlines condemned the actions of the crew, noting that the airline had already launched a separate investigation into the incident: “Philippine Airlines does not condone any customs violations. We will apply appropriate disciplinary sanctions depending on the outcome of the investigation. We are ready to cooperate with the customs authorities on this issue. We once again remind all our staff of the need to strictly comply with customs regulations in any situation.
It should be noted that over the past few weeks, onions in the Philippines have risen in price noticeably. Now it costs about 13 dollars per kilogram, which is almost ten times more expensive than the world average. According to the Philippine Star, the market value of the onions seized at the airport is about $250.
Meanwhile, some officials have criticized the customs investigation into the crew members, drawing attention to the fact that the products were intended for personal use. consumption.
The Philippine Airlines onion incident — this is not the first time that food has caused misunderstandings at the airport.
In August 2022, a tourist was fined A$2,664 ($1,900) for attempting to smuggle two McDonald's muffins and a ham croissant left half-eaten on a flight from Bali. The passenger was identified by a special biosecurity detector dog while passing through the airport. As a result — a fine for violating Australia's strict food import laws to prevent the entry of infectious diseases into the country.
Across the US, airports have begun setting up dog handlers to “sniff out” products that are illegal from the perspective of the USDA.
Thus, more than 3,500 seizures have been made at Chicago O'Hare Airport since the new order came into force in July 2021. In June 2022, the dog “exposed” a passenger who tried to smuggle 13 kg of sausages hidden in a diaper box. In this case, only one package of sausages was declared.