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PAL crew caught with 40 kilos of onions, fruits  

Robertzon Ramirez, Rudy Santos - The Philippine Star
PAL crew caught with 40 kilos of onions, fruits   
Philippine Airlines crewmembers weigh onions and fruits they carried in their luggage upon arriving at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 on Jan. 10. They later stomped onto the fruits to destroy them, in full view of customs officers. The images were taken from a video shared by the Bureau of Customs.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — How far will you go to look for cheaper onions?

The Philippine Airlines (PAL) is investigating at least 10 crewmembers for allegedly attempting to smuggle into the country nearly 40 kilos of onions and fruits from the Middle East. A four-page BOC memorandum obtained by The STAR stated that PAL crewmembers from Flight PR 655 from Riyadh were caught with 11.5 kilos of onions and six kilos of lemons with a total market value of $100.

Cabin crew from Flight PR659 from Dubai were caught with 15.5 kilos of onions, 4.5 kilos of lemons and a kilo of strawberries and blueberries amounting to $150, which were confiscated by the BOC upon arrival in the country.

PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said the airline is “investigating the incident involving 10 crewmembers who were found to be carrying undeclared vegetables and fruits in their baggage after flying in from Riyadh and Dubai.”

The BOC said the two PAL flights from Riyadh and Dubai arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1 on Jan. 10, with the crew passing through the mandatory “customs lane” for checking of their luggage.

“After physical examination, the customs examiners found assorted agricultural products and referred the same to the plant quarantine officer Celeste Barrios of the Bureau of Plant Industry, who… confiscated the goods for proper disposal,” the BOC memorandum stated.

The BOC said the crewmembers violated the Plant Quarantine Law of 1978 due to the lack of a phytosanitary certificate, Presidential Decree 1433 due to the lack of a plant quarantine clearance and Section 1404 of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act for failing to declare the produce.

The bureau recommended the confiscation of the goods and “appropriate legal action.”

BOC spokesman Arnaldo dela Torre Jr. said in a Viber message that no charges were filed against the 10 PAL crewmembers. He emphasized that the only actions taken during the incident were the confiscation of goods and their immediate turnover to quarantine authorities.

“Hindi naman po sila inaresto at wala naman po sa batas na dapat ikulong o i-aresto po sila (They were not arrested and there is nothing in the law that states they should be jailed or arrested),” he said.

He also explained that Republic Act 10845, the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016, only covers “large-scale smuggling of agricultural products.”

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