The Philippine Star

Even before airport authorities can eradicate an infestation of bed bugs, another video has gone viral, this time showing a large rat scurrying on the ceiling of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3. The rat video, reportedly taken early yesterday, worsened the eww factor of other video footages showing close-ups of bed bugs moving in the holes of metal seats at the NAIA, and of the skin rashes suffered by passengers who were bitten this week by the creepy-crawlies.

The bed bugs looked unusually large and might have been brought into the country, according to the pest control provider, which spritzed NAIA seats with stronger insecticide. Some officials recalled a serious infestation of bed bugs that hit Paris beginning in October last year. The French capital is still grappling with the problem, with the infestation reported even in private homes and public accommodations. Paris, one of the world’s most visited cities, is preparing to host the Summer Olympics from late July to August this year.

Bed bugs, however, are also common in the Philippines, and typically infest rattan, the material used in several pieces of furniture used at the NAIA to give the airport a tropical look. All rattan seats have been pulled out of the NAIA-2. As video footage showed, however, even the metal seats that are fastened to the floor have bed bugs.

The scurrying rat also could not have stowed away on an international flight; surely it must have been born and bred in the Philippines. The existence of vermin all over the country is the reason why there are pest control services. And pest control is of paramount importance particularly in an international airport. That rat caught on video looked like it was enjoying the attention and preening for the cameras, like the star of movie animation hit “Ratatouille.”

Unfortunately for travelers and Filipinos’ national pride, it looks like the pest control service at the NAIA, like its electrical system last year, has suffered a breakdown. As the rat video went viral, officials of the Manila International Airport Authority said they were reviewing the contract of the NAIA pest control service providers, which could be canceled if lapses are established. The bed bug infestation is happening as the Holy Week travel rush approaches.

Will the NAIA ever stop being a national embarrassment? NAIA maintenance is being privatized, but this is still six months away. Airport officials must deal decisively with this problem long before that.

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