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MANILA, Philippines – The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee will soon investigate an alleged human trafficking scheme at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) after a chartered flight with airport police escorts took off with several “unauthorized individuals” onboard.
Senator Grace Poe revealed that airport authorities were unable to stop undeclared passengers from boarding a Dubai-bound private jet on Monday, February 13.
“Around 10:20 pm, two vans arrived carrying not one, but eight Asian looking nationals. Mr. President, these individuals were not included in the general declaration but they attempted to board the aircraft – attempted because they were stunned when they saw one of the aircraft inspectors taking a video. However, at around the same time, the inspectors noticed three unauthorized individuals entering the aircraft followed by the aircraft door closing,” Poe said in a privilege speech on Wednesday, February 15.
The individuals’ names were not on the flight manifest, according to the senator.
Prior to this, the Philippine National Police Aviation Security Group (PNP-ASG) had already received an anonymous tip about a Dubai-bound aircraft involved in human trafficking that was set to take off on the same evening. Accordingly, the PNP-ASG and aircraft inspectors had already made preparations for a possible interdiction.
The aircraft inspectors ordered the ground handling company to immediately stop the aircraft, and the PNP-ASG also ordered the control tower to halt its departure. However, the control tower was unable to do so as the aircraft’s flight navigation clearance was already approved. Immigration officers on the ground also claimed that the passengers were cleared for travel.
“More than just a protocol glitch, the issue digs deeper as it involves national security and human trafficking. We call on the Bureau of Immigration to explain how individuals were able to fly out of the country with just a whim of uttered clearance from an immigration officer, without an amendment of the general declaration based on proper procedures,” Poe said.
Poe also highlighted that a similar incident happened in December 2022, when Chinese nationals boarded a private plan and departed without pre-flight inspection clearance.
According to the senator, the plane is owned and operated by Cloud Nine No. 1 Leasing Company Ltd., a Hong Kong-registered leasing company. The aircraft ground handler is Globan Aviation Service Corporation, a Philippine company – possibly the same company that handled the flight of Pharmally executives Mohit and Twinkle Dargani when they were arrested at the Davao International Airport.
“I want to put it on record that it is Globan, with an N. Unless there are two Globans, then we assume it’s the same company and maybe we should check if that Globan is really in the business of smuggling people out of the country,” Poe said.
The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) is also looking into the incident following a request from PNP-ASG National Capital Region Chief Police Colonel Rhoderick Campo, who flagged violations in the handling of the flight.
It confirmed that airport police were authorized to provide assistance to “a number of vehicles going to the Balagbag ramp last February 13, 2023, [following] an official written request from Globan Aviation Corporation in relation to a chartered flight that they handled on the night of the same day.”
The MIAA clarified that the escort was done in accordance with standard operating procedures. Patrol cars are required to escort vehicles without blinkers and those without any MIAA-issued Aircraft Movement Area permits.
“Initial information gathered revealed that Globan Aviation Corporation, the ground handling company, obtained the necessary approvals from the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines for entry-exit clearance; the PNP Avseu (Aviation Security Group) for the Aircraft Exit Clearance, the MIAA for ramp entry of vehicles that transported the passengers to the Balagbag ramp, all of whom were processed and cleared by the Bureau of Immigration on site,” the MIAA said in a statement on Thursday, February 16.
MIAA has not made any reference to the allegations of human trafficking in its statement. – Rappler.com