MANILA, Philippines – The Manila international airport’s cargo assessment division wrote to the Japanese embassy to officially apologize for its personnel’s breach of protocol when he reportedly opened a diplomatic shipment earlier in January.
The diplomatic pouch opened by Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) customs examiner Pompeo Manalo was said to contain wine and other items for the 5-day state visit of Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko starting Tuesday, January 26.
Emilen Balatbat, officer-in-charge of the airport’s Paircargo Assessment Composite Division, said in her letter to the embassy: “It was an unfitting action on his part. I myself, when I learned about it, felt we owe you our sincerest apology.”
She said her office had “demanded a written explanation from Manalo why he opened the diplomatic shipment.”
“Please be assured that this be the first and the last,” Balatbat said in her letter.
In a memorandum to Manalo, Balatbat said, “You are hereby reprimanded with a stern warning that a repetition of the same shall be dealt with accordingly.”
Under Article 27.3 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (VCDR), diplomatic shipments “shall not be opened or detained.”
The customs examiner reportedly opened and examined the diplomatic package without permission from Balatbat and Edna Velasquez, the acting chief of the Informal Entry Unit at NAIA.
Manalo apologized in his response to the memo, but said it was an “honest mistake” that he checked the shipment.
“Rest assured that incident like this won’t happen again and with utmost care, responsible diligence will be given to exercise my duty as a customs examiner,” he said.
Rappler tried to get a comment from the Japanese embassy on the incident but has yet to receive a reply. – Rappler.com