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CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – The last batch of Muslim Filipino pilgrims stranded for days in Metro Manila will fly out on Saturday, July 2, to Riyadh, ending a stressful two-week wait.
The National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) said 60 of the pilgrims will take a flight from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) to Riyadh, a day after 171 other Muslim Filipinos left for Saudi Arabia’s capital on Friday night, July 1.
About 966 pilgrims, mostly from Lanao del Sur (not 3,200 as reported by others), have been stranded since June 19 because of delays in the release of their passports and visas, said Malo Manonggiring, officer-in-charge of the NCMF’s Bureau of Pilgrimage and Empowerment.
Manonggiring said many of the Mecca-bound pilgrims took earlier flights using their own money for their passage.
Some traveled earlier and were welcomed by Philippine embassy officials led by Consul General Rommel Romato upon their arrival in Riyadh on Thursday, June 30, saìd NCMF Commissioner Yusoph Mando.
“Alhamdulillah (Praise be to God)!” he said, made aware that the Muslim Filipinos can now take part in the annual Hajj (pilgrimage).
The delays prompted Representatives Zia Alonto Adiong and Yasser Alonto Balindong of the 1st and 2nd Districts of Lanao del Sur, respectively, to call for a congressional inquiry starting in August.
“There is a glaring lack of concern and empathy toward Muslim Filipinos, and we cannot stand idly as their energy and resources wear thin,” Adiong said.
He said he could not understand why existing policies failed despite the coordination between the NCMF and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
Adiong said the incident could have been prevented because Hajj is a yearly event, and Filipino pilgrims were prevented from going to Mecca only during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. – Rappler.com