‘All systems go’ for 2019 hajj covering 7,163 Filipino pilgrims

Published July 9, 2019, 9:47 AM

by Patrick Garcia

By Ali Macabalang

COTABATO CITY – It’s “all systems’ go” for the participation of pilgrims from the Philippines in this year’s regular hajj in Saudi Arabia’s Holy Islamic shrines, the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) announced Tuesday.

National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) Sec. Saidamen Pangarungan and Saudi Hajj Minister Benten exchanging copies of a contract they signed in Makkah last January 3 “better” provisions and services for Filipino pilgrim this year (NCMF FILE PHOTO/ MANILA BULLETIN)
National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) Sec. Saidamen Pangarungan and Saudi Hajj Minister Benten exchanging copies of a contract they signed in Makkah last January 3 “better” provisions and services for Filipino pilgrim this year (NCMF FILE PHOTO/ MANILA BULLETIN)

NCMF spokesman Dimapuno Alonto-Datu Ramos said Saudia Airline and Oman Air have booked 7,163 Filipino delegates, 6,973 of them registered pilgrims bidding to perform hajj as one of the five pillars of Islam, in 34 flights starting July 10 until July 31.

Datu Ramos echoed the assurance of Malacañang and NMCF Secretary Saidamen Pangarungan that this year’s pilgrimage will be “more comfortable and less costly” for Filipino pilgrims due to “diligent preparations and reforms initiated as early as last year’s hajj.”

He said Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., Saudi Ambassador to the Philippines Dr. Abdullah bin Nasser al-Bussairy and Sec. Pangarungan will lead some dignitaries to ceremonially send-off 919 pilgrims in first three flights at the NAIA Terminal I on Wednesday, July 10.
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He said the NCMF’s Bureau of Pilgrimage and Endowment (BPE) distributed on Monday all the passports, plane tickets, printed hajj visas, and other kits to pilgrims through their sheiks (team leaders), and will hold pre-departure orientations the following day.

The pilgrims were also provided “tamper-proof” hajj ID cards meant to make them easily distinguished from among expected three million pilgrims across the globe and prevent infiltration by OFWs posing as pilgrims as reported in last year’s pilgrimage, Datu Ramos said.

He said they also gave the pilgrims international mobile phone SIM cards for their constant links with their sheikhs as well as the NCMF, the supervisory and medical team in the entire duration of almost two-week hajj in the Muslim kingdom.

Constant contact will do away with past incidents of pilgrims’ getting lost or astray among thick crowds in the yearly Islamic pilgrimage, Datu Ramos said.

He said the 90-member NCMF supervisory team with medical practitioners flew ahead to Saudi Arabia on July 7, and was received by Philippine Embassy and Consular officials led by Ambassador Adnan Alonto.

The team also held follow-up meetings with Saudi government authorities and private hajj setvice-providers to ensure that all previously agreed accommodation of Filipino pilgrims in four to five star hotels, and use of custom-built transport buses will be “followed in letter and spirit,” Datu Ramos said.

Sec. Pangarungan and his entourage will fly to Saudi Arabia on July 26 to supervise the pilgrims as NCMF official and amirul hajj (head of pilgrimage delegation) this year, Datu Ramos said.

 
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