Medical equipment with an estimated value of P1 million which were brought from the US to Manila for a surgical mission in Bohol have gone “missing’” at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
This was confirmed by Boy Pernia, chief of staff of Rep. Aris Aumentado whose office is among coordinators of the surgical mission organized by US-based, non-profit organization Faces of Tomorrow.
The bags were “lost” upon the 30-strong team’s arrival on June 22 via a Philippine Airlines (PAL) flight at NAIA in Pasay City.
“It was a problem with customs. Some of the bags were lost,” said Dr. Brian Rubinstein, founder and director of Faces of Tomorrow which has conducted three surgical missions in Bohol since its inception in 2007.
The four-day surgical mission from June 24 to 28 was slightly delayed but still pushed through with a total of 75 children undergoing surgery at the Medical Mission Group Hospital & Health Services (MMGHHS) Cooperative of Bohol in Tagbilaran City.
The medical team instead used equipment available in Tagbilaran City and medical tools that they were able to take out of customs.
According to Aumentado, his office in Manila has already sent out letters to the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and PAL in a bid to locate and retrieve the equipment.
Reports have surfaced indicating that the equipment were held by the BOC but these were still being verified.
Aumentado also alleged that it could have been a “racket” but did not elaborate as he instead vowed to conduct an “inquiry.”
The Second District congressman admitted that in previous visits by Faces of Tomorrow his office coordinated with the BOC for the medical team’s smooth entry but was unable to do so this time due to his staff’s busy schedule for the 2019 midterm polls.
“Kani man gud mura’g naabtan sa election, wa g’yud na hatagi og pagtagad kaayo tungod sa ka-busy sa among staff. Mura’g nakalimtan g’yud. Kay usually og layo pa na sila, nagpadong pa diri amo na ng gihan-ay ang tanan,” he said.
Meanwhile, Rubinstein downplayed the incident, saying that they intend to forge a stronger partnership with the BOC and PAL instead.
“Going forward, hopefully we can have a better relationship with the customs so they know we’re coming and make it easier for us and maybe with Philippine Air they can give us a little bit of allowance of extra bags because of the anesthesia machines that we bring, the cautery machine, all the supplies we bring,” he said.
Doctor Craig Senders, a surgeon and the director of the University of California’s Davis Cleft and Craniofacial Program who volunteers his time on surgical mission trips, shared the same sentiment.
“We want to focus in going forward in a strong positive way than on the past in a negative way. We do not want to look back with the negative just go forward with the positive things,” Senders said.
Even after the incident, Rubinstein assured that Faces of Tomorrow will be back in Bohol on March 7, 2020 for another surgical mission.
He said Faces of tomorrow intends to establish a long-term partnership with local coordinators, Aumentado’s office and Philippine-based, non-profit organization Abounding in Love.
“We’ve been to Legazpi two times, to Cavite. But now, we’ve really found a home here in Bohol,” Rubenstein said. (A. Doydora)