MAKKAH, Saudi Arabia — The Philippines and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) signed on Thursday, January 3, the mother contract for Hajj 2019.
The contract covers, among other important features, a quota of 8,000 hajj visas allocated for Filipino pilgrims.
Saudi Arabia has a yearly quota for every pilgrims-sending country of 1,000 pilgrims for every one million Muslim population. Hajj 2019 is around the month of August.
The Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, Saudi Arabia. It is not part of the hajj rites, but the mosque of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is a must-visit every year. (Image: Pixabay).
With an unofficial figure of 10 million Muslim Filipinos out of 109 million population, the Philippines has a quota of around 10,000 pilgrims. However, the number of Filipino pilgrims every year has never passed 8,000.
National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) Secretary Saidamen B. Pangarungan is presently in Makkah (Mecca), Saudi Arabia, accompanied by some commission officials to prepare and arrange for this year’s pilgrimage to Makkah (Mecca), Islam’s holiest site.
Pangarungan signed the mother contract for the pilgrimage. Ministry of Hajj and Umrah Minister Mohammad Benten signed for the Kingdom.
NCMF Secretary Saidamen B. Pangarungan and Saudi Hajj and Umrah Minister Mohammad Benten in Mecca, Saudi Arabia exchange signed contracts for Hajj 2019. (Image: Director Dimapuno Alonto Datu Ramons, Jr.)
One of the highlights of the new features of the negotiations for the Hajj 2019 is the Saudi government’s allowing a third airline to serve Filipino pilgrims.
Officially, only Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) and Philippine Airlines (PAL), the countries’ national flag carriers, are allowed to ferry pilgrims from the Philippines to either Jeddah or Madinah, where the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) Mosque is located.
Philippine officials from NCMF and Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah meeting on January 3 in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. (Image: Director Dimapuno Alonto Datu Ramos, Jr.)
Director Dr. Dimapuno Alonto Datu Ramos, Jr., head of the Bureau of External Relations (NCMF-BER) announced this today, January 4, on his Facebook page.
He said the arrangement was reached after Pangarungan and Saudi Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Sharief Housnie met in Mecca.
Datu Ramos and other NCMF officials attended the meeting, an annual occasion in preparation for the pilgrimage.
Meanwhile, in the meeting were officials of the Saudi-GACA (General Authority of Civil Aviation), Moassassa, and United Agent Transportation, which are all involved in the hajj operations.
He said at the behest of the NCMF, the government of Saudi Arabia “waive(d) their two-airline policy.”
“Historically, only the airline carrier of KSA, Saudi Arabian Airlines, and the Philippine Airlines were allowed as transportation of the Filipino pilgrims,” he said.
More photos of the Philippines and Saudi Arabia meeting by Director Datu Ramos Jr.
The NCMF-BER director said because of Pangarungan’s plea as he recalled the Marawi siege in May 2017 that still hampers Filipino pilgrims’ financial resources, “it was agreed upon to allow another airline to be used by the Philippine pilgrims for 2019. ”
Following the three-airline policy, Datu Ramos expressed confidence the third airlines’ fare from Manila to Jeddah/Madinah and back would be significantly lower compared to both Saudia and PAL rates.
After his meeting with Benten and the signing of the hajj contract, Pangarungan and his delegation also attended the global Hajj Conference held every year as the Kingdom laid down new rules and guidelines for the annual Islamic event.
“After finalizing the issues and concerns, the mother contract (for the hajj) was signed by both parties,” Datu Ramos said.
“With all the preparations being personally handled by Secretary Saidamen B. Pangarungan, we can look forward to a better hajj experience for this year, in sha Allah (God willing).”
The NCMF delegation included lawyer Roland Abo, director of Legal Services; Zainodeu Usudan, chief, Pilgrimage Operations of the Bureau of Pilgrimage and Endowment (NCMF-BPE); Ustadhz Basher Tomilang, Arabic translator/IT (information technology); and Philippine Hajj Attache Ahmad Balindong.
Hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage, which is mandatory to every adult Muslim (male of female) is the fifth pillar of Islam. The pilgrimage comes around three months after the month of fasting (Ramadan).
In all the five pillars are Shahaddah (profession of faith); Hajj; Salat (the five daily prayers); Sawm (30-day Ramadan fasting); and Zakat (the obligatory charity).
It can be recalled that Republic Act 9997, the NCMF Charter, calls for an “Open-Airlines Policy,” where Filipino pilgrims may choose what airlines they prefer for their hajj transportation. (EKU)