Visiting Mecca now more affordable: Palace

By Azer Parrocha

February 13, 2019, 6:28 pm

MANILA -- Malacañang on Wednesday urged Muslim Filipinos to avail of the improved services being offered by the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) noting that the agency is providing them with “more affordable” options to visit the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia during the upcoming Hajj pilgrimage.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that the NCMF, which is under the Office of the President, has made possible the addition of a third airline which was recently given rights by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Hajj.

“We encourage Muslim Filipinos to avail of the reformed and improved services of the NCMF and fulfill their spiritual aspiration of making a special pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia,” Panelo said in a statement.

“For 2019, visiting Mecca has become more affordable. Before, only two airlines were given landing rights by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Hajj,” he added.

Panelo said that with the addition of a third airline this year, a pilgrim will enjoy savings of PHP11,664 up to PHP30,214.

“This level of reduction in the cost of performing the Hajj is unprecedented – a result of our successful negotiation with Saudi Arabian authorities which waived their two-airline policy and allowed a third airline to operate with a lower airfare offer,” he added.

Panelo said that the NCMF has also been successful in negotiating with authorities of Saudi Arabia in providing better accommodation to Filipino pilgrims.

“In this year’s Hajj, Filipino pilgrims will be billeted only in 4-star and 5-star hotels in Saudi Arabia, a marked improvement from substandard accommodations in previous years,” Panelo said.

Moreover, he said that the accommodations will be free of unauthorized and corrupt add-on fees.

“Under PRRD’s leadership and with his commitment of promoting the interests of our Muslim brothers and sisters, unauthorized and corrupt add-ons on fees were likewise removed and will never burden the pilgrims from this day forward,” Panelo said.

Panelo, meanwhile, trumpeted the Duterte administration’s achievements in making “significant strides” in advancing the welfare of Muslim Filipinos.

He said the administration gives great importance to the Hajj as one of the five pillars of Islam.

“We understand that the singular wish of any devout Muslim is to make a special pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in his or her lifetime,” Panelo said.

This year, an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 pilgrims are expected to be performing the Hajj, the pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia where every adult Muslim must visit at least once in his or her lifetime.

The Hajj, which is known as the fifth of the Muslim practices known as the Five Pillars of Islam, begins on the last month of the Islamic year and ends on the 12th day. (PNA)