CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Two Lanao del Sur lawmakers are pushing for a review of the existing policies of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), following the delayed flight of Hajj pilgrims last week.

In a joint statement released Tuesday night, incoming 1st District Representative Ziaur-Rahman Alonto-Adiong and 2nd District Representative Yasser Alonto-Balindong said they plan to initiate a congressional investigation on the problems raised about the NCMF and the pilgrimage process.

“Looking into the root causes of the problems our pilgrims encountered, as we closely coordinate with them regarding their most urgent needs and demands,” the statement said.

Last week, some 437 Hajj pilgrims bound to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, had their flights canceled allegedly on grounds that their travel visas were not distributed.

This resulted in the rescheduling of flight schedules. As of June 28, the NCMF said 398 pilgrims are scheduled to fly on July 1, while 73 others are still waiting for their rebooking schedules.

Such problems should not have been encountered, the lawmakers said, pointing out that NCMF's Bureau of Pilgrimage and Endowment (BPE) implemented an electronic Hajj (eHajj) registration from January 25 to February 24 to make the process easier.

Also, the Department of Foreign Affairs in May announced that it was working with the NCMF to extend passport assistance by opening walk-in accommodations at the courtesy lane in all consular offices nationwide.

NCMF's BPE is primarily responsible for the administration of the annual Hajj preparations for Muslim Filipinos in the Philippines.

“However, despite the annual nature of the Hajj before the pandemic, and the preparations that were supposed to have made things easier for our pilgrims who have endured enough throughout the pandemic, we have received complaints regarding delays,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, in a separate statement issued earlier in the week, NCMF apologized for the delays in flights and the distress it caused to the pilgrims.

NCMF said it had negotiated with airline companies including ambassadors in the Philippines and Saudi Arabia, as it also met with other religious leaders to address the problems being faced by the pilgrims.

“The Commission has begun its formal fact-finding investigation through an office order issued by the Secretary to determine whether negligence or any other human error among its ranks caused or significantly contributed to what happened,” the NCMF's statement said.

The Hajj is an annual event for all Muslims in the world. One of the five pillars of Islam, pilgrims must visit the Kaaba, the “House of God,” in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

This year, the Hajj pilgrimage is scheduled from July 7 to July 12. (PNA)