COTABATO CITY— Except for the Philippines, all countries in the world participating in the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia will have increased hajj costs this year.
This was announced by National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) Secretary Saidamen Pangarungan in a video massage posted in the social media Facebook over the weekend.
Pangarungan made the video footage to remind prospect Filipino pilgrims that the deadline for payment of hajj fees through the NCMF office and regional outfits is on March 20.
“We ought to thank the administration of President Duterte because it is only the Philippines that that has a lower hajj cost. Other countries have increased the rates this year (due to global inflation),” Pangarungan said in Pilipino.
The annual hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam required of all able Muslims to perform at least once in life, is expected to take place the Holy Lands of Saudi Arabia sometime in August this year.
Comparatively, Pangarungan said, the 2019 hajj cost for Filipinos will even be lower than last year’s P197,000 by as much P11,664 to P30,000.
The P11,664 variance is applicable when Filipino pilgrims opt for the Saudia Airlines, while the P30,000 difference is available in the Oman Airlines, which the Saudi Ministry of Hajj has granted pilgrimage flight landing right, according to NCMF spokesman Jun Alonto-Datu Ramos.
Representing the Duterte government, Sec. Pangarungan had convinced Saudi Minister of Hajj Mohammad Benten to waive the two-airline policy of the Kingdom last Jan. 3, he said.
“Minister Benten had even shed tears while listening to Sec. Pangarungan’s bargaining premised on the difficulty wrought by armed conflicts among Muslim Filipinos,’’ Datu Ramos recalled in a Bulletin on Monday.
The two-airline policy usually allowed only the Saudi Arabia and the Philippine Airlines for Filipino pilgrims. For this year, the Saudi government gave the Philippines 8,000-pilgrims’ visa quota. But Filipino hajj goers usually reached only 5,000 in past pilgrimages, it was learned.
Datu Ramos said the Oman Airlines provided the lowest air fare among five international airlines that participated in a bidding of the NCMF’s Bids and Awards Committee before Pangarungan’s travel to Saudi Arabia.
For this year, a Filipino pilgrim opting for Oman Airlines will have to pay on or before March 30 a total of P166,876 inclusive of airfare (P50,350 air fare), mutawwif fees including foods and accommodations in four to five-star hotels, land transport fares (P103,721), Sheikh fee of P10,000, and meningococcal vaccination and miscellaneous fees (P2,115), an NCMF table of hajj cost showed.
Those travelling via Saudi Airlines will have to pay a total of P185,336 because such airline charges P68,900 air fare including travel tax, the hajj schedule showed.
Datu Ramos said the NCMF has pegged the sheikh’s fee at P10,000, and any excess as experienced in past hajj years will be punishable. (Ali G. Macabalang)