The Manila international airport’s cargo assessment division wrote to the Japanese embassy to officially apologize for its personnel’s breach of protocol when he reportedly opened a diplomatic shipment earlier in January. The diplomatic pouch opened by Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) customs examiner Pompeo Manalo was said to contain wine and other items for the 5-day state visit of Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko starting Tuesday, January 26. Emilen Balatbat, officer-in-charge of the airport’s Paircargo Assessment Composite Division, said in her letter to the embassy: “It was an unfitting action on his part. I myself, when I learned about it, felt we owe you our sincerest apology.” “Please be assured that this be the first and the last,” Balatbat said in her letter. Under Article 27.3 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (VCDR), diplomatic shipments “shall not be opened or detained.” The customs examiner reportedly opened and examined the diplomatic package without permission from Balatbat and Edna Velasquez, the acting chief of the Informal Entry Unit at NAIA. Manalo apologized in his response to the memo, but said it was an “honest mistake” that he checked the shipment.
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