#SurotSerye: NAIA asked to disinfect amid bed bug bites complaints

February 29, 2024 - 1:50 PM
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NAIA Terminal 2
Entrance at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport 2 (The STAR/Rudy Santos)

Calls to regularly sanitize the Ninoy Aquino International Airport were raised following complaints of travelers being bitten by bed bugs or “surot” in the chairs of NAIA Terminals 2 and 3.

Reports of Filipinos experiencing skin problems due to supposed bed bug bites were posted on Facebook, with some tagging their posts as “#surotserye” or “#Surotserye.”

A traveler in the Facebook group “DIY Travel Philippines” claimed to have been infected by the bed bugs when she sat on a steel chair in the departure area of NAIA Terminal 3 on February 23.

She said she went to a clinic and filed a complaint. The chairs were also removed.

The traveler included pictures of her legs with red and white marks in the post.

Another Filipino in the same group complained of being bitten by bed bugs when she sat in a rattan chair in the NAIA Terminal 2. She also shared pictures of her legs which had red marks.

The posts, which were shared in a private group, were screengrabbed and shared by a Facebook user who similarly warned travelers about the “surot infestation.”

“And this is alarming because we travel once in a while and we most likely sat on these infested chairs! And most likely, we bring these surots with us home!” the sharer said.

The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), the operator of NAIA, on Wednesday acknowledged the posts and said that MIAA General Manager Eric Ines has “immediately ordered the Terminal Managers to look into the matter.”

MIAA added that he also told them to provide him with a report within 24 hours, stating the circumstances surrounding the incidents and their recommended corrective actions to put an end to the issue.

“Directive was also given for the conduct of comprehensive facility inspections and enhanced sanitation measures,” the airport operator said on February 28.

“The MIAA apologizes to the victims and assures them that a speedy resolution to this can be expected,” it added.

The airport operator said that the two complainants were given medical assistance following the incidents.

“The seats identified in the reports have been pulled out permanently while disinfection schedules shall continue to be undertaken,” MIAA concluded.

The incidents expectedly earned mixed reactions from Filipinos, with some complaining about the airport’s supposed lack of sanitation measures given the fees it requires for travelers including the travel tax.

The travel tax is a fee outbound Filipinos or those going abroad must pay, irrespective of the place where the air ticket is issued.

Its full cost is P1,620 for economy or business class passage, and P2,700 for first-class passage.

Its standard reduced rate is P818 for economy passage and P1,350 for first-class passage.

Fifty percent of the proceeds accrue to the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, 40% to the Commission on Higher Education for tourism-related educational programs and courses, and 10% to the National Commission for Culture and Arts.

“Mahal mahal ng Travel Tax, ‘di makapag-pest management [or] disinfect? Kasi ‘yung pests nasa higher ups, charot! (Not charot),” a Facebook user wrote.

“Mahal mahal ng travel tax niyo tapos upuan ng airport, ‘di sanitary,” another Pinoy commented.

“P1,620 pa travel tax [niyan], hahahahaa,” wrote a different user.

“So asan ang tax na binabayaran ko? Simpleng kalinisan at pesticide [diyan], walang budget? #jinurakot? Nuh?!?!?! Hahahaha,” another Pinoy commented.

The Tourism Congress of the Philippines, the private sector consultative body assisting the government in the development of tourism policy, also urged authorities to immediately fumigate NAIA following the incidents.

“I saw they removed the chair already. I hope they fumigate the airport so that they can stop the spread of these bed bugs. This is an isolated incident; it shouldn’t have a major impact on our industry. It’s not the first time that an establishment [had] bed bugs in our country,” TCP President James Montenegro said in an interview.

Bed bug problem 

Late last year, France struggled with bed bug infestation in public places like its airport, trains and cinemas, among others.

TIME also reported that South Korea “has embarked on a fierce campaign against the bloodsucking critter” since November 2023.

It added that “increasing sightings of and growing concerns about bedbugs have also made recent headlines in Singapore and Japan,” based on its Nov. 15, 2023 report.

“The rise in bedbug infestations is commonly correlated with human travel—the parasitic insects can hide in crevices like clothing and suitcases, and they can be carried across borders by travelers,” the report said.

“Experts have warned of a global resurgence of bedbugs over the last two decades, as the microscopic menaces have developed resistance to common insecticides and become remarkably efficient at multiplying their numbers through inbreeding,” it continued.

The United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines bed bugs as “small, parasitic insects that feed solely on the blood of people and animals while they sleep.”

It added that infestations usually occur around or near areas where people sleep like apartments, shelters, rooming houses, hotels, cruise ships, buses, trains and dorm rooms.

Bed bug infestations are treated by insecticide spraying.