Chinese embassy downplays incident, says it’s a ‘misunderstanding’
There were no criminal complaints filed, yet two Chinese online travel writers were ordered to leave the country following their airline altercation with President Benigno Aquino III’s brother-in-law last Saturday.
According to an Agence France Press report, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) blacklisted 33-year-old Han Yang and 31-year-old “XXX” Mailiyasi as a result of the incident. The two were given until last night to leave the country.
This occurred even as aviation security said the on-flight confrontation between Eldon Cruz, husband of Maria Elena “Ballsy” Aquino-Cruz and the two Chinese writers may have resulted from “a communication gap.”
A flight attendant gave her account of the incident, but no copies were distributed to the local media.
Immigration spokesperson Maria Antonette Mangrobang said the two Chinese were turned over to the Chinese embassy’s consul.
Chinese embassy spokesman Sun Yi said the incident was a small “misunderstanding.” “The issue was addressed appropriately,” he said without elaborating.
Mailiyasi and Han denied the charges, claiming that Cruz pointed a finger at them.
Cebu Pacific flight attendant Lorean Francisco Catimbang didn’t name the Chinese involved in the incident.
Her account was narrated to local media last Saturday by Senior Supt. Arturo Evangelista, deputy director for administration of the 7th Police Center for Aviation Security (PCAS).
Catimbang said an altercation erupted after Cruz got hit by one of the Chinese nationals taking photos inside Cebu Pacific flight 5J563 bound from Manila to Cebu.
Catimbang said Yang and Mailiyasi’s group of Chinese online travel writers were rowdy.
She said Eldon was calm when he told the group to “please be careful” while taking photos of the flight attendants conducting in-flight games for passengers along the aisle.
But Evangelista said one of the Chinese pressed down on Eldon’s shoulder while another grabbed his collar.
Eldon supposedly elbowed one of the Chinese by instinct and the near-brawl was broken up by airline personnel.
Mailiyasi went to the restroom and then intentionally stepped on Eldon’s foot.
Catimbang reported the incident to the pilot who then reported it to Mactan-Cebu airport authorities. The two Chinese were held for questioning minutes after their arrival.
Evangelista said the group of 12 Chinese online travel writers were invited by the Department of Tourism (DOT).
The two Chinese said they simply tapped Eldon’s shoulder. The Chinese indicated that they didn’t know and understand English.
An interpreter had to narrate their accounts and that of local officials.
“Akala siguro nila minumura sila. (The Chinese may have thought they were being cussed by Eldon),” Evangelista said.
Nigel Paul Villarete, general manager of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA), said the incident had nothing to do with airport operations.
“There might be some effects but this should not interfere in the determination of justice,” Villarete said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said the incident needed to be resolved decisively in order to deter trouble-making visitors.
The country is trying to mend ties with China in the wake of last year’s bus hijacking tragedy in Manila in August that left eight Hong Kong tourists dead.
Rowena Montecillo, regional director of the Department of Tourism in Central Visayas (DOT-7), said the controversy wouldn’t affect the country’s tourism program in China because the incident was resolved fast.
She said he 10 companions of Yang and Mailiyasi proceeded with their tour in Cebu and were scheduled to leave for Manila tonight. They would return to Beijing on Tuesday.
The 12 were online travel writers who were in the country on the invitation of the DOT to promote Manila and Cebu in China.
The 10 writers stayed with Yang and Mailiyasi while waiting for the outcome of the investigation, said Montecillo.
She said lunch was served to the 10 who stayed with their detained colleagues until 5 p.m. when Yang and Mailiyasi were escorted by an immigration intelligence officer to a Cebu Pacific flight to Manila.
“They didn’t know what was happening. They didn’t want to leave their colleagues,” she said. She added that they had to assure that Yang and Mailiyasi were okay.
The 12 Chinese online writers arrived in Manila last Thursday and stayed at the country’s capital for two days before proceeding to Cebu on Saturday where they would stay for another two days.
“The DOT through our team China continues to look for opportunities to promote the country by inviting groups, which can help promote the country,” Montecillo said.
For his part, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama denied that the 12 Chinese online writers who allegedly attacked Eldon Cruz were part of the Chinese delegation that visited his office last week.
“I don’t think so, they were dignitaries. In fact one of them was an executive deputy mayor,” Rama said.
Last July 19, Cebu City hosted a dinner for the seven delegates from Quanzhou City of Fujian province, People’s Republic of China.
The dinner was attended by the Consul General of the of the People’s Republic of China, He Shijing, and Ambassador to China Francisco Benedicto. Reporter Ador Vincent Mayol and Correspondent Edison delos Angeles with an Inquirer report
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