Filipina World Youth Day pilgrim barred on KLM flight arrives in Rio

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The 18-year-old Filipina who reportedly suffered discrimination from the crew of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines in Malaysia has arrived in Rio de Janeiro to attend the World Youth Day 2013 celebrations.

The Philippine Embassy in Brazil reported on Thursday that Arjean Marie Belco, a member of Bukidnon’s Talaandig tribe, arrived at the Galeao International Airport in Rio de Janeiro on July 23, a day later than scheduled.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement Belco’s sponsor requested assistance from the embassy in Brazil.

Belco was not allowed to board the KLM flight to Amsterdam enroute to Rio de Janeiro on her connecting flight in Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur airport. Netizens have criticized KLM’s decision not to allow the Filipina to board the flight as “discrimination and racism.”

It was Belco’s first time to fly outside the country. She was a scholar of the Cartwheel Foundation, and her expenses to the World Youth Day was shouldered by another organization, the Goodx.org.

The Philippine embassy in Kuala Lumpur contacted Belco upon learning the incident, the department said, but the Filipino youth delegate informed the embassy that Goodx.org is taking care of the arrangements.

“She was finally allowed to board her flight bound for Amsterdam en route to Rio on the late evening of July 22 after her sponsor managed to rebook her connecting flight to Brazil,” the department said.

She was met in Rio de Janeiro by Philippine Ambassador to Brazil Eva Betita and her spouse, Mauricio Betita, Third Secretary and Vice Consul Carlyn Monastrial and Consular Assistant Joey Espolong along with Belco’s host family, Dr. Mário Fernando Petzhold and Maria de Lourdes Magalhães Petzhold.

Dr. Petzhold is a professor at the University of Rio de Janeiro.  His son, Luis Petzhold, co-founder of GoodX.org, tied up with Cartwheel Foundation in support of Belco’s travel scholarship to Brazil.

The World Youth Day activities began on July 22, when Pope Francis arrived in Rio, and will end on July 28.

As many as 2.5 million people from all over the world are expected to participate.

Around 350 Filipino delegates are joining the event, some coming from other places outside the Philippines, such as New York, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

The embassy, in cooperation with the local organizers, has arranged a secretariat in Rio de Janeiro to provide assistance to Filipino pilgrims attending World Youth Day.

The embassy also prepared to provide consular assistance for Filipinos in Rio, São Paulo and nearby cities for the duration of the event.

BERNICE CAMILLE V. BAUZON

 

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