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PEYA’s claimants now nearly 900

14 January 2018

Consulate and POLO officials see off some of the passengers they helped. (Photo From POLO)

By Daisy CL Mandap

The number of complainants against PEYA Travel Agency has risen by the day, and as of Jan. 10, was already at 869. At an average price of $2,500 per ticket, the total claim against PEYA now stands at well over $2 million.

This was revealed by Danny Baldon of the assistance to nationals section of the Consulate, which continues to receive complaints from overseas Filipino workers who were not issued tickets for flights they booked through PEYA.

The affected travelers include those who booked for flights over the upcoming Chinese New Year, when prices for air tickets are at a premium.

However, the “mercy flights” arranged over the Christmas season for the stranded passengers by the three airlines that fly to the Philippines, which were partly paid for by the Philippine government, have all terminated.

According to Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre, a total of 124 air tickets on Philippine Airlines flights costing more than Php600,000 were paid for by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration. Fifty other passengers were assisted by his staff in securing the free seats offered by Cebu Pacific for three flights on Dec. 25, 28 and Jan. 4.

In addition, about 200 other stranded passengers availed of discounted seats that became available when PAL and Cathay Pacific Airways sent bigger aircraft for selected Hong Kong to Manila flights just before Christmas.

 The passengers whose flights were paid for by the government were, however, asked to sign a form assigning their claim against PEYA for their unclaimed tickets to OWWA.

As to whether the Philippine government could recover the money is, however, uncertain as PEYA was forced to shut down on Dec. 20, two days after it was besieged by irate customers who failed to board their flights to the Philippines.

On Dec. 25, police raided the office for documents after arresting PEYA’s Filipina co-owner and managing director, Rhea Donna Bayona – Boyce, 38. She was held by police for two days and upon her release, her Australian husband and PEYA co-owner Peter Brian Boyce, 58, was also picked up by police.

Both were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud, but were released on police bail pending further investigation. No charges have been filed in court as of this writing.

Meanwhile, police are reportedly also looking for PEYA’s sales director and longtime Hong Kong resident Arnold Grospe, who appears to have left Hong Kong.

Sources say police tried to arrest Grospe in his house in Wanchai early this month, but found it locked. His wife and two grown-up children have reportedly moved out of the flat, and Grospe’s whereabouts are unknown.

There are reports he has fled to Macau where Hong Kong residents are reportedly allowed to stay for up to a year without a visa, but this has not been confirmed.

Grospe was detained by police earlier, on Dec. 19, after he singlehandedly faced PEYA’s angry customers at the agency’s shop for two days. But he was released that time with no charges being laid.

The next day, the Consulate started receiving complaints from Filipinos affected by PEYA’s booking mess. The complainants’ records and contact details are continually being turned over the police to help them in their investigation.

Baldon told The SUN complainants have been coming to ATN daily, with the number going up to more than 100 on Sundays since Christmas.

He said the unpaid bookings were from the days just before Christmas, and up until May this year. Several were for bookings to the Philippines over the busy Chinese New Year season, when prices are at their peak.

The costliest booking reportedly totaled more than $8,000 because the package included not just a flight to the Philippines, but also an onward journey to Canada.

Baldon said they expect more PEYA customers to come forward to complain over the next few days.

“Marami pang hindi nakakabalik mula sa kanilang bakasyon sa Pilipinas,” Baldon said.
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