MANILA, Philippines – At Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia), forgetfulness seems to be endemic among travelers, who misplace some 500 assorted items each month in X-ray scanners, counters, carriages and toilets.
Fortunately, Naia has a “keeper of the finds,” an office at the Intelligence and Investigation Division (IID) in charge with locating the owners of belongings inadvertently left behind and keeping these safe for retrieval.
Last week, an overseas worker heaved a huge sigh of relief after his wayward backpack, containing over US$10,000 (nearly300), P1,600 cash and a laptop computer, was returned to him by the IID.
Property custodian Reynon Flores says the IID is the designated area for the turnover of lost items recovered in the four Naia terminals, usually by maintenance workers, shuttle service drivers and security guards.
“Whenever an item is turned over to us, we issue a receipt to the finder indicating where the item was recovered, when and what time it was recovered,” he said. A logbook is kept of the finders’ names and details of the items found.
These finders, he said, are recommended to the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) for its regular commendation of honest airport workers.
Items often misplaced are mobile phones and other electronic gadgets.
“Passengers usually forget to retrieve them after they go through the X-ray scanners or when they use the rest rooms,” he explained.
Travel documents are easiest to return.
As for bags, Flores said, these are usually left behind on carriages. “During all the excitement of an arrival or departure for a flight, there are passengers who overlook a piece of luggage or a bag thinking that member of his sendoff or welcoming entourage already has it,” he explained.
Flores told the Inquirer that a daily average of 10 to 15 lost items are turned over to the IID. “That is 500 to 600 items every month,” he said.
“We store the recovered items for six months. If the item, including money, is not retrieved by the owner after then, it will be forfeited in favour of the government,” he said.
All efforts are exerted to locate the owner of the lost item. “We send letters and call them if the items have identification but if not, we investigate to find out who the owner is,” Flores said.
Recovered baggage that remain unclaimed after six months are opened and the contents sorted out.
“All valuable items are turned over to the asset and disposal committee for bidding,” he said, referring to jewelry and electronic gadgets.
All other contents of the baggage, such as clothes, toiletries, towels, and bed covers are distributed to communities needing assistance.
Asked what was the strangest thing they had found in an unclaimed baggage, Flores smiled and said, “Sex toys.”
The IID maintains a storage facility which is undergoing renovation. “We need more space for the found items,” he said, adding that he expects the expansion to be completed in a few months.