Philippine authorities on Monday tried to identify the mother of a baby born on a commercial flight from the Middle East and found abandoned in the airplane’s trash, evoking pity and outrage among Filipinos.
The six pound, nine ounce (three—kilo) baby boy was found alive, covered in blood and wrapped in tissue paper, among refuse unloaded by cleaners of a Gulf Air plane after its arrival at Manila’s airport on Sunday from Bahrain, airport officials said.
The baby, still attached to the placenta, could have died had a security officer on the tarmac not noticed the movement in one of the trash bags unloaded from the aircraft.
When he opened the bag and dug through the rubbish, the officer was stunned to find the baby, which was brought to an airport clinic, airport press officer Connie Bungag said.
“The baby was left for dead. It was already bluish in colour,” Mr. Bungag said. “He could have died in a matter of minutes if he was not found.”
Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman said blood stains most likely from the mother were found on the plane.
After collecting money to buy the baby clothes and milk, airport officials gave him another basic need, a name. They called him George Francis after Gulf Air’s code name GF.
Doctors and nurses cleaned the baby after a checkup, wrapped him in cloth and mittens, gave him a bottle of milk and warmed him under a light bulb, airport doctor Maria Teresa Agores said.
After being cleaned, the mystery baby cried softly, nurse Kate Calvo said.
“He was healthy, his vital signs were OK,” she said, adding the baby was later turned over to social welfare officers assigned at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
In Dubai, Gulf Air said on Monday it has launched an internal inquiry into the incident.
“Our main priority is the welfare of the mother and baby,” the airline said in an e—mailed response to questions. “We are currently working with the local authorities in the Philippines to help them locate his mother as soon as possible.”
Besides flights originating in Bahrain, Gulf Air is used by transit passengers travelling from other parts of the Gulf and the wider Middle East.
Ms. Soliman said she was outraged by what happened, adding that police had been ordered to search for the infant’s mother, who could be criminally charged. She said the baby most likely was abandoned in an airplane trash bin.
“If she’s a migrant worker, this speaks of the ordeal our overseas workers go through,” Ms. Soliman said.
About one in 10 Filipino works abroad, many as maids and labourers in the Middle East, to escape crushing poverty and unemployment at home.
Doctors who attended to the baby said he looked Filipino, fuelling speculation in local media that the boy’s mother could be a domestic worker in the Middle East.
But Manila Airport Manager Jose Angel Honrado said it was too early to make that conclusion since a joint investigation had not yet identified or traced the mother.
Ms. Soliman said the baby will be turned over to the mother’s relatives, if they can be identified and located, or put up for adoption.
The government will make sure the baby will get “the very best care” wherever he ends up, Ms. Soliman said.