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A Malaysian foundation’s offer to sponsor an all-expenses paid haj for poor Filipinos this year has been warmly welcomed here, according to reports. - NSTP file pic
A Malaysian foundation’s offer to sponsor an all-expenses paid haj for poor Filipinos this year has been warmly welcomed here, according to reports. - NSTP file pic

A MALAYSIAN foundation’s offer to sponsor an all-expenses paid haj for poor Filipinos this year has been warmly welcomed here, according to reports.

The offer by the Albukhary Foundation received positive feedback from the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) secretary Saidamen Pangarungan, said The Manila Bulletin.

NCMF spokesman Jun Alonto Datu Ramos told of Pangarungan’s reaction when he received Malaysian ambassador to the Philippines Norman Muhammad and delegation at his office.

Norman discussed with NCMF leaders initial details about the sponsorship, where a ceiling in the number of sponsored haj slots that would be paid for by the foundation was also set, said Datu Ramos in a Facebook post.

The humanitarian foundation required that each applicant to be 60 years old and above, fit, indigent, first-time pilgrim and have the basic requirements, including a valid passport.

“Pangarungan assured that haj slots will be evenly distributed to all regions with Muslim communities,” said the Bulletin.

Pengarungan was appointed head of Philippines haj delegation last year.

This year’s haj season would begin in late July. According to the presidential haj quota, the authorities normally sponsor 200 poor Muslims for the pilgrimage.

Online portal The Rappler reported in December that those who wanted to apply should secure a certification from the Social Welfare and Development Department to validate that they were financially incapable of going for haj on their own.

Quoting Datu Ramos, the portal said other criteria for those interested included mental fitness as certified by a licensed doctor or a NCMF medical officer; and a devoted Muslim as certified by the local mufti or recognised imam or sheik.

Muslims are required to perform haj at least once in their lifetime if they're physically and financially capable, as it is one of five pillars of Islam.

NCMF estimates that one pilgrim needs about 200,000 pesos for haj, which include round-trip plane fares, meals, accommodation and transportation.

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