Global awareness on sight restoration and preservation took center stage during the observance of World Sight Day last week (October 14) with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private firms among the active partners of the World Health Organization (WHO) program. Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL), in coordination with the Eye Bank Foundation of the Philippines, is a major partner of this initiative through the transport—free of charge—of human eye corneal tissue to its domestic destinations. Eye Bank representatives are required to coordinate with PAL’s cargo reservation at least a day before the intended date of transport. Under its handling procedure, the airline allows the shipment of one human corneal tissue per flight. “Thousands of Filipinos are visually impaired,” said PAL president and CEO Jaime Bautista in a news release. “With very limited number of eye donors, it will take a concerted effort by both government and the private sector to bring to manageable levels the incidence of blindness and visual impairment. We are more than glad that, in small way, to be of help to those needing corneal transplants in the Philippines,” he said. Bautista said the airline does not limit itself with ferrying corneal tissue. PAL also accepts human organs, in specially designed containers, as hand-carry baggage on all domestic flights and provides members of government’s retrieval team with special boarding and deplaning privileges (“last-in-first-out”), he said. Bautista explained that PAL’s detailed packaging, handling, and transport procedures for human organs have been in place for many years. However, the policy was updated in October 2009 in response to the request of the Department of Health (DoH) for local airlines to extend full support and accommodate the HOPE (Human Organ Preservation Effort) Retrieval Team of the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI) through booking prioritization. The team, composed of retrieving surgeons, nephrologists, and transplant coordinators, use domestic flights to transport organs retrieved from deceased donors for transplantation. “Even before the updated policy, PAL has always accommodated members of the kidney retrieval team to carry human organs on their laps while in flight, subject, of course, to strict packaging requirements and without sacrificing the health, safety and comfort of our passengers,” said Bautista. NKTI says the transport of human organs, such as kidneys and liver, require delicate handling as these organs are fragile and cannot withstand heat in the airplane’s cargo hold. Kidneys also have to be transplanted on patients with end-stage renal failure within 20 hours, thus necessitating speedy transport.