Security measures at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport are deficient, according to the US Department of Homeland Security. Airlines issuing tickets for travel between Manila and the US should tell their passengers this immediately.
The advisory, issued Wednesday, was based on assessments by the US Transportation Security Administration which concluded that Manila “does not maintain and carry out effective security consistent with the security standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).”
The advisory, according to the DHS, should also be prominently displayed at all US airports providing regular flights to and from Manila.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin said in his Twitter account that the advisory should not be questioned. Meanwhile, the Transportation Department assured the public that it was taking the recommendations of the TSA seriously and working to enhance security.
The recommendations include installation of new equipment such as X-ray machines, walk-through metal detectors and alarm systems.
The NAIA should also improve its background check procedures for personnel and other pass holders.
Those who have been working at the airport for a long time must also change their security culture in terms of strict and consistent implementation, said the TSA.
“There is no cause for alarm,” said the Manila International Airport Authority. All recommendations of the TSA can be addressed, it said.
While there is no reason to doubt that air transport officials are doing everything they can to improve security at the premier airport, we can only wonder how safe everyone truly is now that we are just moving toward attaining the level of security the TSA says we should have.
No less than the presidential spokesman has said that such improvements take time, with the new equipment set to be delivered in the second quarter of 2019.
Thus, despite the objection of a senator who said the long lines passengers have to endure at NAIA was proof of adequate security—forgetting it could be chalked up to inefficiency—it is always best for travellers to be extra vigilant when passing through the airport.
NAIA used to be notorious for its poor facilities and congested single runway. From the point of view of tourism, that was reason enough for concern; airports are, after all, a visitor’s first and last impression of a country.
Deficient security, however, poses far greater risks. While the warning should not occasion debilitating fear among the riding population and their families, it should prod officials into quicker, more decisive action. Even the airports of more advanced economies have allowed shady characters through.
If the Philippines wants to be taken seriously as a tourism and investment destination, and if it wants visitors and residents alike to feel safe, not only comfortable, then our transport officials should constantly try to meet global standards—and never rest a minute.