Aquino: Tighten airport security after Brussels explosions

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Philippine President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday, March 22, ordered tighter security in the country's airports after "enormous" explosions hit the Brussels airport and a metro station also in Belgium.

In a statement, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said Aquino has directed Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya "to further strengthen security measures to ensure public safety in all airports, seaports, and bus and mass transport terminals and stations."

Coloma said security measures include vehicle checkpoints, X-ray screening processes, and the inspection of persons and bags in airport terminals.

"These measures have been implemented in the Philippines' international airports that are observing more stringent security measures than those observed in Brussels and other international airports," Coloma said.

He added, "President Aquino has also instructed all concerned agencies to review and further strengthen security measures and exert maximum efforts to ensure the safety and convenience of travellers and the riding public."

This comes as thousands of Filipinos prepare to travel to their provinces for the Holy Week break.

DFA: No Filipinos hurt

Officials said at least 21 died after blasts hit the Brussels airport and the city's metro system. The explosions prompted Belgium to raise its terror threat to the maximum level.

Brussels is considered the de facto capital of the European Union. 

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said no Filipino, so far, has been reported to have been hurt or killed due to the blasts.

The DFA said in a statement Tuesday evening: "The Philippine Embassy in Brussels is closely monitoring the situation and is in touch with relevant Belgian authorities. The Embassy is also verifying if any Filipino nationals were affected by the incidents."

"The Brussels Airport has advised passengers to avoid the airport today as all flights have been cancelled," the DFA said.

It added: "The DFA advises overseas Filipinos to exercise caution at all times and to contact the nearest Philippine Embassy or Consulate for any security concerns. The Philippine Embassy in Brussels may be contacted through the following telephone numbers (+32) 0488 609177, (+32) 02 340 3373, (+32) 02 340 3374." – with reports from Agence France-Presse / Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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