U.S. airlines ordered to alert passengers of inadequate security at NAIA

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has directed all airlines issuing tickets for travel between the US and Manila to alert passengers "in writing" that security measures at the Philippines' Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) are inadequate.

In a statement Wednesday, December 26, the DHS said assessments done by security experts from the Transport Security Administration (TSA) determined that the NAIA "does not maintain and carry out effective security consistent with the security standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)." 

The DHS’ statement comes after Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel "Babe" Romualdez wrote in a Philippine Star column on Sunday, December 23, that the DHS will send a notice about "security issues" at NAIA after a 90-day assessment done by the TSA. (READ: U.S. says NAIA security measures inadequate – envoy)

Aside from ordering all airlines to issue written alerts to passengers, the DHS also said the security advisory on NAIA should be “displayed prominently” in all US airports that provide regular flight service to Manila. The security warning should also be published in the US Federal Register, which documents all government agency’s rules, among others.

The DHS said the US Department of State, Department of Transportation, and TSA officials have been working with counterparts in the Philippine government to improve security measures at NAIA.

“TSA will continue to work with the Philippines and assist its aviation authorities with correcting the security deficiencies at the airport. In addition, TSA will continue to assess security measures at the airport and take appropriate actions as warranted,” they said.

In a statement on Thursday, December 27, the US Embassy said US government agencies have taken other measures to help improve NAIA security:

An analysis by the TSA also provided security recommendations on technology use and maintenance, streamlining screening operations, and modernization of security infrastructure at NAIA.

US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim said they are confident that the Philippines' Department of Transportation (DOTr) and other related agencies are fully committed to improving aviation security.

“Philippine authorities have worked diligently to improve security measures and we fully expect that they will soon meet ICAO security standards,” Kim said.

Philippine response: Responding to this, the DOTr earlier said it was already in the process of purchasing X-ray machines, walk-through metal detectors, and alarm systems.

The equipment is expected to be installed by the 2nd quarter of 2019, as “the items are not off-the-shelf and will require lead time for manufacturing and delivery,” the DOTr said.

The DOTr gave assurances that authorities are "giving utmost priority and attention to the implementation of strict security measures" at NAIA.

In a statement Thursday, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said it is confident the DOTr will resolve the issue. It added that DOT is ready to help “in any way” to expedite a resolution.

The agency also said it is closely coordinating with the Philippine National Police and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, both of which are responsible for overseeing the country’s aviation security.

"We assure the international community that the Philippines remains a safe haven for our visitors and residents alike," the DOT said. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.