U.S. lifts advisory on NAIA security concerns

MANILA, Philippines – The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has lifted its advisory on security concerns at the Philippines' Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), citing "significant improvements" at the terminal.

The DHS made the announcement on Friday, August 9 (Manila time).

“Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin K. McAleenan ordered today, effective immediately, rescission of the Public Notice regarding security conditions at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, Philippines (MNL) issued in December," it said.

"After months of direct engagement with the United States, the Government of the Philippines has made significant improvements to the security operations" of NAIA, it added.

DHS noted that both the Manila International Airport Authority and Philippine civil aviation security authorities "have demonstrated they are willing to work toward sustaining those improvements."

The DHS earlier issued the public notice on NAIA's poor security conditions in December 2018, after a 90-day assessment found the airport failed to implement and carry out effective security consistent with the security standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

All for public safety: The needed improvements to NAIA's security, the DHS said, was part of authorities' response to past attacks that have targeted civil aviation. It's also part of the response to ensure public safety in light of terrorist groups such as the Islamic State (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda's "repeated intentions and demonstrated capability" to target civil aviation operations.

Other measures taken by the US government to help improve NAIA security included providing $5 million to improve airport security, training, and technology. The US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) also provided Aviation Security Advisors to the Philippines to assist improvement and implementation of “corrective measures" needed.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr cited the efforts of Philippine officials as well as the help extended by US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim in relation to the DHS decision.

"US Homeland Security lifted security concerns about NAIA. Congratulations US [Ambassador] Kim Sung for all the help; PH [Ambassador] Babe Romualdez in Washington for the unrelenting pressure; and DOTr [Secretary] Tugade for doing in 6 months what US Homeland expected would take years. What a winning team," Locsin tweeted.

Kim, for his part, said, "I want to congratulate our colleagues at MIAA [Manila International Airport Authority] and TSA for working together so effectively to improve security conditions at NAIA to achieve standards and practices established by the International Civil Aviation Organization."

Philippine and US authorities said they remained committed to ensuring that NAIA maintained strong security conditions. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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