Protector of airline travelers doing the opposite
THE STATE agency, which is tasked with securing airline travelers and is allotted a hefty share of their travel tax, is on the spot ironically for allegedly extorting from the people it is mandated to protect.
The Office for Transportation Security (OTS) is attached to the Department of Transportation and Communications, which itself is facing accusations of corruption and inefficiency in the operation of the Land Transportation Office and the mass transport systems, among others.
The OTS receives funding from the national budget, and also receives a share from the aviation security fees and passenger terminal fees for domestic and international flights.
This year, the OTS is expected to receive P627 million from the fees, which would bring the total of the amount it has received from passenger fees to over P1 billion.
It is expected to get another P579 million from the collected terminal fees in 2016.
The OTS was created through Executive Order No. 277 and given expanded powers through Executive Order No. 311, both issued by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2004.
EO 311 justifies the OTS’ designation by citing threats to passengers’ well-being.
“Recent international and domestic events are stark reminders that the nation must constantly be vigilant to prevent weapons, explosives, other dangerous elements or devices, hazardous materials and cargoes, which may be used to commit an act of terrorism and the carriage or bearing of which is not authorized, from being introduced into and carried on board a public transport system,” it states.
The duties of the OTS include being responsible for the security screening of passengers, baggage and cargos, and hiring, retention, training and testing of security screening personnel.
The agency is also tasked with formulating and implementing comprehensive security plans, policies, measures, strategies and programs to be able to deal with any security threat to transportation systems, in coordination with other agencies.
The OTS traces its roots from the National Action Committee on Anti-Hijacking (Nacah), created following the 1976 hijacking of a Philippine Airlines plane from Zamboanga province.
The Nacah became the National Action Committee on Anti-Hijacking and Anti-Terrorism in 1995, created to monitor terror suspects and to train security officials to thwart their activities.
But the OTS has drawn flak for allegedly doing the exact opposite of what it is supposed to do. Its personnel have been suspected of being behind the scheme of planting bullets in airport passengers’ luggage to extort money from them.
Sen. Loren Legarda said it was bad enough that Ninoy Aquino International Airport had gained notoriety as one of the worst airports in the world.
“Having inferior infrastructure is bad enough, but having syndicates running it is the worst thing that can be said of us,” she added.
Sen. Francis Escudero warned that the alleged “tanim-bala” (bullet-planting) scheme would mock the country’s tourism slogan: “It’s More Fun in the Philippines.”
“Three of our islands have just been recognized as among the 10 best in the world, but who would want to come here if they can’t even get out of the airports without being victimized by unscrupulous and seemingly unstoppable syndicates?” Escudero said.
“What is this, suddenly a lot of passengers just thought of bringing bullets in their luggage? Now that Christmas is near?” he asked.