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Big drop in ‘tanim-bala’ incidents at Naia noted

/ 12:28 AM May 31, 2016

LAST-CHECK booths set up at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) are giving superstitious passengers a second chance and reducing alleged incidents of “tanim-bala (bullet-planting)” at the country’s premier airport.

Aviation Security Group (Avsegroup) director Chief Supt. Pablo Francisco Balagtas said that from a high of three ammunition-carrying passengers a day, interceptions at the Naia had gone down to once a week.

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Balagtas pointed out that passengers have started taking notice and actually using the last-check booths located outside the entrances of the four Naia terminals, with personnel of the Office for Transportation Security (OTS) giving them reminders.

“We asked the OTS, particularly those manning the initial security screening checkpoints at the departure areas of the terminals, to remind the passengers to avail of the last-check booth and dispose of prohibited items they might have in their baggage,” the Avsegroup chief said, acknowledging the superstition of some passengers to keep amulets and charms for protection while traveling.

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Balagtas said the last-check booths proved to be a solution to counter the so-called “tanim-bala” extortion scheme.  “It would spare airport-based security personnel from baseless accusations and passengers would have a hassle-free trip,” he explained.

When the curtained booths were initially put up at the Naia in Nov. 24 last year, they initially drew the curiosity of passengers.  The booths, made of varnished wood panels and fitted with tables and disposal bins for security prohibited items (SPIs), resembled Church confessionals or dressing rooms.

But passengers continued to take the last-check booths for granted. Thus,  interceptions of SPIs, particularly bullets, continued. An OTS officer said thanks to the “gentle reminders’’ to use the booths, passengers carrying banned items avoided hassles that would otherwise cause them to be late for their flights.

He said there were still many travelers who believe in superstition. “We’ve seen metal nails painted red, oil in vials, antler fragments and animal fangs. These are used as charms aside from bullets and considered SPIs.”

“Most of them listen (when we tell them to use the booths) but there are others who react by making a scene,” he said.

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