Prank bomb threat delays Davao-to-Manila flight

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/2 June) – A prank bomb threat delayed until 2:08 a.m. Thursday a Davao-to-Manila aircraft that was about to take off at 11 p.m. Wednesday as passengers were ordered to deplane and cargo unloaded.

A report from the Aviation Security Group of the Philippine National Police said that on or about 11:05 p.m., while Air Philippines flight 2P988 A-320 bound for Manila was taxiing along Runway 23, the pilot in command, Capt. Gerardo Garcia, intercepted on their radio frequency a male voice saying “Urgent. There’s a bomb on board.”

The report described the male voice as having a “Visayan intonation.” The radio message was “also intercepted by the duty air traffic controller.”

The report said Garcia immediately decided to return to the ramp and park the aircraft along Bay 9 isolation area where the passengers were asked to disembark with their cabin luggage for re-screening.

K-9 dogs and Special Operations Unit of the Aviation Security Group of the Philippine National Police immediately conducted a thorough check on the aircraft and all cargo on board.

The aircraft was cleared of any explosive or incendiary material by 1 a.m. and finally took off for Manila at around 2:08 a.m. Thursday.

One of the passengers, James Chew, a third year Law student of the Ateneo de Davao University, said they were asked to deplane due to a bomb threat. “Pray that the bomb won’t explode until we are all deplaned or better yet that this threat was just a prank?”

Col. Rey Guerrero, Task Force Davao chief, said the pilot “was not sure if chatter on bomb referred to his plane but thought to have it checked.”

AirPhil Flight 2P988 was scheduled to leave at 9:05 p.m. but its scheduled departure was reset to 10:05 p.m., and reset again to 10:20 p.m.

Chew said they finally boarded at a little past 10:30 p.m. and were already on the runway when the pilot opted to return to the ramp.

Chew said the captain initially announced they were going back to the ramp because of “some technical problem” but later mentioned “spurious call … bomb on plane … don’t panic, everything is under control thus we need to deplane for safety and security reasons.”

Passengers waited at the pre-departure terminal, a number of them sleeping on the floor and benches, Chew said. (MindaNews)