Security at GenSan airport tightened

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/16 August)– The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) has tightened the security arrangements at the airport here in the wake of the recent deadly bomb attacks in the cities of Cotabato and Cagayan de Oro.

Allan Punay, CAAP local manager, said Friday they have sealed off the airport’s premises and imposed stricter entry procedures at its main gate in a bid to avert the occurrence of possible spillover terror attacks and other related incidents at the facility.

“We’re still under heightened alert so we intensified the security procedures in all our facilities,” he said.

The official said all vehicles currently entering the airport compound’s main gate are undergoing rigid security inspection.

Starting next week, Punay said they will implement a scheme that would require drivers or owners of vehicles to deposit valid identification or ID cards in exchange for temporary car passes.

He said they will be installing closed circuit television cameras or CCTVs at the main gate and other strategic areas to properly monitor the movements of passengers and other airport users.

The city airport, which is classified by CAAP as an alternate international airport, serves about a thousand passengers daily from the “greater area” of Region 12 that covers this city and nearby provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani.

Leading domestic budget carrier Cebu Pacific presently maintains three regular passenger and cargo flights daily from this city to Manila, another daily flight to Cebu and three flights every week to Iloilo.

Philippine Airlines (PAL) has two regular flights from this city to Manila every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and one flight for the other days.

PAL affiliate PAL Express serves daily regular flights to Cebu and three flights every week to Iloilo.

Punay said the Department of Transportation and Communication’s (DOTC) Office for Transportation Security (OTS) has delivered an ion scanner that will help detect explosives in cargoes.

He said the OTS also sent technicians to repair the damaged x-ray or baggage screening machine at the airport building’s main entrance and pre-departure area.

“We’re hoping that they’ll be able to repair and revive the machine before the end of the month,” he said.

The airport’s security personnel were forced to shift the inspection of passengers and baggage to manual mode after their x-ray machines broke down last March.

The manual inspection has been causing long queues at the airport’s entrance and delayed the airline check-in of some passengers.

The problem became more apparent when the Francisco Bangoy or Davao International Airport was shut down for two days in early June due to a runway accident involving a Cebu Pacific plane, forcing airline companies to divert or re-route some of their flights to this city.

Punay said the re-bidding for the replacement x-ray machines are ongoing at the DOTC central office.

“Two machines worth P3 million each were allotted for the city airport,” he said.

The DOTC earlier called for another bidding due to the failure of the initial bidding that it opened in May last year for the “supply, installation, testing and commissioning” of passenger and baggage screening equipment for the city airport, OTS central office and 31 other airports in the country.

The approved budget for the acquisition of the new equipment, consisting of 401 units, is around P297 million.

For the city airport, the proposed equipment include a unit of final security checkpoint x-ray, a walk through metal detector, two hand-held metal detectors and a cargo security checkpoint x-ray. (Allen Estabillo/MindaNews)