Monthly Archives: June 2011

( New, Less Intrusive Security Scanners Being Eyed for NAIA

MANILA – Good news for those who are uncomfortable about going through security scanners at airports. Authorities at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport here are eyeing several top-of-the-line
models to replace the old ones. The main sell of prospective new machines: they should not show too much, if at all, of the human body’s sensitive contours.

The details and purchase of the new full body scanners are still being worked out, said Vicente Guerzon, assistant manager of the Manila International Airport Authority. He said the equipment will likely be installed by the end of the year after the bidding process is done.

Guerzon said his office is still studying various models of the scanners.

“There are ‘acceptability’ standards because of the issue on intrusion of privacy, as well as health concerns because of the radiation,” Guerzon acknowledged to the Inquirer.

Guerzon explained that some passengers might find their privacy violated by extra sensitive body scanners.

But the scanners will not sacrifice on the security aspects, and should be able to detect plastic explosives and traces of illegal drugs, that may be missed by the present screening system.

MIAA general manager Jose Angel Honrado said each unit will cost around P8 million to P15 million.

“We’re looking at a model that does not show the body’s shape, for those concerned about their privacy. This will be bidded out, of course,” the official said.

He said that health concerns, brought about by radiation that would affect both the operator and the passenger, are important considerations in their studies of various scanner models. He revealed that the MIAA is consulting with the Transportation Security Administration in the United States.

The plan to purchase full body scanners is part of efforts by the MIAA to upgrade standard security checks for arriving, and departing passengers at the NAIA.

( NAIA-1 to Undergo Renovation

MANILA, Philippines – Airport authorities disclosed that the 28-year-old Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 (NAIA-1) would be renovated in August after an architectural and engineering firm was picked to conduct an assessment of the project.

Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) general manager Jose Honrado said P-Square, an engineering and consulting firm, was selected to start the month-long study worth about P9.4 million.

He said the firm would conduct various tests to know the load-bearing capacity of the building before any improvement could be done, as well as do an analysis to determine which part of the building is already unsafe.

NAIA-1 is being refurbished to keep up with the demand as it has already exceeded its capacity of 10 million passengers a year several years ago.

Most of the estimated 28 foreign airlines that operate at the NAIA-1 had expressed their intention to stay at the old terminal and almost all are reluctant to transfer to the NAIA Terminal 3 until all legal problems are settled.

Cebu Pacific, AirphilExpress and All Nippon Airways are the three airlines operating at the NAIA-3.

Although the planned structural tests had been announced earlier this year, the process was fast-tracked after the styrofoam insulation of the ceiling on the ground level, as well as some plaster concrete pieces from the façade, fell off last May. These were attributed to deterioration due to fatigue or effects of previous earthquakes.

Structural tests would start in August and are expected to be completed in January 2012.

The MIAA would later announce a bidding to determine which architectural firm would conduct the renovation of NAIA-1.

“We want the public to know that the MIAA is upgrading not only the toilets, water supply and carpeting, but is also determined to upgrade the NAIA-1 to international standard,” said airport senior assistant general manager Antonio Bautista.

He pointed out that the NAIA-1 arrival area has been completely refurbished, with its walls and ceiling sporting a new look after these were clad with a metal finish to cover the old style “washout.”

Bautista added the Association of Structural Engineers of the Philippines is assisting the MIAA to come up with a new NAIA-1 that would be attuned to the needs of travelers.

The project would cost about P500 million or more.

“The MIAA has the money to fund the airport’s renovation,” he said, adding that the board of directors would have the final say with the concurrence of Honrado.

Critics of the old terminal have pointed out that nearby airports look modern because of their glass and steel facade, which gives them an airy, spacious and traveler-friendly look with amenities for sleeping.

On the other hand, NAIA-1 looks stodgy and cramped and still sports the washout finish fashionable in the 1980s.

This is the grayish brown color that people see when they look at NAIA-1’s façade since its builders covered the concrete with washout brown pebbles during construction.

Bautista said that architects would surely keep that in mind when remodeling NAIA-1 and would probably wrap the premier airport in gleaming faux stainless steel or similar-looking material to make it look modern and tasteful.

“We will spare no expense to give the NAIA-1 a modern look that Filipinos could be proud of and make it user friendly with various amenities for the satisfaction of users,” Bautista added.

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( ‘No-fly’ Zone for Toy Planes, Kites, Birds Around NAIA Eyed

Airport authorities want the 13-km radius of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport declared a no-fly zone —that is for kites, toy planes and domestic birds.

The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) said a Parañaque City proposal to extend the no-fly area from the existing one-mile radius to a 2.5-mile (4-km) radius was not enough.

In an interview, airport grounds operations and safety division chief Joseph Agustin said the international airport standard is 13-km.

MIAA has forwarded its recommendation to Parañaque City councilor Ricardo Baes, who is authoring the proposal to extend the ban.

Baes, in his initial proposal, sought the extension of the ban on flying kites or remote-controlled scale model aircraft and the breeding of pigeons and other domestic birds to a 4-km radius.

The extension of the ban could avert the worst case scenario of a bird strike affecting an aircraft and forcing it to land in residential areas in Parañaque City, the councilor said.

Airport officials said they were also pushing for a similar ban on laser beams and spotlights because “these structures distract pilots while in the air.”

MIAA officials met with airline executives last Friday to discuss incidents of bird strikes and other similar incidents.

MIAA general manager Jose Angel Honrado had written city mayor Florencio Bernabe Jr. regarding the matter, Agustin added.

“We will be coordinating with other nearby local government units as well, but we first coordinated with Parañaque City,” the official said.

The proposed measure will be the subject of several readings and public consultations before it is approved by the city council.

(GMA News) US Issues New Travel Warning vs Terrorist Activities in PHL

The United States on Wednesday (Manila time) issued a new travel warning on the Philippines, citing risks of terrorist activities particularly in the Sulu archipelago and in other areas in Mindanao.

In its new travel warning, the US Department of State said the terrorist attacks could be indiscriminate and could occur in other areas such as Manila.

“Targeted sites may be public gathering places including, but not limited to, airports, shopping malls, conference centers, and other public venues,” the US State Department said.

Travelers should exercise extreme caution if traveling to Mindanao or the Sulu Archipelago as regional terrorist groups have carried out bombings resulting in injuries and death, the travel warning said.

It also noted that sporadic clashes have occurred between lawless groups and the Philippine Armed Forces throughout Mindanao, particularly in rural areas.

US government employees were instructed to “seek special permission to travel to Mindanao or the Sulu Archipelago.”

The US State Department noted the Philippine government had declared a state of emergency on November 24, 2009, for Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat provinces, as well as Cotabato City in Mindanao, because of “election-related violence.”

On that day, at least 57 people, including at least 32 journalists, were killed in the now-infamous Maguindanao massacre. A 58th victim, a photographer, is still missing.

“Although the elections have passed, this state of emergency is still in effect. Travelers should be aware of heightened police activity and significant military presence in these areas. They should carefully research restrictions imposed on travel and follow the instructions of government officials,” the State Department said.

KFR groups

The US advisory also said kidnap-for-ransom (KFR) gangs are active throughout the Philippines and have targeted foreigners.

The advisory said US citizens traveling, living, and working throughout the Philippines are urged to exercise heightened caution in public gathering places.

It added that US citizens should exercise caution when traveling in the vicinity of demonstrations since they can turn confrontational and possibly escalate to violence.

Terrorism, violence

The State Department said it remains concerned about the continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against US citizens and interests throughout the world.

It encouraged all US citizens in the Philippines to enroll with the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program or at the US Embassy in Manila.

“By enrolling, you can receive the Embassy’s most recent security and safety updates during your trip. Enrolling also ensures that we can reach you, or your designated emergency points of contact, during an emergency,” it said.

The US Embassy is located at: 1201 Roxas Boulevard, Manila, Philippines, tel. 63-2-301-2000. The American Citizens Services (ACS) section’s fax number is 63-2-301-2017, and you may reach the ACS Section by email at

The ACS Section’s website includes consular information and the most recent messages to the US citizen community in the Philippines.

One may also obtain information on security by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.

These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except US Federal holidays).

Australia ‘eases’ travel alert

Meanwhile, Australia has eased its travel alert for Eastern Mindanao, advising its nationals to “reconsider” their need to travel in provinces there.

In a travel advisory updated Tuesday afternoon, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said this came after a “review” of the advice.

“The level of the advice for eastern Mindanao (including the provinces of Bukidnon, Camiguin, Misamis Oriental, Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur) has been lowered to ‘Reconsider your need to travel,'” it said.

“We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to eastern Mindanao (including the provinces of Bukidnon, Camiguin, Misamis Oriental, Compostela Valley, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur) due to very high levels of violent crime,” it added.

However, it said the level of the advice for central and western Mindanao (Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Cotabato City, North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Saranggani, Misamis Occidental, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao and the Sulu Archipelago) remains at “Do not travel.”

Australia had warned of a “high risk of terrorist attack, including kidnapping, and the very high levels of violent crime” in those areas.

It added the overall level of advice for the Philippines has not changed.

Australia also maintained its advice to its nationals to exercise a high degree of caution in the Philippines because of the high threat of terrorist attack and the high level of serious crime.

“Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks,” it said.

It also said terrorist attacks could occur anytime and anywhere in the Philippines, including Manila.

“We continue to receive credible reports indicating terrorists are planning attacks against a range of targets in a variety of locations, including places frequented by foreigners. You should avoid places known to be terrorist targets,” it said. — RSJ/VVP, GMA New

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