Stopped in Mactan: 1,040 amulets, 282 bullets

AT LEAST 1,322 bullets and empty shells have been confiscated in Mactan airport since the year began, or about four such items every day.

Officials of agencies operating in the Mactan Cebu International Airport reported this in a press conference yesterday, to illustrate that the discovery of bullets from passengers isn’t that unusual.

But they also assured that there is no “tanim-bala” extortion racket in Mactan. The controversy began to develop 10 days ago when an overseas Filipino worker alleged that the bullet found in her luggage had been planted there.



Most of the bullets confiscated in Mactan—1,040 out of 1,322—were duds that had been transformed into amulets. Only 282 were live bullets.

In the press conference, General Manager Nigel Paul Villarete of the Mactan Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA) said that only one last year and another one this year were charged in court for carrying bullets in their baggage.

Reassurance

In a separate interview, Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz Radaza said she is confident the “tanim bala” scheme will not happen in the Mactan airport.

But she also said the alleged extortion scheme happening in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) is a cause for worry and should be addressed immediately.

She assured that the City Tourism Office is closely working with the GMR-Megawide Cebu Airport Corp. (GMCAC) and MCIAA to ensure travelers arriving and leaving the city are protected against unscrupulous individuals.

MCIAA still supervises airside operations in Mactan, but GMCAC has been operating the terminal for a year now.

“I think the GMCAC is doing their best. I don’t think na mahitabo na diri (I don’t think a similar scheme will happen here),” Radaza said in her regular news conference yesterday.

The Mactan Cebu International Airport, the second busiest airport in the country, ranked 18th in a recent survey by travel website The Guide to Sleeping in Airports, which released the list of 30 Best Airports in Asia.

Surveillance

The only other airports in the Philippines that made it to the list were the Iloilo International Airport, which ranked 21st, and the Clark International Airport, which ranked 24th.

In the press conference, officials said that many of those caught carrying bullets were able to explain themselves. They were police or military personnel, licensed gun holders, gun competition participants, and ordinary people who kept dud bullets as amulets.

Villarete said that there is no recorded incident of “tanim-bala” in Mactan.

Safety and Security Office Supervisor Jemar Nietes and Intelligence Officer 2 Liezel Mondejar of the Office for Transportation Security (OTS) showed reporters a TV monitoring system where all activities near the airport X-ray machines can be seen clearly.

If an unscrupulous person tries to plant a bullet in a passenger’s baggage, he or she will be monitored on TV through the images taken by eight cameras installed over the X-ray machines.

Amulets

Nietes also said it’s the responsibility of the passengers to secure their baggage and make sure no one unknown to them touches it.

Senior Superintendent Joselito F. Solido, chief of the Philippine Center for Aviation Security (PCAS) of the Philippine National Police, said that dud bullets that are used as amulets are not dangerous because these can no longer explode.

However, these still have to be confiscated in keeping with aviation security.

From May to December last year, 1,224 amulets and 264 live bullets were confiscated from passengers in Mactan airport, for a total of 1,224.

From January to November so far this year, authorities have confiscated 1,322 such items: 1,040 amulets and 282 live bullets. The most number of amulets (165) was confiscated in May, while the most number of lie bullets (40) was seized in August.

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