Speaker Martin G. Romualdez bared Tuesday that the Office of Transportation Security (OTS) under the Department of Transportation (DOTr) has committed to implementing stronger measures to ensure protection for tourists and travelers against abusive government personnel in all airports in the country.
Romualdez made the announcement following a meeting late Monday afternoon at the House of Representatives with transportation officials that include DOTr Sec. Jaime Bautista, Office of Transportation Security (OTS) Administrator Usec. Ma. O Ranada Aplasca, and Manila International Airport Authority Gen. Manager Cesar Chiong.
Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Zaldy Co, chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, also attended the meeting.
To provide another layer of safeguard, Romualdez said it was also agreed during the meeting that select personnel of the Philippine Coast Guard will be assigned to accompany airport screening personnel on duty.
During the meeting, Romualdez reiterated his disappointment over recent unfortunate incidents at the airport, including one involving personnel of the OTS caught stealing from a Thai tourist, which he described as “embarrassing and alarming”. “We cannot let this embarrassing incident fester and continue to discourage tourists from visiting our very beautiful country. But the OTS has recognized that there is indeed a problem and that it needs to be addressed at the soonest possible time,” he said.
Among others, Romualdez said the OTS has proposed the use of body cameras to monitor in real-time the activities of the airport security personnel, as well as immigration officers, on duty.
With around 1,200 OTS workers in various airports in the country working in three shifts, the OTS alone would need around 500 body cameras to equip the on-duty personnel.
“The OTS also agreed to punish erring personnel and to put in place appropriate measures to stop and discourage illegal behavior of their staff. They recognized its existence and they decided to do something about it,” Romualdez said.
He noted that the OTS also sought the re-implementation of the protocol that prohibits their personnel on duty from carrying cellphones, bags, or jackets while on duty, and requires uniforms with no pockets.
Likewise, Romualdez said the DOTr and the OTS proposed the installation of additional e-gates in the airports to minimize personal interaction of security personnel with tourists and other travelers.
The DOTr and the OTS officials said they would submit to Speaker Romualdez the specific plans for the corrective measures they would undertake to address the problem.
“I hope this would somehow cushion any backlash from that embarrassing incident, and that tourists will still choose to visit the Philippines and not be discouraged by the act of erring personnel. We will monitor closely the corrective actions of the DOTr and the OTS to ensure all travelers in and out of our country get the honest and efficient service that they deserve,” Romualdez said.
Romualdez reiterated his statement that attracting tourists is a priority by the government, which is especially crucial at this time when the country is on the road to recovery from the ill effects of the pandemic.