Emigdio Tanjuatco III, chief of Clark International Airport (CIAC), said security measures are in place to ensure that there are no laglag-bala rackets occur in the country’s alternate airport.
However, Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III exposed what he described as a “bigger” extortion racket at the CIAC.
Albano said the extortion racket forces the passenger to pay extra cash to be allowed to board his or her plane.
Tanjuatco said they implemented measures to protect their passengers amid the laglag-bala scheme victimizing passengers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
He said that screeners at the Clark airport terminal are not allowed to handle or touch baggage to prevent any incident of so-called planting of contraband or other illegal items in passengers’ belongings.
Tanjuatco said that lists of prohibited items are posted inside and outside the airport to warn passengers.
“In the more than 20 years of Clark airport’s existence, no single incident of laglag-bala was reported,” said Rendy Isip, CIAC public information officer.
Albano, however, took exception to the claims of CIAC officials and said the extortion racket stems from a Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) regulation that prohibits outbound travelers from bringing with them more than P10,000 in cash.
“I have constituents who were victimized recently by personnel at the Clark International Airport. They are three female provincial government employees who went to Singapore on a budget tour. Since they had difficulty buying dollars in Isabela, they brought with them small amounts of pesos,” he said.
Albano said one carried P25,000, another had P35,000, while the third had P30,000.
Albano added that when his constituents went through security screening at CIAC, they were told that the x-ray scanner showed images of thick wads of money in their handbags.
“They were asked to take out the contents of their bags and to count their money. When informed about the BSP regulation, they told the airport personnel that they did not know about it,” he said.
Albano said his constituents were then informed that their excess pesos amounting to a total P60,000 would have to be confiscated and a report would be made to the BSP and Clark airport authorities, unless they shared it with them 50-50 and kept quiet about it.
“Fearing that they would miss their flight, they agreed to give P30,000 of their hard-earned money to the corrupt airport personnel. That is why I am saying that this is far bigger than (the bullet planting scheme),” Albano said.
His provincemates reported the incident to him after seeing on television frequent reports about the alleged extortion activities of Manila airport personnel “planting” bullets on the luggage of outbound passengers, he added.
Albano said he would ask Clark airport authorities to investigate the incident.
He pointed out that the extortion racket arising from the BSP prohibition could be happening at the NAIA and other international gateways in the provinces.
Albano and other members of the House of Representatives have called for a review of Republic Act 10591, or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act, under which illegal possession of a bullet is punishable with imprisonment of six years to 12 years.
He said he would ask that the BSP regulation prohibiting the bringing out of the country of not more than P10,000 be included in the review.
“What is the rationale behind the prohibition? Maybe it is to keep our currency within the confines of our national territory. I can agree with that, but perhaps we should allow outbound Filipino travelers to carry P50,000 or the equivalent of $1,000,” he said.
Source: Nov 8 Philstar