Thursday, January 27, 2011

Full body scanners at NAIA mulled

MANILA, Philippines – By next year, travelers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport may find themselves in a literally revealing and potentially humiliating situation.

Plans are afoot for the acquisition of full body scanners to upgrade standard security checks on arriving and departing passengers at the airports, according to the Manila International Airport Authority.

Vicente Guerzon Jr., MIAA's assistant general manager for security and emergency services, said the agency was firming up plans and hoping to complete the purchase of the “high-value” equipment in 2012.

In an interview, he said he was aware that the scanners might provoke a public outcry, considering how some of the models exposed an individual's privates.

Guerzon noted that the use of the equipment had been generating controversy in the United States and provoking debates about where to draw the line between privacy rights and the need to enforce security.

Mindful of the possible backlash, he said the MIAA would hold talks with the Commission on Human Rights to discuss the parameters on the use of the full body scanners.

Among the issues to be raised would be whether to use the scanners on everyone or on randomly selected individuals, and how many security personnel to be involved during the process, he said.

He said it was not yet clear how much the scanners would cost, but added that the MIAA might need at least 35 of them for the international and domestic terminals.

Guerzon said his office had submitted the terms of reference for the acquisition to the MIAA bids and awards committee.

The NAIA has been on heightened alert since Tuesday's deadly bus bombing on Edsa, deploying twice the usual number of security guards and increasing patrols by bomb-sniffing dogs.

Guerzon said the 600 security guards had been doubled, and so had the 60 members of the Philippine National Police Aviation Security Group assigned at the airport complex.

He said airport police were also conducting more patrols and intensifying intelligence activities. “We're gathering and sharing intelligence with other agencies to update our security assessment,” he said in an interview.

So far, he said there have been no intelligence reports indicating that the NAIA might be a target of a terrorist attack.


NEHA JAIN                                                                                                                

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