Government should arrest the leaders and smash the syndicate of NAIA personnel who have been stealing from the bags of passengers, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto said today.
Recto made the call following the arrest of four baggage handlers for allegedly stealing the jewelry of the wife of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
Recto said if authorities had only done that a long time ago, “the country would have been spared of this embarrassing incident.”
“It took a foreign VIP to lodge a complaint before authorities finally took action against a continuing crime routinely posted by its victims, our OFWs, in social media,” Recto said.
Recto urged the National Bureau of Investigation “and other non-NAIA based agencies” to conduct the probe and lead the hunt for the perpetrators.
“Hindi na pwede na taga-NAIA lang, tulad ng NAIA police. You have to bring in outside investigators,” he said.
“Kung kailangang gamitan ito ng intelligence fund, it will be good money worth spending. When you steal from OFWs, they who are returning from long and low-paying hard labor abroad, then you are an enemy of the state,” Recto said.
Recto said taxpayer-paid PR drives to lure in more tourists are negated by the bad press the country’s main gateway is getting.
“’Yang Maleta Gang sa NAIA ang negative effect niyan sa turismo ay tulad din ng damage na ginawa ng Maute Group,” Recto said.
“One of the worst airports na nga in terms of passenger facilities and traffic congestion, tapos enveloped pa in other controversies,” he said.
“Maganda nga beaches natin, smiling nga tayo but we’re having a hard time living down the stigma that our airport is either where they plant a bullet in your bag or they divest it of its contents,” he said.
He said “a serious airport cleanup drive” should include all other major airports.
He said money should not be a problem in transforming NAIA’s image as an “honest institution,” and overcome a bad reputation inflicted by “a few bad eggs working there.”
“In 2014, government was already collecting P9.3 billion from NAIA passengers and airlines, netting P5.25 billion that year,” Recto said. “Sa ganitong kita, ano ba naman ang gastos para sa dagdag na CCTV at pulis sa baggage routes?”
Recto said a third of NAIA’s P9.3 billion gross income came from the P550 international terminal fee and the P200 domestic terminal fee paid by passengers, which reached P3.5 billion in 2014.
“Tapos kung Pinoy na turista ka na paalis, may travel tax ka na babayaran, only to discover upon arrival at your destination na mayroon din palang nangolekta ng gamit mo,” he lamented.
Travel tax rates range from P2,700 for a first class passenger; to P1,620 for an economy seat; and P300 for an OFW dependent.
“Nagbabayad ka pa ng airport security fee, tapos ang gamit mo hindi secure. So para saan pa ang binayaran mo para sa iyong seguridad at ng iyong gamit?” he said.
In 2014, P598 million in Airport Security Fees was collected from NAIA users. The whole amount was remitted by the Office of Transportation Security, a DOTC agency, to the Treasury, according to official reports.