MIAA fires baggage handlers after luggage thefts

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MIAA General Manager Ed Monreal shows a boots with expensive padlock used by a ground handler in a bag-pilferage incident at the NAIA recently. (Photo by Rudy Santos)

FOLLOWING a  series of baggage-pilferage incidents in all airports terminal in the country which purportedly involved baggage-handler personnel, the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) has terminated the accreditation of the handling company.

In a press conference on Friday afternoon, MIAA General Manager Ed Monreal presented his letter dated Jan. 19 addressed to the MIASCOR Groundhandling Corp. president Fidel Herman Reyes.

In the letter, Monreal stated: “following the expiration of the lease and concession agreement dated July 8, 2014, between the MIAA and MIASCOR Groundhandling Corporation last March 31, 2017 [the “agreement”], please be advised that the agreement shall no longer be renewed. Please vacate and return all premises occupied by MIASCOR inside the airport complex and its terminal within sixty [60] days from date.”

The termination of the contract came after President Rodrigo Duterte  instructed  Secretary Arthur Tugade of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to immediately stop the pilferage incidents in all airports in the country victimizing foreign and local passengers particularly the overseas Filipino workers.

Monreal said that Secretary Tugade set new policies that would  be implemented by all service providers working at the tarmac especially the baggage handlers.

“All baggage handlers must be pocketless, no jewelry and will be equipped with body cameras while on duty to record all their activities while transporting the baggage from the aircraft to the build-up station and vice versa,” Monreal said.

Duterte reacted when the wife of Turkish Ambassador who attended the ASEAN SUMMIT in Manila was victimized of pilferage at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1 last year. Six  suspects who were employees of Miascor were charged with stealing the jewelry box containing expensive jewels owned by the victim.

A e recent incident that went viral on social media was at the Clark International Airport (CIA) after  OFW Jovenil Dela Cruz of Pandi, Bulacan lost cash and valuables after another MIASCOR personnel pilfered his baggage and carted away the items.

The MIASCOR personnel was placed under preventive suspension, but despite the action made by the company, their other personnel allegedly continued their nefarious activities and pilfered luggage of foreigners and OFWs.

Miascor was the ground handler of at least 14 international airlines at the NAIA and Clark airport handling baggage of inbound and outbound passengers.

Monreal said that 18 pilferage incidents out of 26 cases were committed by Miascor employees in 2016 at NAIA alone.

Under the new policy “all personnel will be frisked before entering the aircraft and upon exit from the aircraft.” Monreal said.

He added that the termination of MIASCOR contract would not affect the operations of the airlines as there were other licensed service providers  that could serve the airlines.

Monreal also showed to the members of the media a confiscated boots with expensive padlocks used by ramp employees during the transporting of the baggage from the aircraft to build-up station and vice versa.

He said Duterte and  Tugade want all airports to be “pilferage free.”.

Prior to  Monreal’s announcement, Tugade summoned airport officials, airport ground-handling companies, manpower service providers, and security managers, following reported incidents of baggage theft.

During the meeting, Tugade gave security companies five days to clean their ranks.

Tugade reiterated that companies contracted to provide security at transportation hubs such as airports must share the responsibility of the government in ensuring the safety of the public.

“If their people are involved in any crime, particularly in drugs-related cases,  the company should also be held liable. I will put at stake their license to do business. I will suspend or terminate their contract,” Tugade added.

The transportation chief also bared new guidelines for personnel in-charge of baggage handling.

Personnel uniforms must have no pockets,  and boots or shoes must not be loose. Concerned personnel are likewise barred from bringing or using cell phones while on duty. They are also prohibited from wearing jewelry.

Tugade also ordered baggage handlers to wear body cameras. Airport officials were asked to produce  100 cameras, while security companies were also directed to buy their own.

Monreal said that they will strictly implement the instructions of the President and Tugade in order to rid the airports of illegal practices.

“We will make sure that the policy direction from the government, from the President, and from the Secretary will be strictly implemented, so we can clean the ranks at the airport,” Monreal said.

“Let this be a warning to all players at the airport that one more mistake will put their jobs and businesses at stake,” he added.

 

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