MANILA - The manager of the Kalibo International Airport (KIA) was dismissed from her post and four airport personnel were suspended following a grave security breach that allowed a woman to fly to South Korea without the necessary travel documents.
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) has also demanded an explanation from Philippine Airlines (PAL) as to how Leah Castro Reginio, 35, who is believed to be suffering from a mental illness, managed to board PAL flight PR 490 to Incheon International Airport in South Korea.
Reginio, according to a CAAP report, had no airline ticket, passport or visa when she took the flight that left Kalibo at 5:34 p.m. on Jan. 22.
She was stopped by Korean immigration upon arrival when she was unable to present any travel documents. Reginio was flown back to Kalibo in the next PAL flight out of Incheon the next day.
Neglect of duty
CAAP has announced the relief of Cynthia Espera as officer in charge of the KIA and the suspension for 30 days of CAAP security personnel Joel Itulid and Arnold Barreda and terminal fee inspectors Kenny Afable and Irene Adrade "for neglect of duty."
The relief order, signed by CAAP Director General William K. Hotchkiss III, was dated Feb. 13.
The CAAP said that based on its investigation, "the four CAAP personnel committed lapses in the security control system in KIA involving Leah C. Reginio who was able to pass through the string of security procedures and gates at the airport."
It said Espera was relieved under the principle of command responsibility.
"PAL management is now doing its own internal investigation on the incident with the results to be forwarded to the aviation body soon," the CAAP said.
CAAP officials led by Deputy Director for Operations Rodante Joya went to Kalibo immediately after the incident.
From the footage recorded by the airport's closed circuit television cameras, Reginio was seen getting off a bus loaded with Korean tourists.
She was seen going through the KIA entrance without presenting a plane ticket which is usually the first thing airport security guards ask from travelers.
She was seen walking through the security checks and the immigration counters before reaching the predeparture area.
Apart from the terminal personnel's neglect of duty, Joya blamed passenger congestion at the Kalibo Airport for the lapse.
"The international and domestic passengers are serviced in the same terminal designed to accommodate 500 passengers at a given time. It is overcrowded," he said.
Passengers of international and domestic flights use the same gate to board their planes, thus, it is easy for passengers to sneak past the airport's immigration counters.
But Joya said the congestion could ease soon as the rehabilitation of the old domestic terminal is scheduled to be completed on March 31. The airport's domestic operations will then be transferred to the rehabilitated terminal.