Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero said the “tanim-bala” (bullet-planting) modus operandi in the country’s airports, if unstopped, could reverse the government’s gains in tourism and make a complete mockery of the popular “More Fun in the Philippines” campaign.
“Three of our islands have just been recognized as among the 10 best in the world, but who would want to come here if they can’t even get out of the airports without being victimized by unscrupulous and seemingly unstoppable syndicates?” he said.
The senator said the increasing incidents of “tanim-bala” or “laglag-bala” in Manila threaten to overturn the momentum of the successful “More Fun in the Philippines” campaign.
According to the Philippine National Police-Aviation Security Group, apprehensions on ammunition increased from 12 last year to 30 as of Nov. 1. Of these, seven were recorded in the last two weeks.
“The crooks behind this ‘tanim-bala’ are not just planting bullets, they are sowing a sense of insecurity among travellers that will be difficult to address later on,” Escudero said.
“The government has to end this ‘tanim-bala’ scheme now or we will lose our advantage as an emerging travel destination,” he said.
The Philippines had 4.27 million visitors in 2012 and 4.68 million in 2013. Visitor arrivals increased to 4.83 million in 2014, with the biggest number – 461,383 and 487,654 – arriving in January and December, respectively.
“We expect a deluge of balikbayans soon. Are we going to put all of them through this Russian roulette of ‘laglag-bala’ in NAIA?” Escudero asked.
International arrivals by air reached 473,841 in August; arrivals by sea were registered at only 6,848 visitors, according to the DoT. Sixty-one percent of those arrivals entered through Manila airports. Cebu and Kalibo had the next biggest share of international arrivals.
Escudero said he would not be surprised if the modus operandi that plagues Manila now would soon happen in other international airports in the country.
Last week, a 60-year-old engineer who was flying to Manila from Davao was found in possession of two bullets at the Davao International Airport. Like most of the victims, he said he did not know how the bullets got into his luggage but he was charged nonetheless for illegal possession of ammunition. He was released after posting a P150,000 bail.
“Not everyone can come up with that amount. In fact, nobody should ever have to raise bail money for a crime he did not commit,” Escudero said.
He noted that while there are some people who believe bullets are amulets, the timing and frequency of incidents are questionable.
“Ano iyon, biglang andami na lang nakaisip na magdala ng bala sa maleta nila? Ngayon, habang malapit na ang Pasko?” he said.