GMA STOPS NAIA SHOE INSPECTIONS TO PROMOTE TOURISM

MANILA,
April 23, 2004  (STAR) By Marichu Villanueva - To help promote the country’s tourism industry, President Arroyo ordered yesterday officials of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) to discontinue the shoe inspection security requirement for departing passengers.

Excluded, however, from this directive are passengers bound for countries like the United States which strictly enforce the policy of inspecting footwear as part of their anti-terrorism measures.

The President issued the verbal directive to NAIA authorities at the 25th National Conference of Employers, digressing from her prepared speech as she cited the tourism industry for helping create more than three million jobs in the past three years under her administration.

"To enhance tourism, which is the industry of the future aside from ICT (information communication technology), I have instructed our airport officials to stop requiring the removal of shoes as an inspection mechanism except those going to countries who themselves require this kind of inspection," the President said before delegates of the conference organized by the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) at the Westin Philippine Plaza on Roxas Boulevard in Manila.

The NAIA has imposed shoe inspection as part of its security check for outbound passengers or those passing through the NAIA before taking off for their international flights, in compliance with the safety requirements imposed by the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) to all aircraft that enter US airspace.

The inspection of footwear was first imposed in all US airports, for both domestic and international bound passengers, as a precaution following a foiled attempt in 2002 by alleged "shoe-bomber" Richard Reid to blow up a US airliner.

Stricter airport security measures resulted from the Sept. 11, 2001 suicide attacks in the US by terrorists who hijacked airplanes. The most devastating attack led to the collapse of the World Trade Center twin towers in New York that killed thousands of people.

On the downside, the shoe inspection nearly caused a diplomatic mess in 2002 when Senate President Franklin Drilon protested when he was made to take off his shoes as he queued for a flight home at the San Francisco airport.

Drilon complained the US government did not accord him due respect being the third highest official of the Philippines.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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