DHS Issues Warning Regarding Manila Airport Security

Filed Under: Security/TSA

The US Department of Homeland Security has certain safety guidelines that they require foreign airports to adhere to, assuming they have nonstop flights to the US.

In other words, if a country wants to offer nonstop flights to the US, the security processes they have in place need to be approved by the US. For example, it’s my understanding that Kuwait hasn’t been able to adhere to these, and that’s why Kuwait Airways’ flight from Kuwait City to New York operates via Shannon, so passengers can be rescreened there.

Similarly, Kenya Airways recently began flying between Nairobi and New York, and the process of going through safety audits was one of the big challenges of getting approval for this flight.

Anyway, the Department of Homeland Security has just announced that Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport “does not maintain and carry out effective security consistent with the security standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

This determination was made based on assessments by a team of security experts from the TSA (side note — do they ever send these people to audit US airports, given their abysmal record?).

So here’s the odd thing. You’d think that if the airport no longer met safety standards they’d be forced to temporarily cut flights, or something. Nope. Here’s the “punishment” for this situation instead:

In view of this finding and effective immediately, airlines issuing tickets for travel between the United States and MNL are directed to notify passengers in writing of this determination. The Secretary has also directed this advisory be displayed prominently at all U.S. airports that provide regularly scheduled service to MNL and that it be published in the Federal Register, pursuant to sections 114 and 44907 of Title 49 of the United States Code.

So the DHS is simply requiring airlines to let passengers know of this. I’m not sure what exactly that’s supposed to accomplish?

They’re also working to help the Philippine government bring the airport back up to international security standards. But in the meantime flights will continue to operate as usual.

As it stands, nonstop flights from Manila to the US include those on United to Guam (they also fly to Koror, I guess that qualifies as well?), as well as those on Philippine Airlines to Guam, Honolulu, Los Angeles, and New York JFK. So for example, if you go to United’s website you’ll now see the following notice:

On December 26, 2018, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that aviation security at MNL (Manila, The Philippines), which serves as a last-point-of-departure airport for flights to the United States, does not maintain and carry out effective security consistent with the security standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organization.

Our top priority is the safety of our customers and employees, and teams at the Corporate Support Center and in the field are working with Corporate Security and DHS to ensure the safety and security of travelers and employees. We do not expect any changes to our operations and will continue working with DHS so there is minimal impact to travelers, employees or the operation.​​

I’ll be curious how long it takes for them to get back up to international standards…

  1. Spending a lot of time in Manila for work I find this finding from DHS ridiculous. When going through security in Manila they make you take your shoes off, take your electronics out and prohibit bring an umbrella through security. Also if you take a flight going to the US or take the Delta flight to Tokyo they have more security at the gate you have to go through.

    Maybe what DHS found was the security staff at the airport where too friendly and smiling a lot. Maybe they should be trained to be ruder. But will be hard to train Filipinos to be as rude as the TSA staff at JFK.

  2. I don’t think they are cutting the flights because in the US government’s view the Philippines is actively trying to get up to standard. They are putting people on notice that there is a risk in the meantime to cover themselves. There are like 4.1 million Filipinos in the US, so just cutting off flights would be an over reaction, unless the Philippines was refusing to comply. Terrorists are trying to replenish their numbers in parts of the Philippines and its likely that the US does not want to upset the current government (hardly the most stable leader) by suddenly cutting off flights to the US which would result in a major loss of income for the Philippines since they export soo many workers.

  3. And right now you can go to JetBlue Terminal 5 at JFK and look for the glass door in the departures area guarded by a sole generally-aged private security guard (*not* TSA) through which passengers can exit airside into the departures area. Does anyone really think that simple glass door meets effective international security standards? JetBlue / JFK could long ago have installed those automated sets of double doors you find all over the Schengen zone airports that allow only exiting and sound an alarm and lock the doors if someone attempts re-entry. But nope, not at JFK.

    TSA is a joke.

    And by the way they aren’t even getting paid while the government is shut down.

    Maybe ICAO should take a closer look at lagging airport security practices in the USA. JFK isn’t the only one with unresolved issues.

  4. Hypothetically, if I wanted to cancel my flight because of this, would I still need to pay the cancellation fee? Where I live, if the government issues a certain type of classification to a country, declaring the country unsafe, airlines have to allow passengers to cancel their tickets there free of charge. Is there something like this in the US?

  5. US-bound flights including those going to Guam and Tokyo with DL receive manual screening at gate. Just an FYI. But I agree with the assessment that Manila’s airport security is hardly up to standard.

  6. Hey Terrorists!

    Want to attack the US and looking for a weak link in the security chain? Why not try boarding a flight from Manila?

    Lots of love,


  7. Having escaped a kidnapping attempt at MNL that airport police were clearly involved in, by fortunate timing and inbred NYer caginess, I’ve observed that the security problem at MNL is more outside than inside.

  8. @Bill – Duterte is probably more stable than you. How did you know that he isn’t? Courtesy of MSNBC? Just because he’s doing a great job doesn’t mean he’s unstable. Check your facts buddy before spreading Fake (CNN) News. Gotta stop drinking that damn kool-aid man.

  9. @Rich – yeah you’re right man. Why announce the damn thing! Its like posting a sign on my front door announcing nobody’s home!

  10. @Mike Jones – there are other aspects of airport security that passengers never physically interact with. It’s much more than what you see.

    How many people are aware that US Airline security does a strenuous search of international departing aircraft before any passengers or bags are even allowed to get near the plane. Once we were sent down before security had cleared the plane and the security officers came running into First and business shouting at us all to GET OUT!!! It’s was more interesting than annoying. They take their job seriously and I appreciate that!.

  11. Hi,

    Over the last few years, I flew a few times from Manila and I can say that I contacted 3 times by email the airport management and the airline I was flying on as I spotted some obvious mistakes that security didn’t spot when I went through.
    It depends on the security crew but in general I got more thorough checks on their domestic terminals than on their international terminals.
    The one thing that might be a cause for their issues is that security seems to love having chats…

    The airline was the only one to respond and they promised to follow up with the airport



  12. Ive been to MNL Terminal 1 at least 7x since 2016.

    They follow the same process of removing footwear before passing xray. They do xray scanning for both carry on and checked luggage before going to airline check in. They also follow the same rule when it comes ot liquid as carry on items. However, i noticed that the equipments are old.

    I saw an article about this topic in the front page of a local newspaper and it DHS recommended 16 changes. 7 out of 16 have already been met and the rest are about being consistent when it comes to security protocols.

  13. @EmmanuelRuiz. If you’re so enamored with Duterte, why don’t you go back and live in your homeland? Is it because you’re afraid you might just be mistaken for a drug addict one day and be shot and killed on the spot by police without a silly thing called due process? Maybe you should check with your fake FOX news and see if a president implementing such flagrantly unconstitutional policies should be considered unstable or not? Or are Filipinos so used to dictators that they can’t even remember what democracy means? You’re a moron, “buddy”…

  14. i have flown to and from manila 32 times in the past six years.

    i can confirm that all baggage is screened upon entering the terminal. on two occasions, they made me open my bags to inspect some cords and cables. i can confirm that you go through secondary screening after you check in for your flight, and after you clear immigration. shoes off, 3-1-1 liquids rule, laptops and tablets out, no umbrellas or power strips allowed.

    i have not found the agents to be chatty, although the security screeners who look at your travel documents before entering the terminal perform only a cursory inspection. there is a fair amount of “white privilege” here… if you look american or canadian or british, they wave you through without really looking at your travel documents. (that’s entering the terminal, not at immigration.) the same thing is true for the green channel upon entering the country.

    i can confirm that there is security at the gate and they work off a preselected roster. if you have been “randomly” selected, they are waiting for you to check in, and based on seat number, you will be chosen for gate-side screening.

    all of this is for the newer terminal one, from which most (not all) international flights depart. … all bets are off for the other terminals, some of which are more like bus stations.

    as for duterte, i can confirm that he out trumps donald in many respects. he is the very model of a modern major dictator. and he has killed seven, eight, maybe ten thousand suspected drug dealers without due process.

    on the other hand, in a country in which easily 30% of the population smokes, he has enacted very strict smoking regulations and it is now virtually impossible to find cigarette smoke in public places. so, um, yeah, there is that.

  15. @ Mike Jones:

    You obviously haven’t been through NAIA in at least the last three-years. The umbrella nonsense stopped a long time ago.

  16. @FrankieBoy Pangborn – Terminal 1 is actually the oldest – the clue is in the number. They did slap on some new paint recently and change some light fittings. But it remains the same old terminal lacking in facilities. I avoid flying out of Terminal 1 because it is hostile to family see-offs and greetings (non-travellers can not enter). The lounges in T1 are a joke also – they didn’t even get the new paint. Terminal 3 is the most modern and best by a very long way, especially in terms of its (land side) restaurants, shopping facilities and lounges (CX and SQ are especially decent).

    @William – regarding the bullet planting scheme extorting innocent inbound travelers, that was very pragmatically stopped by Duterte decreeing that passengers may no longer be detained if bullets are found in their luggage. Prior administrations had faffed around but not resolved the situation.

    The people love Duterte here because he gets stuff done pragmatically and speaks his mind often with enormously subtle and enjoyable diplomacy – the US Ambassador to PH is apparently a “gay son of a whore”, one up on both Obama and the Pope who only grade as “son of a whore”. He knows what the Catholic church is all about – extorting the poor and abusing children – he got that right. His approval ratings that are the envy of leaders the world over. The country is currently undergoing the largest infrastructure build out program it has ever had. The economy is booming (6-7% growth), inflation falling and core problems like drugs, corruption, private armies, etc being dealt with firmly and decisively. Give us leaders of this caliber in Europe and only then would I consider moving back.

  17. @Hank

    thanks. my bad. my comments were about terminal 3. i’ve been in all of them, but do get the numbers mixed up! 1 is like a bus station. 2 is like a bus station with a few mom and pop duty free shops and a small lounge that looks like a 1950s library shared by nearly every airline. 3, as you state, is the most modern, but still lacking by international standards of service and amenities, in my opinion.

  18. @ Rich, terrorists are not interested leaving or going to MNL. PH have their own terrorists.. but terrorists in the US can find flaws in every US airports. That is why the 9-11 occurred. So is the US airport equipments are more sophisticated as advertised? Are they also as if ICAO standards?

  19. This actually doesn’t surprise me at all. I’ve flown out of Manila a lot over the years, and I’ve definitely been escorted around the security screening on more than one occasion when running late in exchange for a tip.

  20. Koror in Palau is basically an American protectorate, albeit an internationally recognized country. The residents can move freely within the US without a visa or immigration nationalization, just like someone from Arkansas moving to Ohio. The US government basically funds Palau’s government. The US also handles its defense and much of its foreign affairs as Palau doesn’t have embassies around the world. I believe the FAA handles Palau’s aviation to some degree or another. The US Interior Department also has a role in Palau’s government.

  21. What a LIE! I just flew MNL to JFK on 1/3/19, they had a second security screening(a complete waste thanks to DHS) that was tighter then the screenings in the US. These second screenings are a disgrace and single out americans making us easy targets thanks to our INEPT braindead government in washington.

  22. Couple of additional points of information, I live in Manila:
    – you go through up to THREE security checks for flights to the US – at the entrance to the terminal, detailed check after immigration, a gate check for flights to the US
    – while DHS refers to ICAO, the inspection was carried out by TSA and they made the recommendations. A separate ICAO review called NAIA security “satisfactory” in the light of current plans.
    – the key recommendations are to implement new security equipment (scanners, cameras), background checks for staff, improved “security culture”.
    – apparently, the US embassy in Manila offered assistance in the form of US consultants and US technology, including $5M aid
    – airport and local government authorities have agreed to implement all the security recommendations – some, like procuring and installing technology take time and are scheduled for Q2/2019
    – TSA observed that security is sometimes strict – sometimes lax
    Seems like the US is pushing Manila to make improvements and the Philippines is complying by implementing the recommendations as quickly as possible. Hence, just a notification, not a ban.
    I fly regularly from/to MNL and feel perfectly safe. I think more & better equipment will be helpful. While I don’t doubt that security could be more disciplined, I’m not worried about the observed lack of consistency: Staff in MNL (just like in Europe!) does profiling – if you are a child or old lady, you are likely be treated with compassion and not subjected to a strip search. And, yes, white people and local functionaries are also more likely to face lax security – in the US we call that “white privilege” and “corruption”, here it’s viewed as working probabilities: 0% of terror attacks in the Philippines have been carried out by old, white woman and government officials are not likely to blow up their own airport!
    I fly so often, security is very important to me! But in my opinion, the US is exporting the expensive security circus we have witnessed in the US since 9/11, with little impact. The TSA in the US still lets 90+% weapons slip through tests…
    In a developing country like the Philippines, where 27% of the people have to make do with less than $2/day, there are more important things to spend the money on… Forcing them to spend money on something with little impact on actual security just makes me sad…

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