The Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) has put on stream another layer of protection against the smuggling of drugs, guns, contraband and other high-value products.
The device, called Rapiscan x-ray machine, can provide a three-dimensional view of pieces of luggage by subjecting it to an x-ray scan from the sides and from the top or bottom.
“Previous x-ray machines here at the Naia could only show a one-dimensional view of items inside the luggage, hence, it is often necessary to open the boxes and subject the content to another set of examinations,” said newly appointed Customs Commissioner Isidro S. Lapeña, who took over from controversial former Customs chief Nicanor E. Faeldon recently.
Lapeña said the previous x-ray machine will only show a horizontal line if a gun, like a caliber-45 pistol is, laid flat on the bottom of the luggage, compared with the Rapiscan units that can show the hot item from the side and from the top or bottom.
Lapeña, who inaugurated the x-ray machines to signal the start of its operations, said a total of 19 units costing P172 million would be assigned to the Naia passenger terminals.
So far, there are 10 brand-new units of fixed baggage x-ray scanners, seven hand-carried x-ray scanners and two units of mobile x-ray scanners that would be installed at the Naia, and the rest would be in place before the end of the year.
“These are advance units. We will be able to improve the facilitation of luggage and, at the same time, every box or bag would be subjected to thorough inspections,” he said.
Lapeña added the previous pronouncement of President Duterte not to open hand-carried bags and luggages of passengers would be followed with the installation of the new x-ray machines.
“The new scanners would be able to do the job of examining its piece of hand-carried items without physically opening them,” he said.
“This is a nonintrusive way of carrying out the presidential directive,” Lapeña said at the sidelines of the inauguration of the x-ray units.
“My marching orders from the President is to stop corruption and improve the revenue collections,” he said, adding, “when you do the right thing in assessment, then it will also address the entry of illegal items, including drugs.”
Lapeña said the Customs bureau was ordered by Duterte, through the finance department, to collect a monthly revenue of P50.1 billion.
“That’s our monthly target and I am optimistic I can achieve it so long as our Customs officials will be able to determine the correct valuation of goods coming into the country, especially with the removal of the tara system,” he said.
Tara is a fixed amount of bribe imposed by corrupt officials so that taxable items would be able to go through Customs.
Lapeña said the bulk of collectible taxes come from the Manila International Container Port, Port of Bataan and other ports around the country.
“The tara system could be avoided if the processing of cargoes, as requested by importers and stakeholders. They [importers] said that they are willing to cooperate and pay the correct tariff as long as their imports are facilitated on time,” he said.
Lapeña said, as of now, the Customs Bureau is able to eliminate the tara system, with the exception of a few, which, he said, hopefully would be completely eliminated in the near future.
On the other hand, airport Customs collector Edgardo Macabeo said the airport branch is ordered by Customs to collect about P2 billion a month.
“We are able to meet the target and this September, we are able to meet our target of P4 billion,” Macabeo said.