Manila Computer-aided equipment will soon strengthen airport security systems at all 45 airports in the Philippines, a senior official has said.

An American aviation watchdog has however sought to draw attention to the problem of corruption that threatens to undo the good work. The US Federal Aviation Administration (USFAA) believes that half of the issues pertaining to the Philippines aviation sector remain unresolved due to corrupt inspectors who continue to implement lax regulation, licensing and certification procedures.

“We will soon have a standard layered [two levels of] security screening of passengers in all the country’s 45 airports. Only 21 airports have adequate airport screening systems in the entire Philippines,” Transportation and Communication Secretary Mar Roxas said.

The government intends to seek a good rating from the US Federal Aviation Administration (USFAA) by the end of this year, Roxas said. However, other sources have also indicated that the embedded culture of corruption is likely to prove a serious hurdle in the government’s plans.

Suppliers who won in the bidding for assorted airport equipment worth 500 million pesos (Dh42.07 million) in April will start delivering 46 screening systems for passengers, including 21 sets of Initial Security Checkpoint (ISCP) screening devices and 25 sets of Final Security Checkpoint (FSCP) screening devices, Roxas said.

“These equipment will standardise the internationally required two-level screening security system for passengers at all airports.”

Only 21 airports in the Philippines currently have initial security checkpoint equipment at their disposal. However, only the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Metro Manila’s Pasay City and two other airports in Cebu, central Philippines and in Davao, southern Philippines have the final (second layer of) security systems in operation, Roxas said.

The Transportation and Communication department has also purchased 92 hand-held metal detectors, 59 set of closed-circuit television systems, 55 units of UPS systems, 55 sets of AVR systems, 55 sets of ergonomic chairs for x-ray scanner operators, and nine x-ray machines for cargo screening.

About 22 old x-ray machines will be refurbished, not replaced, to save money, Roxas added.

The official admitted that he is being pressured to address safety concerns related to airports in the country following the FAA’s complaints about unqualified and corrupt inspectors who have been accepting free tickets from airlines among other kickbacks to go easy on checks. Corrupt inspectors were also blamed for certifying airlines that did not meet set safety requirements.

FAA also complained about lax regulation, licensing and certification procedures undertaken by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).

FAA likewise called for revoking safety certifications issued to two local carriers early this year.

Roxas said his office is developing manuals for aviation inspectors to keep track of qualifications and track records, but said the FAA had demanded that all Philippine inspectors undergo standardised training programmes on the enforcement of safety regulations.

FAA’s other demand, the abolition of a Philippine law that allows local carriers to lease foreign aircraft, might be the last one to be implemented because it necessitates an amendment from Congress.

Philippine aviation authorities visited Washington in mid-April following the FAA’s technical review report in January.

The FAA downgraded the capability and transparency of CAAP in implementing airport security issues, limiting US-bound flights from the Philippines starting 2007. The European Union then blacklisted Philippine carriers in 2010. Such steps have led to a decline in the number of tourists and prevented local airlines from serving nearly nine million overseas Filipino workers based in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East.