MIAA asks US execs to exempt heads of state from frisking

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:48:00 04/18/2008

MANILA, Philippines -- To avoid any more embarrassing episodes involving visiting high foreign officials, aviation officials have requested the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to consider exempting all heads of state from the strict pre-boarding body checks required of passengers bound for the US.

Alfonso Cusi, general manager of the Manila International Airport Authority, said his office has sent a letter to the TSA asking the agency to institutionalize the exemption of heads of state from the stringent requirement of a “pat-down” body check for all passengers flying to any US destination.

“We have asked the TSA to make it part of their regulations that all heads of state be exempt from frisking and should be given courtesy,” said Cusi, who said he himself was frisked when he boarded a flight for Honolulu last Thursday.

“We asked that this be a regulation so that when that situation arises [a head of state taking a commercial flight bound for the US], whether or not he or she will be exempt from frisking will no longer be a matter of discretion,” he said.

MIAA has taken the step of writing to the TSA to avoid a repeat of the incident on April 2 in which the US-based carrier, Continental Micronesia, prevented visiting Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr. from boarding a Manila-Palau-Guam flight when he refused to be frisked during a pre-boarding “redundancy” check.

Remengesau, who was returning home after a state visit here, was able to leave the next day after the Philippine government chartered a private jet for him.

The Palau President said he would protest his treatment by the airline which operates regular services to his country.

The airline, which remained deaf to pleas from Philippine protocol officials to exempt the visiting official during negotiations that lasted for two hours, cited strict US aviation regulations for excluding Remengesau from the flight.

According to Angel Atutubo, the MIAA security chief, US aviation regulations exempt only the US President from the pat-down check.

All US-bound flights from Manila require an extra layer of security inspection or redundancy check for all passengers before boarding.

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