Philippines' main airport fires contractor over baggage thefts

Manila airport fired a major contractor and announced a raft of new security measures on Friday after a spate of baggage thefts at the main Philippine gateway once derided as the world's worst airport.

President Rodrigo Duterte summoned airport authorities and the transport minister on Thursday and ordered them to put a stop to the thieving, Manila International Airport general manager Ed Monreal told reporters.

"I am really ashamed over what is happening, what our passengers are going through," Monreal said.

"Let us all work together to stop these embarrassing incidents."

Monreal said the airport would not renew the operating licence of one ground handling company serving 14 carriers after passengers on at least two flights lodged formal complaints over items stolen from their luggage.

It also ordered other contractors to equip baggage handlers and security personnel with body cameras, install closed circuit television in their working areas, and remove all pockets from their uniforms.

Monreal said surveillance footage had confirmed the pilferage, with authorities also finding evidence including "boots that allow them (suspects) to hide stuff at their feet".

The airport has filed criminal charges against a number of suspected thieves, he said without elaborating.

MIASCOR, the company that lost its Manila airport contract, did not reply to AFP's request for comment.

Manila airport, also known as Ninoy Aquino International Airport, says 20.4 million passengers used the hub last year.

It topped the list of worst airports on the travel website "The Guide to Sleeping in Airports" from 2011-2013, causing the government to make major renovations.

Travellers have long criticised its "dilapidated facilities", dishonest airport workers, rude officials and long waiting times, the website said.

In 2015 the government investigated claims of an extortion racket involving security personnel planting bullets in passengers' luggage and demanding money not to press charges for illegal possession of bullets, punishable by up to 12 years in prison.

Officials said the extortion ended after the 2016 election of Duterte, a fiery politician who warned in his campaign speeches that he would force airport security personnel to eat any bullets they found in passenger luggage.

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