A FALSE hijacking alarm.
This was how Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Ed Monreal described the situation yesterday, after a Saudia Airlines plane was isolated following receipt of an advise from the Manila control tower that the said flight is ‘under threat.’
Monreal said the NAIA Terminals are placed on high alert just the same pending an investigation into the matter. No flights were cancelled.
MIAA official Connie Bungag said the advise came 20 miles before landing of Saudia Airlines Flight SV872.
The MIAA, along with the PNP-Aviation Security Group, dispatched their respective teams who were on site whle the aircraft was on standby at the designated isolation area.
Bungag said airline executives also arrived on site and pending confirmation of the advise received earlier, authorities implemented standard operating procedures in accordance with the airport emergency plan.
Initial information said that a flight crew pressed the ‘hijack’ button in the plane twice, triggering the confusion. Passengers were unloaded and made to undergo security check.
On Feb. 26, 2016, the Philippine National Police tightened security for Saudi Arabian interests in the country including its embassy and flag carrier amid reports that members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards are plotting to hijack or bomb a Saudia aircraft.
Then PNP Aviation Security Group director Chief Supt. Pablo Francisco Balagtas said that upon the request of the Saudi government, they allowed Saudi Airlines to have their own X-ray machines installed at the airport provided they would foot the additional bill.
The stepped-up security measures were implemented by the PNP after Saudi Arabia sent a note verbale last January 22 to the Department of Foreign Affairs, requesting heightened security measures for its embassy, personnel and flag carrier amidst an intelligence report that 10 persons including six Yemenis were tasked to carry out the terror plot in Southeast Asia; most likely in the Philippines, Malaysia or Indonesia.
The Saudi government’s request came after Iranian protesters torched a Saudi Embassy in Tehran after Saudi Arabia executed Shiite Cleric Nimr al-Nimr early January this year for alleged involvement on terrorism. Iran warned Saudi Arabia of “divine revenge” over the killing of the prominent religious leader.