MANILA (UPDATE) — It was a note, not a joke, that grounded a Cebu Pacific flight about to take off from Bicol International Airport in Albay on Monday afternoon.
Regardless of form, the bomb threat triggered safety protocols, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines official for Bicol said.
CAAP Area Manager Cynthia Tumanut told TeleRadyo Serbisyo on Tuesday morning that airport authorities activated these protocols after the pilot of Flight 5J 632 informed the tower that a note that said "BOMB??" had been found in the plane's lavatory.
"Upon activation, pina-deplane namin mga pasahero and then nag-conduct kami ng throrough inspection ng kanilang mga bagahe, saka phsyical frisking," she said.
(Upon activation, we had the passengers deplane and then we conducted a through inspection of their baggage. We also frisked them.)
[Video/IVS: TeleRadyo 9:30 am "May mga batas po tayo na nagpe-penalize ng ganitong activity...to 9:31 "first time po."
Suggested title: CAAP, nagpaalala na mabigat ang parusa sa bomb joke at bomb threat
Ipinagbabawal ng PD No. 1727 at ng Anti-Terrorism Act ang bomb joke at bomb threat, ayon kay Cynthia Tumanut ng Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.]
Airport authorities then had the pilot bring the plane to the designated isolation parking area on the runway.
According to an Office for Transportation Security guidance document on the National Civil Aviation Security Program, aircraft subject to a bomb warning must be moved to a remote location for a proper search.
The closure of the runway forced Philippine Airlines Flight 2915, which was flying to Bicol International Airport, to turn back and return to Manila.
"Pinabalik, kasi ongoing yung paneling nung eroplano outside and inside," Tumanut said.
(We told them to turn back because paneling of the airplane, both outside and inside, was ongoing.)
According to security protocol, unloaded baggage and cargo, as well as catering supplies must be screened and searched before being reloaded.
The BIA was shut down for 2-3 hours on Monday while authorities cleared the aircraft, its passengers, and its cargo.
Tumanut said that the Philippine National Police aviation security unit is still conducting its investigation into the incident but reminded the public that bomb hoaxes are prohibited on public transportation, not just airplanes.
According to the OTS guidance document, "every bomb threat is, prima facie, a criminal offense and must be reported to the police immediately."
CAAP spokesperson Eric Apolonio said individuals who engage in bomb jokes or threats could face up to 5 years in prison and a P40,000 fine.
This may also fall under Republic Act No. 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.
Video from PTV