Philippines airport bullet-in-bag scam hits travelers

Story highlights

  • Authorities in Philippines investigate following reports of an extortion scam
  • Passengers allegedly hit for extortion payment by corrupt security officials
  • Government spokesman insists cases are isolated

(CNN)As if airports weren't stressful enough, a new "bullet-in-luggage" scam in the Philippines is piling on fresh hell for passengers.

Travelers from all over the world are said to have been targeted by airport security staff who allegedly plant live ammunition in luggage in order to extort money.
Unlicensed possession or purchase of firearms and ammunition is illegal in the Philippines.
    CNN Philippines reports that police have recorded 30 alleged cases of the scam, known locally as "tanim bala," between January and November 2015.
    Manila International Airport Authority says there have been five alleged cases in the past two weeks.
    Government officials say the matter is being investigated, but presidential spokesman Herminio Coloma Jr. insists the cases are isolated.

    Passenger vigilance

    That hasn't stopped protests reportedly being staged by members of Hong Kong's expatriate Filipino population.
    Nor will it help improve the reputation of Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport, which -- after being crowned the world's worst for three years in a row -- only recently managed to haul itself off the bottom of the list.
    Worried about flying into the Philippines? CNN Philippines has published some tips for avoiding the scam.
    These include using a hard case and avoiding luggage with external pockets, wrapping the entire bag in cling film, and calling in witnesses, lawyers and airport supervisors if security insists on going through any bags.
    Eric Apolonio, a spokesperson of the Civil Aeronautics Association of the Philippines, advises travelers to keep an eye on their luggage at all times -- even as it goes through the airport security X-ray machine.