By Karen Lema and Mikhail Flores
MANILA (Reuters) -An anonymous bomb threat that prompted the Philippines to put all its commercial airports on heightened security alert is “most likely a hoax”, the aviation police chief said on Friday.
Authorities ordered 42 airports across the country to step up security after receiving an anonymous email threat that planes flying out of Manila to several tourist destinations could explode.
Despite the alert, the country’s main international airport, in Manila, and its two biggest airlines were operating as normal, and Transport Minister Jaime Bautista said no flight delays were expected.
Extra police and canine patrols were deployed at Manila terminals as part of “immediate enhanced security measures” at airports, authorities said, adding the threat was being verified.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAAP) said airports had been ordered on Wednesday to step up security “following bomb threats”.
It added air traffic services received an anonymous email about a threat to flights from Manila to Davao, Bicol and the tourist regions of Palawan and Cebu.
In a memo dated Oct. 4 but released to media on Friday, the CAAP referred to a screenshot of the emailed threat, which did not contain the word “bomb” but said “an airplane will explode” at Manila’s international airport and “please beware”.
“Cebu, Palawan, Bicol and Davao will also be hit”, the anonymous email said.
One of the region’s most popular beach destinations, Cebu saw more than 1 million domestic and foreign travellers last year, while Bicol in the central Philippines saw nearly 5 million, according to the tourism department.
Aviation police chief Jack Wanky confirmed that the threat was sent at around 8 a.m. (0000 GMT) on Wednesday but he said he was sceptical about it.
“It’s most likely a hoax. Nothing is happening,” he said.
“Airport operations is continuous, it’s normal.”
A regional airport in Bicol first received the email. Police in the National Capital Region received similar information and alerted aviation police.
An Australian business traveller flying out of Manila on Friday, Kevin Beachley, said he was not concerned.
“It’s just a simple way of causing a lot of trouble without actually having to do anything other than a phone call,” he said.
Philippine citizen Joy Nequinto was more wary, however.
“Our security is not that safe, especially in Manila. I do love the Philippines, but sometimes I feel scared at the airport.”
A source at Philippines Airlines, who declined to be identified because they were not authorised to speak to media, said the flag carrier was operating “business as usual”.
A spokesperson at Cebu Pacific Air said the airline was “following usual protocols”.
“No expected impact to any scheduled flights and we would like to ensure the travelling public that protocols are in place to ensure everyone’s safety and security,” the transport minister said in a statement.
(Editing by Martin Petty, Kanupriya Kapoor)