The Philippine government announced Wednesday that it is investigating claims of an alleged racket where airport security staff plant live ammunition in luggage to extort money from travelers.
The scheme, commonly referred to as a "bullet-in-luggage" scam, or known locally as "tanim bala," has allegedly been reported 30 times between January and November 2015, according to CNN Phillippines.
Manila International Airport Authority says that there have been five alleged cases in the past two weeks.
"This is becoming an international embarrassment," said Sherwin Gatchalian, a member of the tourism committee in the House of Representatives, BBC News reported. He warned that the offenders were "not afraid to prey on foreigners."
Others, such as Transport Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, are less worried about the scam, saying it's been "blown out of proportion," though he later confirmed that cases had been filed against security officers over two extortion attempts.
"A single case of any passenger... charged or victimised by planting (bullets) is unjust... it merits full government attention," Abaya told reporters.
Presidential Spokesperson Herminio Coloma Jr. insists that there isn't a larger conspiracy at play and that the cases are isolated.
Reports of these allegations have caught the attention of officials abroad and have even prompted the United Nations to warn its staff of the potential dangers and the Philippine government to install extra security cameras at Manila's airport terminals, according to AFP.
News of this scam comes at a bad time for the Philippine government, as the country prepares to host U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders for the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit on Nov. 18-19.