Passengers wait to go through a screening area at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Monday, Jan. 4, 2010, in SeaTac, Wash. The names of dozens more people have been added to the government's terrorist watch list and no-fly list after a failed terrorist attack on Christmas prompted U.S. officials to closely scrutinize a large database of suspected terrorists, an intelligence official said. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

PETALING JAYA – Passengers flying out of Malaysia are set to face another burden as they will have to pay about RM35 once the government introduces the Advance Passenger Screening System (APSS).

A source said the government may have to fork out close to RM8 billion over a period of 15 years to an outsourced private company involved in setting up the system.

“The plan is to have the company develop the hardware and software for the APSS and that passengers bear the cost.

“This plan makes no real sense as there are readily-available systems in the world, like the system being used in Australia, which only costs about A$80 million (RM250 million).”

The source said it is important that the company engaged is well-versed in the job, adding that as a prerequisite, companies involved in the exercise must have related experience.

The source pointed out the screening system is aimed at protecting the country from undesirable elements such as terrorists and it is, therefore, a national security issue.

The costs for such systems linked to security is usually borne by the government, but some may charge a nominal fee of US$1 (RM4), the source added.

“But this is not the case here, as airline passengers are being forced to pay for the security system.”

There is also the question of which party would collect the fee, as airport tax goes to Malaysia Airports Berhad and a RM1 levy is channelled to the Malaysian Aviation Commission.

The system will allow the Immigration Department to identify risks posed by passengers flying into the country as passenger information will be provided by the airlines.

“They will be able to check whether a passenger is on the international terror watch-list, and deny entry to such individuals.”

Such systems are already being widely used internationally and provides authorities with adequate time to determine the status of a passenger.

For example, when a flight leaves Tokyo, the authorities here will have about seven hours to check the background of the passengers on the flight.