By Daniel Llanto | FilAm Star Correspondent
The crash-landing of a Xiamen Air Boeing 737-800 at the runway of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) that paralyzed operations makes NAIA the worst airport in the world again, Sen. Grace Poe said.
For this “jolting wake-up call,” Poe filed Senate Resolution No. 852 seeking a full-blown investigation on the latest airport incident that affected thousands of passengers although no one was hurt among the Xiamen Air passengers.
Poe, who chairs the Senate committee on public services, said her panel will conduct an inquiry into the operational procedures of airport personnel in responding to such emergency situations. She asked why it took about 36 hours for NAIA officials to remove the Xiamen Air Boeing 737-800 from the runway.
She noted that the accident paralyzed airport operations, affecting tens of thousands of passengers with delayed and canceled flights. Incoming flights were diverted to land at Clark airport.
This incident, Poe added, only showed how the country’s main gateway was “ill- equipped” in handling such crisis.
Xiamen Airlines said it was fully cooperating with Filipino authorities’ investigation on why one of its jets overshot the NAIA runway and paralyzed operations there for nearly two days.
The Xiamen Air Boeing 737 crash-landed at the NAIA runway in the evening of August 16, causing more than 200 flight cancellations and affecting thousands of passengers.
“We are fully cooperating with the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines and the Civil Aviation Administration of China to investigate the cause of the incident,” Xiamen Airlines said in a statement. “Manila International Airport made a lot of efforts to help us settle the passengers and move the aircraft from the runway,” it said.
Local authorities assumed responsibility for removing the stalled aircraft instead of waiting for Xiamen Airlines representatives to speed up the process, Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Ed Monreal said.
Philippine aviation authorities lifted the plane using a 200-ton telescopic crane, placed it on a flatbed, then towed it to a nearby hangar. Airline operators still expect “consequential” delays before operations normalize within the week.
The Chinese carrier also agreed to offer food and water “tokens” to passengers still stranded at the NAIA, said Monreal.
Because of the incident, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III reiterated his call to decongest NAIA. He said Clark International Airport should be developed as another main gateway to service passengers from the north while NAIA caters to those from Southern Luzon.
The development of Clark International Airport should be a core component of the government’s Build, Build, Build program, he said.
In calling for the probe, Poe noted the airport and aviation’s “seeming broken systems of regulations” as shown by the incident. “The slow actions on the issue is something perverse about an absent administration by inefficiency, lack of compassion for citizens and people, and anathema to the country’s quest in good public services, tourism, investments, human resources, and similar sectors,” Poe said in the resolution.
“The incident put a spotlight on the grim situation of our airport terminals even after the airport was opened,” she said.
The Senator cited, among others, the lack of facilities for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and tourists, and the airport being in “chaos” as passengers were stuck inside the terminals while waiting for response from airport officials or airline crew.
“Since NAIA is the Philippines’ gateway to the world, the runway mishap brings a lot of questions: Don’t we have the protocols, needed equipment and manpower to address these kinds of incident? Do we really need at least 36 hours or one and a half days to clear our runways?” she asked.