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Operations at NAIA return to normal Xiamen incident an eye-opener - DOTr chief.

Operations at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) returned to normal yesterday after a vital runway had been cleared of obstruction and debris from a Xiamen Air passenger aircraft that skidded upon landing Thursday night during bad weather and got stuck in a muddy field nearby.

Thousands of departing passengers crowded check-in counters as early as 3 a.m. yesterday to get boarding passes when news of the resumption of airport operations got around. The Xiamen Air flight MF8667 was carrying 157 passengers.

Airlines doubled their personnel to accommodate the surge of departing stranded passengers, many of whom had to book at nearby hotels. Some had to stay at the VIP lounge of airlines.

The 43-ton aircraft was removed at around 2:50 a.m. yesterday from a grassy field next to runway 6-24 using two powerful mobile cranes, reports said.

Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) general manager Ed Monreal and Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) director general Capt. Jim Sydiongco said the runway had to be cleared also of equipment used for removing the plane.

MIAA and CAAP are investigating the incident. 'We have to account all the charges involved. Discussion will come probably next week,' Monreal said.

More than 150 international and domestic flights were canceled and more than 17 international flights were diverted to Clark and Cebu International Airports last Friday alone.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said the accident - which paralyzed NAIA operations for 36 hours - was an 'eye-opener' that should encourage the government and airlines to improve procedures.

'I am saddened by the inconveniences and consequences brought about by the incident involving Xiamen Air. It is a regrettable experience, which is not of our own liking, nor of our own making,' Tugade said.

'This incident served as an eye-opener - a reminder for us to take a second look at the processes, procedures and protocols of concerned agencies, as well as airlines, so that we may all improve in the future,' he added.

Tugade said his department as well as the MIAA and the CAAP had done their 'very best' to address the situation.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said the accident and the resulting massive disruption of airport operations should prompt authorities to immediately find ways to ease congestion at the NAIA.

Recto said the incident had also shown authorities' slow response to disasters as well as the urgent need to open more runways. He said the more than 24-hour period that it took the authorities to clear up the runway was unacceptable.

More runways or new airport?

In an interview over dwIZ, Recto said the government should make up its mind whether it wants to construct another runway at NAIA or just develop other airports to serve international flights. Bulacan or Pampanga - especially the existing Clark Airport in Angeles City - can be host to a principal international airport.

Sen. Grace Poe, chairperson of the Senate committee on public services, expressed disappointment at how a mishap had paralyzed entire airport operations for more than 24 hours.

'Many hours after the mishap, the airplane is still stuck in our runway. No flight can land or take off. Meanwhile, our passengers are stranded in our airport,' Poe said.

'We call on the MIAA and the DOTr to resolve this problem at the soonest possible time. We ask them: what is our contingency plan for occurrences such as this? Do we have the necessary equipment to tow airplanes? We are losing not only economic opportunities because of this stoppage in operations, but more so our face in the international community,' she added.

Before the government should even undertake any effective tourism campaign, Poe said it should first address these problems affecting the airports.

Sen. Loren Legarda said incompetence and inefficiency were evident in the way authorities run the airport terminal.

Legarda said that she expects the MIAA to do better and that it should 'shape up' because air transport is very important.

For Makati City Rep. Luis Campos Jr., the NAIA accident highlighted the importance of developing the Clark airport in Angeles City.

'We are all for the continuous upgrading and expansion of Clark so that it can easily accommodate a greater number of international as well as domestic flights. We really have to build up Clark to decongest NAIA, which is bursting at the seams in terms of aircraft and passenger traffic,' he said.

He said the DOTr is spending P2.74 billion this year to further modernize Clark.

'In fact, Clark already has an instrument landing system (ILS) that makes it possible for the primary runway to handle flights after 6 p.m.,' he added.

Campos pointed out that the ILS enables pilots to conduct a fully automated or instrument approach to landing if they are unable to establish visual contact with the runway at night or during poor weather conditions.

Scores of international flights were diverted to Clark after a Xiamen Air jet had a 'runway excursion' at the NAIA.

Some 230 international and domestic flights were cancelled, delayed or redirected on Friday alone.

For almost 36 hours, the NAIA's primary runway for twin-aisle aircraft was shut down, leaving the country's busiest airport operating only with the secondary runway for single-aisle planes.

Exasperated passengers said they could not understand why it took that long for the authorities to remove the Chinese plane and resume normal operations at NAIA.
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Publication:Philippines Star (Manila, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Aug 19, 2018
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