Tugade apologizes for NAIA runway closure, vows improvements
MANILA, Philippines – In front of local airline executives and business leaders, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade on Tuesday night, July 19, asked for forgiveness and took full responsibility for the inconvenience brought by the closure of a Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) runway, which caused delayed and cancelled flights as well as inconvenienced passengers.
"Please accept my apologies for those things we didn't expect to happen. To the public, I'm sorry. I'm sorry to the President [Rodrigo Duterte] because it happened during my 19 days of watch. I'm assuming 100% responsibility because it happened during my watch," Tugade said before the World Trade Center Networking Forum and Cocktails in Pasay City.
Tugade on NAIA runway closure: "I want all runways examined. I promise, my friends, this won't happen again." pic.twitter.com/s6HFJZBdPz— Chrisee V. Dela Paz (@chriseedelapaz) July 19, 2016
On Monday, July 18, a NAIA runway was temporarily closed for the repair of a 5-inch deep crack on the asphalt overlay, leading to 28 flight diversions and at least 40 cancelled flights.
Hundreds of affected passengers aired their frustration on social media, with some complaining that they waited more than 8 hours to be served food. (READ: Frustration, anger over NAIA runway closure)
"This is an event that no one wants to happen. We needed to give it our attention. I don't want to put at risk the safety of aircraft. I don't want to put at risk the safety of passengers," the transportation chief explained.
‘Overhaul long overdue’
Tugade said the runway, last repaired in 2011, is long due for another overhaul and proper maintenance.
"I want all runways examined. I want all runway repairs and maintenance to be contained in the computer. I want it to be technology dictated so that when it's time to do the asphalt overlay all the technology will just tell and you know it's about time that asphalt overlay is required," he said during the business forum.
The transportation chief said he asked the Civil Aeronautics Board and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines to review the passengers' bill of rights.
"I want to find out whether it is written in that bill of rights how long should a passenger stay inside the aircraft when situations like this happen," Tugade said.
"There is a limitation as to when the airlines can give food because passengers can only tolerate certain moments in time when they are inside an aircraft hungry and sweating because the air conditioning is off," he added.
Tugade also said briefly that his department is studying the feasibility of building a third runway or another passenger terminal at NAIA.
Suffering from congestion, NAIA has been above its handling capacity of 28 million passengers annually. In 2015, passenger arrivals surged to 50,210.
To help decongest the nation's main gateway, Tugade said businessmen Lucio Tan and Lance Gokongwei last week agreed to move their helicopters out of NAIA.
The transportation chief also asked local airline executives present at the forum to transfer all their turboprop aircraft to the Clark International Airport from NAIA. – Rappler.com