Senate panel to probe NAIA runway mishap

Camille Elemia
Senate panel to probe NAIA runway mishap
'Bakit inabot ng dalawang araw bago magsimula ulit ang operasyon ng NAIA?.... The public deserves an acceptable explanation,' says Senator Grace Poe

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate committee on public services is set to conduct a probe into the temporary closure of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) runway, which led to the paralysis of the country’s main gateway. (LOOK: Thousands stranded due to NAIA runway closure)

Senator Grace Poe, committee chairperson, is set to file a resolution on Monday, August 20. The hearing would also discuss Senator Sherwin Gatchalian’s Senate Resolution No. 782, which calls for an inquiry into the current status of NAIA and the government’s modernization plans.

Poe said NAIA authorities should explain the standard operating procedures and why it took about 36 hours to remove a Xiamen Air plane after it skidded off the runway last Thursday, August 16.

“This is not the first time that a plane has skidded off the runway and it certainly won’t be the last. Bakit inabot ng dalawang araw bago magsimula ulit ang operasyon ng NAIA? Hindi ba kayang gawin ito nang mas mabilis para hindi gaanong naperwisyo ang libo-libong pasahero (Why did it take two days before NAIA operations resumed? Could it not be done quickly to ease the suffering of thousands of passengers)?” Poe said on Sunday, August 19.

“The public deserves an acceptable explanation. This is important, considering that NAIA remains the primary gateway for foreign tourists into the country. Note, also, that NAIA is operating at overcapacity. It was built to handle some 30 million passengers, but is currently accommodating around 42 million,” Poe pointed out.

Hundreds of domestic and international flights were canceled, while some flights were diverted to other areas such as Clark and Cebu. The incident left thousands of passengers stranded.

“Bakit hinayaang dumami ang tao sa NAIA hanggang napuno ito? Wala ba silang polisiya na abisuhan ang mga customer kapag may ganitong insidente? Kung may free mobile disaster warnings, hindi ba puwede magkaroon, on their own initiative, ng free canceled flight alerts?” Poe said.

(Why did they allow the influx of passengers into NAIA? Didn’t they have any policy to advise customers of such incidents? If there are free mobile disaster warnings, couldn’t they have come up with free canceled flight alerts, on their own initiative?)

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, Manila International Airport Authority General Manager Eddie Monreal, airline executives, and some passengers would be invited to the hearing.

Urgent need

Gatchalian, for his part, said the incident underscores the importance of immediately upgrading the Philippines’ main airport.

“Improving our air transportation infrastructure is critical to fostering economic growth and tourism development. Most importantly, we have to make sure that accidents like this will not be able to paralyze air transportation going to and from the capital city of our country,” Gatchalian said.

Minority Senator Francis Pangilinan called on airport and government officials to immediately resolve the situation, especially for overseas Filipino workers.

“We call on officials of the airport and other related government agencies to help resolve the situation ASAP, particularly for the stranded passengers who are tired, sleepless, and hungry,” Pangilinan said in a statement.

“Special mention for our leaving or arriving overseas Filipino workers who may have to pay for the delay in terms of visa fees, foregone work days, or even canceled job contracts,” he added. – Rappler.com

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com