House panel to probe NAIA runway mess

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The House committee on transportation is set to investigate the temporary closure of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) runway, which led to flight delays and cancellations that left thousands of passengers stranded.

Catanduanes Representative Cesar Sarmiento, House panel chairman, filed on Thursday, August 23 House Resolution No. 2089 formally directing his committee to conduct the investigation in aid of legislation.

"The schedule I set is on September 5," Sarmiento told Rappler in Filipino on Monday, August 20.

On August 16, Xiamen Air flight MF8667 skidded off the NAIA runway amid a heavy downpour. The runway was then temporarily closed until almost midday of August 18, and hundreds of flights were delayed or canceled.

Thousands of passengers were stranded at NAIA for hours, with some even spending more than a day waiting for their rescheduled flights. (LOOK: Thousands stranded due to NAIA runway closure)

According to Sarmiento, NAIA authorities lacked the foresight to prepare for such an incident. 

"This could have been anticipated by airport authorities.... When that happened, their response should be very quick in order to avoid inconvenience that would affect the landing and takeoff of airlines, right?" said the lawmaker.

"But what happened was that there was no immediate response. These are things that we have to find out in the conduct of our investigation because the incidence cascaded into different problems that led to chaos," added Sarmiento.

He argued the NAIA mishap possibly affected deadlines that several passengers were trying to beat and may spell negative effects for the tourism sector as well. 

Sarmiento suggested that NAIA management buy a lifter or crane that they can use should another airplane skid off the runway.

He said lawmakers would also ask airport authorities to specify what other equipment or other forms of assistance they would need during budget deliberations.

In a separate press conference, Quezon City 2nd District Representative Winston Castelo said "heads will roll" after the NAIA runway incident. 

"We cannot just be an international embarrassment in the face of the world. The one running the airport should be held administratively, if not criminally [liable for what happened]. There should be an investigation [into] this matter," he said.

Surigao del Sur 1st District Representative Prospero Pichay Jr also suggested that international flights be transferred instead to the Clark International Airport. He believes it would be able to efficiently handle these flights compared to NAIA.

On Monday, Senator Grace Poe also filed a resolution calling for a probe into the NAIA runway mishap. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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