By Argyll Cyrus Geducos, Ben Rosario, and Vanne Elaine Terrazola
The Philippine government will seek more than an apology from XiamenAir for the inconvenience it has caused to incoming and outgoing passengers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) over the weekend, Malacañang said Monday.
In a press briefing, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, who was also inconvenienced by the incident, said that more than an apology, there should also be liability for the incident which forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights over the weekend.
“It’s not just an apology that we will ask for. We’re now conducting an investigation if there’s any liability on the part of the Xiamen pilot. That’s why he has been asked not to leave the country. That’s part of an ongoing investigation,” he said.
“Hindi po dapat makalusot nang wala man lang apology pero tingin ko (We should not let this pass without getting even an apology but I think), it’s more than an apology because we’re now investigating if there’s any kind of liability that we can attribute to the pilot,” he added.
“I think all sorts of liability. I’m not actually an authority on aviation law so I wouldn’t know but it can’t be any different from the laws on court, and it can’t be different from the laws on our criminal laws on reckless imprudence resulting to damages,” he continued.
Roque said Philippine aviation authorities are now looking into the matter and will take actions against the XiamenAir pilot.
“So, I think they’re looking into it and they will conclude the report, and will take the necessary action against the pilot of the XiamenAir,” he said.
Meanwhile, Roque said that Philippine airport authorities should have better contingencies to avoid crowding a large volume of people in airports.
Roque made the comment after senators and congressmen called for a probe on the mishap.
Roque, who had a 10-hour delayed flight from Davao to Manila last Friday, said that flights should have been cancelled earlier so people would not have to be inconvenienced.
“Perhaps, we should look into contingencies. Kasi parang – kaya naman nagkagulo, ang daming flights na dapat siguro kinansel na pero pinaantay pa rin ang mga pasahero (There was disorder because flights should have been cancelled instead of keeping people waiting),” he said.
Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo called for the filing of administrative and civil cases against officials responsible for the slow action on the NAIA runway incident that caused massive flight delays.
Castelo, chairman of the House Committee on Metro Manila Development, blamed airport authorities for failing to have the foresight of putting up measures that would have allowed immediate response to accidents that may cause closure of the runway.
“We cannot just be an international embarrassment in the face of the world,” Castelo said.
Like Castelo, The House Committee Transportation chairman and Catanduanes Rep. Cesar Sarmiento chided NAIA and civil aeronautics authorities of lacking the foresight to address a situation that may likely to happen.
Senate, House probe
With the chaotic incident, both the Senate and the House of Representatives called for an investigation.
Senator Grace Poe, Senate Committee on Public Services chairperson, formally filed on Monday Senate Resolution 852 for a full-blown investigation, in aid of legislation, on what she described as the “broken” system of airport and aviation regulations gleaned from the XiamenAir flight MF8667 mishap.
The House Committee Transportation scheduled on September 5 the start of its own inquiry into the temporary closure of the NAIA runway after the XiamenAirincident.
Poe said the upcoming Senate probe seeks to review the country’s airport operations and management, particularly in responding to emergency situations such as what happened at the NAIA when the XiamenAir jet skidded on that fateful evening of August 16.
It would assess the impact of the incident, especially the flight cancellations, on income and opportunities, tourism, trade, and the economy, as well as human resources.
In filing Senate Resolution 852, Poe stressed the “central role” of aviation in tourism, employment and economic activities. She said an efficient airport system, including the “swift” response to emergency situation, should already be in place.
Poe said the “slow action” of authorities on the runway accident, however, only showed inefficiency and lack of compassion. The incident, she said, countered the government’s “quest for good public services.”
Deputy Speaker and Surigaodel Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay called on government to tap immediately the Clark Air Base airport in Pampanga as the new international air hub in the country.
“We really have to transfer international airport to Clark which has two runways,” said Pichay who noted that the NAIA has only one runway for international flights.
On the other hand, Senator Richard J. Gordon said the latest incident at the NAIA merely drove home the need to hasten the reopening of the Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA).
“Airports are the country’s doorway to tourism, trade, and investment. Thus, when flights are delayed or cancelled, it incurs cost, not only to passengers who are stressed and inconvenienced because they miss their work, classes or other appointments, but also to the airlines and companies doing trade and commerce,” Gordon said.
Meanwhile, Roque said improvements are underway to prevent such inconvenience from happening in the future.
According to Roque, plans for a new runway and new terminal building for the NAIA were already endorsed by the depart,ent of Transportation (DOTr) to the Investment Coordination Committee (ICC).
While improvement in the NAIA serve as immediate solution, Roque said the improvement of the Clark International Airport is also seen as a medium-term solution. The proposed Bulacan International Airport, on the other hand, is the long-term solution. (With a report from Mario B. Casayuran)