By Benjie Lim Vergara
MANILA International Airport Authority General Manager Ed Monreal said the Ninoy Aquino International Airport needs to have two parallel runways so as not to repeat the recent flight disruptions suffered by the country’s premier airport when a Boeing B737-800 of Xiamen Airlines crash landed and blocked the airport’s main runway.
“The best basic solution is to construct an airport with at least two parallel runways. Pero dapat malayo ang agwat nitong dalawang runway (but there must be minimum distance or there would be enough space between the two parallel runways), we have to consider the safety. If there’s an accident like this one affecting the main runway, there will be another or alternate (similar) runway we can use,” Monreal, during a recent press conference, told reporters after being asked about the improvements that could be made at the airport.
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) in 2014 has pushed for the construction of a parallel runway at the NAIA in a bid to ease congestion at the airport.
Former CAAP deputy director general Capt. John Andrews said the construction of the parallel runway at NAIA could increase the airport’s capacity from 40 to about 60 aircraft movements per hour, and would be constructed south of the existing runway 08/24 with the 400-hectare NAIA complex.
NAIA was built in 1981 with two intersecting runways – the primary runway 06/24 and secondary runway 13/31. To limit aircraft movements at 40 slot per hour, the CAAP transferred the general aviation flights to the Sangley Airport in Cavite.
However, the plan of NAIA runway improvements did not push through.
Several flights including PAL, Cebu Pacific and other airlines have been canceled, diverted and delayed after the Xiamen Airlines plane got plane stuck on the mud after it swerved off the runway upon landing at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on the night of August 16.
“The week-end closure of the Philippine capital’s main airport due to a stalled Xiamen Airlines jet was an ‘eye-opener’ for authorities to improve protocols,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said in a television interview on Wednesday.
Romulo-Puyat said the country is “on track” to meet its tourist arrival targets due to the recent upgrade of air terminals, including the New Mactan-Cebu Airport. The Philippines is aiming for 7.4 million visitors this year and 12 million in 2022.
“We need to improve the procedures and protocols and processes. This is actually an eye-opener,” Romulo said, adding she was “quite surprised” that tourist arrivals were increasing despite the six-month closure of Boracay.
“We didn’t want this to happen, but it happened. We are supporting (Transportation) Secretary (Arthur) Tugade so this does not happen again,” she said about the airport accident.
DOTr Secretary Tugade, meanwhile, agreed with Romulo-Puyat noting that the accident is also a reminder for the authorities to revisit the Air Passengers Bill of Rights, review the intervention protocols between the airlines and the airport authorities, recast our equipment inventory and enhance the training modules we do at the airport in cases of emergencies.”
Tugade added that he is aggressively pushing for the implementation of DOTr aviation road map, which can be summarized into the following:
1. Improve the facilities and structures of existing gateways, such as in NAIA terminals 1, 2, 3, and 4;
2. Construct/establish other primary gateways (e.g. Bulaan and Sangley), which is now being prioritized;
3. Develop/improve/construct various regional/provincial airports (e.g. have all commercial airports night-rated, new airports have been given a face lift such as Puerto Princesa, Cebu, Tuguegarao, San Vicente, etc.; construction of new airports such as in Panglao and Bicol are ongoing, while construction of Bukidnon airport shall start before the end of this year); and,
4. Establish air traffic control and management systems (We have already completed the CNS/ATM facility, which added 10 more air traffic radars from the existing 3 radars we had when we assumed office).
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