DOTr hits critics: Recovering an aircraft not as easy as towing car

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 21 2018 01:43 PM | Updated as of Aug 21 2018 09:35 PM

MANILA - The Department of Transportation (DOTr) on Tuesday urged the public to allow authorities to focus on work, amid mounting criticisms on how they handled Xiamen Airlines' runway incident.

A runway at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport was temporarily shut from Thursday to Saturday after a Xiamen Airlines Boeing 737 crash-landed, causing more than 200 flight cancellations.

"Recovering a disabled aircraft is far different from towing a bus or a car," DOTr said in a statement. 

"Allow us to work first so that we can address the problem entirely. Accusing, sowing intrigues and maligning our offices and officials will not help at this time," it added.

Apart from the aircraft's size and weight, authorities had to consider the unused 4 tons of highly combustible fuel that needed extra care to avoid fire or explosion, DOTr said. 

Aviation officials followed protocols in emergency and aircraft recovery but the bad weather and muddy terrain aggravated the situation, it added.

The entire transport department and concerned aviation authorities "labored hard in bayanihan to solve the problem the best they can," DOTr said. 

The 200-ton telescopic crane and its 300-ton counterweight that were used to hoist the plane "took some time to mobilize," Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines Director General Jim Sydiongco told reporters in a press briefing.

Airline operators controlled and managed the services to passengers but all announcements of cancellations and delays were properly "echoed" by DOTr, MIAA, CAB, and CAAP.

"The airlines were there in unison. Others offered to help, but, unfortunately, others opted to curse, accuse and malign," it said.

The DOTr said Secretary Arthur Tugade was also on top of the situation, belying claims that the official was nowhere to be found. 

"Ang pagkakaiba lang ni Sec. Tugade sa iba, hindi siya mahilig magpakuha sa camera habang nagta-trabaho sa mga ganitong uri ng sitwasyon," the statement said. 

(Sec Tugade is unlike other officials who only work when there are cameras rolling.)

The DOTr however acknowledged the incident was an "eye-opener," prompting officials to review the passengers bill of rights and its protocols and emergency response modules.

Authorities were also correct in "aggressively" pushing for improvements in the existing terminals at the NAIA, the construction and improvements of regional airports, and the establishment of air traffic control and management systems, it said. 

The DOTr said the construction and establishment of an alternate primary gateway "is now being prioritized."