Senators bat for airport upgrades after NAIA runway mess


Posted at Aug 19 2018 12:56 PM | Updated as of Sep 15 2019 02:16 PM

Workers try to remove a Xiamen Air Boeing 737-800 from the tarmac after it skidded off at the runway of Ninoy Aquino International Airport Friday. Erik De Castro, Reuters

MANILA - At least 2 senators on Sunday called for an upgrade of air transportation facilities across the country after a runway closure at the main airport led to the disruption of hundreds of flights.

The main runway at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) was blocked late Thursday by a Chinese plane that ripped off its left engine during a bumpy landing.

Authorities reopened the runway on Saturday noon, but "excessive delays" continued to force flight cancellations the next day, stranding thousands of travelers, including overseas workers.

The runway mess is "a signal for a new airport to be built," said Senator JV Ejercito.

"The single international runway will not really work anymore. Government has to decide now where to build," he added.

Pending the construction of a new airport, the government can opt for a twin airport system between Clark International Airport and NAIA, just like Haneda and Narita in Tokyo, he suggested.

The lawmaker also urged the government to fast track the construction of a Philippine National Railways line to the Clark International Airport and its P12-billion terminal building.

The new terminal is expected to be operational in June 2020. It can accommodate 8 million to 10 million passengers every year, said Clark airport president and CEO Alexander Cauguiran.
The airport currently accommodates only around 3 international flights every week, he said.

Twenty-four flights were diverted to the Clark airport during the closure of NAIA's runway, the official added.

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Senator Win Gatchalian, meanwhile, said the government needs to build better airports and more runways to keep up with the steadily rising air traffic.

"The closure of NAIA due to the Xiamen Air incident underscores the importance of immediately upgrading Manila’s air transportation infrastructure," he said in a statement.

"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," he added.

He urged the Senate to adopt his resolution seeking a legislative inquiry into the status of Metro Manila airports.

A separate investigation into the latest runway closure is underway. Airport officials said they were looking at several factors, including bad weather on Thursday night and communications between the pilot and control tower.