Senator: Uncoordinated flights added to chaos at NAIA

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(File photo)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 23) — A senator says the chaos at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) happened because the entire situation was mismanaged.

Sixty-one uncoordinated recovery flights were mounted, Senator Nancy Binay said, but at least one concerned agency was not properly informed of this situation.

In an interview with CNN Philippines' On the Record Thursday, Binay said, "Apparently they informed CAAP (Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines) that they'll be landing, but MIAA (Manila International Airport Authority) was not informed of those 61 flights," she said.

Binay said this ahead of a Senate hearing on the runway mishap scheduled on August 29.

"Maybe this is one aspect that needs to be reviewed about the protocols when it comes to coordination with inter-agencies in government," she added.

In a statement released Wednesday, Binay said these uncoordinated flights worsened the situation at NAIA Terminal 1 and posed an added security risk to the country.

"Highly suspicious at anomalous ang malusutan tayo ng ganun karami [rules were not followed] in front of our very noses. Yes, we expect a certain amount of chaos during these kinds of extraordinary and emergency situations, and everyone expects that airport and airline personnel are well-trained to handle ang mga kasong ganito [these cases], pero ang malusutan na lang tayo eh ibang usapan na yun [bypassing our rules is another issue]. Obviously, these factors are the perfect recipes for any individual who has a criminal mind," she said in the statement.

Binay revealed the information about the uncoordinated flights came from MIAA General Manager Ed Monreal.

"Maybe Xiamen Airlines just coordinated with CAAP and not with MIAA. We need to review the protocol. How come they can only coordinate with just one agency and not the other agency, and then they get to land?" she said.

Binay said the country may not be ready for a worst-case scenario, and what happened was a "wake-up call."

Binay said she found the explanation regarding the removal of the plan "acceptable," but what she found unacceptable was the way people were managed at the airport.

"If Secretary Tugade went to the airport and did all the coordinating, maybe things could have been different," she said.

As far as accountability goes, Binay said, "I think Xiamen has to shoulder more than the P50 million that was mentioned by GM Monreal. Maybe Xiamen should reimburse the other airlines."

Meanwhile, the cockpit voice recorder of Xiamen Flight MF8667 was brought to Singapore for decoding on Thursday morning, CAAP Spokesperson Eric Apolonio said, adding it is expected to be decoded in five days.

Apolonio said it was important to decode the contents of the recorder to know the conversation between the pilot and the Manila control tower before and after the incident.

CAAP has not commented on the investigation of the incident.

First time for everything

Ambassador Francis Chua, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chairman Emeritus, also weighed in on what happened at NAIA last week.

He said, "There's a first time for everything. And as far as we remember, we don't have this kind of mishap, luckily. This is the first time. We have to learn from this. And hopefully, next time... We are already well-prepared. We have to give benefit of the doubt."

As for who should be accountable, Chua said at the end of the day, it was admitted that the pilot said he could not see the runway.

"The issue here is, why is that this pilot could not see the runway? Is the airplane not equipped? Is there not enough provision that the pilot could not see in the rain? Or is this a feature that we have to build in our airport system that even when it rains, the pilot will be able to see clearly?" he said.

Since the Xiamen Airlines pilot admitted error, Chua said, maybe their company should be responsible.

Chua then said he believed Filipino pilots were at the top of their class.

"Let me put it this way: Filipino pilots is so far the best in the whole world...I don't believe that any other would be as better as the Filipino pilot. And we are so used to the big rain, big storm, big everything," he said.

Chua also added the country must look forward and explore alternatives to NAIA.

"Ideally, if we have enough space in Metro Manila, expansion of NAIA would be a very good project. But unfortunately, the land is already too limited," he said.

If there is no parallel runway, accidents are bound to happen, he said.

A proposed airport project in Bulacan has four runways, which could be expanded to six, he said, adding, "You would be building for the future."

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CNN Philippines' Xianne Arcangel contributed to this report.