Gov’t conducts probe on Xiamen Airline pilot’s possible liability

MANILA — Malacañang on Monday said the government is conducting an investigation on the possible liability of the pilot of Xiamen Air jet which got stuck in a Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) runway on Thursday night, leaving thousands of travelers stranded after several flights were canceled.

In a Palace briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the government is currently looking into the incident as an apology from the Chinese airline will not suffice.

“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,” Roque said.

Roque was not privy on what sort of liability but noted that it should not be any different from criminal laws on reckless imprudence resulting to damages.

The runway has already reopened on Saturday morning since clearing operations were hampered by bad weather.

Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade earlier apologized for the inconvenience caused by the incident, describing it as an “eye-opener.”

Senator Grace Poe earlier called for a probe into why it took 36 hours for airport authorities to remove the stalled airplane.

Earlier, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) barred the pilot from leaving the country as part of the agency’s investigation to determine if the incident was “force majeure” or “due to pilot error” since it was his second attempt to land.

Roque said he himself was among those stranded in Davao while waiting for his flight to Manila to push through.

Isa po ako doon (I was one of them). My flight was at 9…but I ended up boarding my flight at 3:30, and got to Manila even later because we sat in the plane doing nothing. So I have the delay of about 10 hours,” Roque said.

Roque said although he was not in a position to judge airport authorities for their failure to resolve the problem at once, it was worthy to look into contingencies.

“I’m not in a position to judge the airport authorities; because I myself was stuck in Davao. I’m sure no one wanted it. Pero (But) perhaps, we should look into contingencies,” Roque said, noting that flights should have been canceled earlier instead of making passengers wait for long hours.

Kung talagang may mga delays, eh dapat siguro the (If there are delays, perhaps) airlines and the airport authorities should already decide to cancel flights. But of course, we welcome any form of investigation,” he added.

He emphasized that Tugade has already apologized and described the incident as a chance to learn from experience.

NAIA upgrades

Roque, meanwhile, bared that upgrades of NAIA’s airport facilities have already been endorsed by the DOTr and have been received by the National Economic and Development Authority’s (NEDA) Investment Coordination Committee (ICC).

“As far as the proposal of the consortium of seven is concerned which is the upgrading of NAIA to include a new terminal building and a new runway, it has been endorsed by DOTr and it has been received by the ICC,” Roque said.

Moreover, he said the proposal for the airport in Bulacan province is being finalized.

“As far as Bulacan is concerned, all approvals have been given except that there are still documentations to be finalized with DOTr. And some of the documentation that still have to be finalized include the concession agreement,” Roque said.

“According to (NEDA) Secretary (Ernesto) Pernia, it should have been a go already ‘no, because it should have been three months from the time that the ICC-NEDA approved the proposal for the Bulacan Airport,” he added.

Roque added that the government is working on an “immediate solution” to NAIA’s problems by adding a runway and terminal building.

Ang immediate solution, dahil inindorso naman po ng DOTr, iyong panandaliang immediate improvement ng NAIA 1, 2 and 3 sa pamamagitan ng additional runway and additional terminal building (The immediate solution, because it has been endorsed by the DOTr, is the immediate improvement of NAIA 1, 2 and 3 by means of additional runway and additional terminal building),” Roque said.

“Ang medium term solution, iyong pagpapalawig po ng Clark para mag-augment sa NAIA. At ang long term solution, iyong bagong airport po sa Bulacan (The medium term solution,