Con­se­quences of Duterte’s planned daily flights at Naia

Business Mirror - - FRONT PAGE - By Recto Mercene @rec­tomercene

THE Busi­nessMir­ror sought the ideas of avi­a­tion ex­perts on what to ex­pect at the al­ready-con­gested Ni­noy Aquino In­ter­na­tional Air­port (Naia), where de­layed flights are the norm, once in­com­ing Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo R. Duterte starts his daily com­mute by com­mer­cial flight from Davao City to Manila and back. Based on what they said, air trav­el­ers must suf­fer the con­se­quences of de­lays, among others, when all air­port ac­tiv­i­ties are tem­po­rar­ily sus­pended ev­ery time he flies.

IN­COM­ING Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo R. Duterte said he would hop on com­mer­cial flights be­tween Davao and Manila as a way to demon­strate his propoor agenda.

Duterte’s plan to scrimp on peo­ple’s money is in line with his di­rec­tive that no Cab­i­net mem­ber should use ex­pen­sive sport-util­ity ve­hi­cles and they should book on econ­omy class when they travel.

Se­cu­rity ex­perts, how­ever, said Duterte’s plan to com­mute daily from Davao City to Manila and back is risky.

The Busi­nessMir­ror asked ex­perts to com­ment on Duterte’s plan of tak­ing daily flights. The Civil Avi­a­tion Au­thor­ity of the Philip­pines (Caap) said nor­mally, the pres­ence of the Chief Ex­ec­u­tive in an air­plane would au­to­mat­i­cally alert air- traf­fic con­trollers to de­clare a quasi- emer­gency. This is a pro­ce­dure where air­port op­er­a­tions go into “freeze mode” for a while, for se­cu­rity reasons.

“The mo­ment the Pres­i­dent steps into the air­plane and taxi out in prepa­ra­tion for take­off, all air­port ac­tiv­i­ties are tem­po­rar­ily sus­pended,” Caap Deputy Di­rec­tor Gen­eral Ro­dante S. Joya. “Other air­planes tak­ing off and land­ing are told to stay at the tar­mac un­til the Pres­i­dent’s air­plane has gone 20 miles away.”

On the other hand, if the Pres­i­dent is ar­riv­ing, all air­craft op­er­a­tions are also sus­pended while the Chief Ex­ec­u­tive’s air­plane is 20 miles away un­til he steps out of the air­craft,” Joya added.

He said this is true if the Pres­i­dent is rid­ing an of­fi­cially des­ig­nated air­craft, which is rec­og­niz­able to air con­trollers, be­cause it car­ries a code. Joya, how­ever, said he does not know what pro­to­col will ap­ply should Duterte use com­mer­cial air­lines.

Pres­i­dent Aquino’s air­plane is known to air con­trollers as “Kalayaan One”, and “Air Force One” when he goes abroad, in the same man­ner that Amer­i­can Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s flights are also called “Air Force One.”

“The idea of des­ig­nat­ing spe­cific mil­i­tary air­craft to trans­port the Pres­i­dent arose in 1943, when officials of the United States Army Air Forces, the pre­de­ces­sor to the US Air Force, be­came con­cerned with re­ly­ing on com­mer­cial air­lines to trans­port the pres­i­dent,” Wikipedia said.

“If such is the case, there would be a f lurry of quasi- emer­gen­cies be­ing de­clared, not only at the Ni­noy Aquino In­ter­na­tional Air­port ( Naia) but also at Davao Air­port,” Naia ramp con­troller Al­ger Ramo said.

A vet­eran air- traf­fic con­troller and pi­lot, Ramo said han­dling pres­i­den­tial flights are based on es­tab­lished pro­to­col.

“The life of a pres­i­dent is al­ways at risk and th­ese pro­to­cols are made so that ev­ery­one con­cerned, or any­body with any link to pres­i­den­tial flights knew in ad­vance what they are sup­posed to do,” he said.

He cited one in­ci­dent of quasiemer­gency oc­curred dur­ing Pres­i­dent Glo­ria Ma­ca­pa­gal- Ar­royo’s term. She was aboard a small pri­vate jet go­ing to Davao to at­tend a wed­ding and the air con­trollers shut down air­port op­er­a­tions un­til she could take off.

Gulf Air hap­pens to be ar­riv­ing at about the same time that Ar­royo’s plane was tak­ing off. Air con­trollers told the Mid­dle East­ern car­rier to di­vert to Clark In­ter­na­tional Air­port in­stead of flying around in cir­cles over Manila for the next 20 min­utes, since Clark is only 15 min­utes away.

Gul f Air al leg­edly filed a com­plaint against the then Air Trans­porta­tion Of­fice ( ATO) for di­vert­ing its in­com­ing f light af­ter it was de­layed three hours at Clark. A num­ber of Filipino pas­sen­gers re­port­edly com­plained that the diversion made them miss their con­nect­ing f lights to their home provinces.

“Th­ese are es­tab­lished pro­to­cols,” Joya said of the quasiemer­gency, adding that nor­mally the Caap would co­or­di­nate with the Pres­i­den­tial Se­cu­rity Guard ( PSG), the Manila In­ter­na­tional Air­port Au­thor­ity ( Miaa), the Avi­a­tion Se­cu­rity Group ( ASG), Of­fice for Trans­port Se­cu­rity (OTS) and all others.

“It takes plenty of plan­ning and co­or­di­na­tion to han­dle a pres­i­den­tial flight, but th­ese are done in ad­vance and we don’t even know if we would still be here at the Caap when Pres­i­dent- elect Duterte takes over,” Joya said.

“Birds are not even sup­posed to fly dur­ing quasi- emer­gen­cies,” he joked to in­ject mean­ing to the pro­to­col. One avi­a­tion ex­pert who re­fused to be iden­ti­fied be­cause he is not al­lowed to speak on the is­sue said that, when it comes to se­cu­rity, not all of the Pres­i­dent’s di­rec­tives are fol­lowed.

“He might not even know about it, but when Pres­i­dent Duterte boards com­mer­cial flights, there would prob­a­bly be sev­eral se­cu­rity men and women aboard with­out him know­ing about it.”

The head of the Na­tional Po­liceAvi­a­tion Se­cu­rity Group ( Avsegroup), C/Supt. Francisco Bal­ag­tas, said that, although the pri­mary role of pro­tect­ing the Pres­i­dent at any air­port be­longs to the PSG, his group pro­vides ad­di­tional se­cu­rity to the Pres­i­dent.

“We co­or­di­nate with the PSG, but of course, once we knew in ad­vance which flight the Pres­i­dent is tak­ing, there would be stricter bag­gage in­spec­tion, body- frisk­ing and high vis­i­bil­ity of uni­formed, armed men around the air­port and all the way to the 90- hectare perime­ter of the Naia.”

He said nor­mally, the ar­rival of the Pres­i­dent at the Naia would trig­ger the sta­tion­ing of more heav­ily armed guards at var­i­ous gates, more bomb-sniff­ing dogs are fielded, closed- cir­cuit tele­vi­sion are manned, while he­li­copters would be flying above.

He added that even fire­fight­ers are ac­ti­vated and their ve­hi­cles roam the run­way for any de­bris that could be sucked by the en­gines.

“Th­ese and many more com­pose the se­cu­rity blan­ket that shel­ters the Chief Ex­ec­u­tive when­ever he goes,” Bal­ag­tas added.

He said the Avsegroup has yet to have a meet­ing with the PSG and other agen­cies to dis­cuss how the se­cu­rity pre­cau­tions would be viewed if Duterte make true his vow to com­mute.

Bal­ag­tas said he is not sure whether the same se­cu­rity pre­cau­tions that ap­plies to pri­vate planes that Duterte would use, would also ap­ply to com­mer­cial flights.

Miaa Spokesman David de Cas­tro said: “As it is, there are no con­crete plans yet for the Pres­i­dent- elect’s com­mute. The Miaa awaits proper co­or­di­na­tion with the team of the in­com­ing Pres­i­dent for any spe­cial ar­range­ment should daily f lights be the case.”

“Need­less to say, the Naia is al­ways ready to ac­com­mo­date Mr. Duterte as with all pre­vi­ous pres­i­dents,” he said.

Philip­pine Air­lines ( PAL) said: “The car­ri­ers have a set of proto- cols on pres­i­den­tial flights to any for­eign des­ti­na­tion, such as se­lec­tion of pi­lots, cabin crew and in­flight meals.”

“Our cabin crews are trained to pro­vide in­flight ser­vice that re­flects the PAL brand phi­los­o­phy— heart of the Filipino,” Spokesman Cielo Vil­laluna said.

“Be­fore each and ev­ery f light, a purser or head cabin at­ten­dant would re­mind the team to pro­vide ser­vice com­pe­tence to ad­dress the needs of pas­sen­gers. That is what the in­com­ing Pres­i­dent can ex­pect.”

She added that start­ing June 1, PAL has up­graded one of its Manila- Davao- Manila f lights, from a 199- seater Air­bus A321 to a 414- seater Air­bus A330.

“The use of big air­craft is in an­tic­i­pa­tion of in­creased traf­fic be­tween Manila and Davao,” she said.

PAL op­er­ates eight flights a day be­tween Manila and Davao. The legacy car­rier also flies three times a day to Mac­tan- Cebu In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

Mean­while, Duterte said at his thanks­giv­ing party that “all mining com­pa­nies have to stop mining in Min­danao.” The grand party was held at the sprawl­ing grounds of the in­land re­sort Davao Croc­o­dile Park at Maa dis­trict in Davao City.

“Mining peo­ple must shape up... Ting­nan ninyo ang Suri­gao, puro bu­tas na. You have to stop spoil­ing the land, you’re de­stroy­ing Min­danao,” he said in his talk dur­ing his “One Love, One Na­tion” thanks­giv­ing party at­tended by more than 300,000 sup­port­ers.

He said the de­struc­tion of Min­danao and dis­lo­ca­tion of its peo­ple, in­clud­ing the Moro peo­ple, “has to change.”

For Duterte, Min­danao’s min­eral re­sources must first be en­joyed by peo­ple from Min­danao, like the “coops of Filipinos dig­ging out there, and I’ll just give in­struc­tions how not to spoil the land, una muna ang taga Min­danao.”

“There’s a big prob­lem of mining com­pa­nies. They’re de­stroy­ing our coun­try. You have to force the mil­i­tary and the po­lice to en­force,” he said, re­fer­ring to the mining laws that are more of­ten en­forced in the breach.

The mo­ment the Pres­i­dent steps into the air­plane and taxi out in prepa­ra­tion for take­off, all air­port ac­tiv­i­ties are tem­po­rar­ily sus­pended. Other air­planes tak­ing off and land­ing are told to stay at the tar­mac un­til the Pres­i­dent’s air­plane has gone 20 miles away.” —Joya

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