Two weeks ago this August was one of the most debilitating periods of operation for the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). It began with an aircraft landing mishap that left a Xiamen Airlines flight from China damaged and on the grass next to a runway following a failed landing. Stalled efforts to remove the plane during rainy weather led to an airport closure – extended multiple times over two days – that led to mass flight cancellations before airline time tables were normalized almost a week later. With inquiries ongoing and blame being thrown about, the Transportation Secretary made apologies and explanations.
ABS-CBN News reports that Secretary Arthur Tugade of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) stated that the Xiamen Airlines flight mishap and the resulting NAIA shutdown was an accident. During a Senate hearing held today, August 29, Tudage reiterated that airport authorities did their best to remove the Boeing 737 jetliner of Xiamen from the side of the main runway in the shortest possible time, only to be bogged down by heavy rains. The slow retrieval ruined numerous airport timetables and stranded upwards to ten thousand passengers and more, not just in NAIA but in other major airports in the country.
“I am deeply sorry for the inconveniences caused by the incident,” said Tugade. “I apologize to all our kababayans who were looking forward to a fun holiday. I apologize to our OFWs who missed their flights.” The secretary is aware that many of the affected outgoing passengers were Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) trying to make it back to their employers on allotted dates, and that they now risked being laid off or put in jail for breach of contract. Added Secretary Tugade, “We are not here to justify what happened. We are here to say that these things do happen. It was an accident no one wanted and we responded as fast as we could. We tried to minimize the inconveniences the way we could.”
On the part of Xiamen Airlines, whose aircraft was the cause of the whole mess, the Chinese company has offered its “sincerest apologies” to the Manila International Airport Authority, according to its General Manager Ed Monreal. They have also given the statement of the Chinese pilot of the skidded plane, who also blames the rains at the time for the accident. The Xiamen flight passed on its initial landing attempt at the NAIA main runway due to the inclement weather, and was on its second attempt when the accident occurred.
Image courtesy of Channel NewsAsia