Xiamen Airlines told to pay the first P15 million

MANILA, Philippines – Xiamen Air may have to pay at least P15 million to the international airport authority of Manila (MIAA) to cover the costs incurred to clean up its plane from the runway of Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) last week.

MIAA CEO Ed Monreal said the P15 million is only the first estimate that Xiamen has to pay.

"I told them during our meeting that this will certainly not be easy, there will be costs involved and I will charge you all costs incurred," said Monreal in an interview on ANC Tuesday.

Monreal said the amount is only a part of what can be a hefty fine in anticipation of the Chinese airline.

"At the moment there are only two aspects that we have calculated in the range of P15 million, but there is still a lot," he said.

Monreal said the P15 million included manpower, as well as the rental costs of the crane and other equipment used to remove the aircraft from the runway.

"We spend about P4 million on the crane we rent to lift the Boeing 737 plane in the muddy, grassy section of the runway," he said.

Landing and take-off fees are also taken into account, said Monreal, as more than 200 flights had been canceled and 17 were diverted during the incident to Clark International Airport and Cebu Airport.

Monreal said that other airlines could submit separate cases against Xiamen Air to recover their own losses as a result of the accident.

The passenger plane, Xiamen Air flight MF8667, slipped off the runway in the evening of August 16 while trying to land during a heavy downpour.

Officials said the pilot decided to turn for a second attempt, but the plane landed hard on runway 06-24 and slipped off the track and got stuck in the mud.

Officials said that NAIA Terminal 1 was most affected by the accident.

The airport terminal was closed for all air traffic after the accident and was reopened on Saturday.

It took around 36 hours to remove the aircraft from the runway because the accident blew airport operations, affecting tens of thousands of passengers from delayed and canceled flights.

"We still have a lot of things to think about, I met the Presidents of Xiamen Airways and they said they will certainly work together," Monreal said.

Monreal said the investigation of the incident is still going on, but he has no idea when it would be completed.

"What I've heard is that they're going to send the flight recorder to Singapore to interpret the data, that's the only facility in the region to have that, it's a special kind of material that they use, I do not know how long it'll take. it will depend on the space available for that request, "said Monreal.

Lawmakers said Xiamen Air had to support its apology with compensation to the Philippine government and airlines for the damage and costs they had incurred in the accident.

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III said that Xiamen Air is covered by insurance that can cover the costs of accidents, such as the incident last Thursday.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the government also had to accept the apology and had to learn and act from the accident.

Sen. Grace Poe, whose public services committee was set up to start an investigation into the accident, sought an immediate determination of Xiamen Air's liability to the government and other parties involved.

"I think that, if they (Xiamen Air) are wrong, they should be able to compensate for all losses, especially financial losses, about 200 flights, but we can not make any policy, remember that other international airlines are flying in the country, "said Poe.

Poe warned, however, that when looking for compensation, the government should not make it appear that it was the Chinese airline's fault, but also "the situation directly."

Poe increased the possibility to invite the pilot of the passenger aircraft for a session in the Senate, if not for representatives of Xiamen Air.

She also got officers from the Department of Transportation (DOTr) for scorning those who criticized them, and said it was clear to everyone that the office was slow in addressing the emergency situation.

Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito said that MIAA should perform regular and frequent exercises and simulations of possible accidents, so that in the future it could respond better to accidents.

Pimentel, on the other hand, advised overseas Filipino workers, who are at risk of losing their jobs abroad due to the incident, to ensure certification and airport and transport authorities "so that their story will be believed by their employers."

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the Philippine embassies and consulates-general abroad had the task, if necessary, to issue declarations to explain the delay in the arrival of Filipino migrant workers.

Eye opener

Officials in the past incident with Xiamen Air agreed with the NAIA that it was an eye-opener & # 39; which exposed the urgent need of the country to rehabilitate the airport and build other international gateways.

Special assistant to President Christopher Go said the incident showed the need for a contingency plan.

"Nobody wanted an accident, which serves as an eye-opener for us," he said.

According to Go, the government is already working on long-term solutions to relieve NAIA, especially by improving the Clark International Airport in Pampanga and developing new ones at Bulacan and Sangley Point in Cavite.

He said that the administration had previously approved the expansion of the NAIA for an amount of P350 billion, divided into two phases.

The first phase includes the improvement and expansion of terminals in the current NAIA land area. The second phase includes the development of an additional runway, taxiways, passenger terminals and associated support infrastructure.

Go said that on April 25, the National Economic and Development Authority also approved a proposal for the construction of an airport in Bulacan. When completed, the proposed Bulacan airport offers 100 million passengers a year.

"So with this we will have more airports to facilitate travel," Go said.

Transport secretary Arthur Tugade also described the accident as an eye-opener for the government to improve and build more airports.

Tugade also emphasized the need to review Air Passenger's Bill of Rights, to review the intervention protocols between airlines and airport authorities, to rearrange the inventory of equipment and to improve training modules at the airport in case of emergency.

Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito said the DOTr would speed up the upgrades of smaller airports in the country's provinces to enable night operations.

He estimated that there are about 20 airports in the country that are suitable for night operations.

Ejercito noted that the DOTr intends to equip four domestic airports each night for night operations.

However, there is no such program in 2019 because of budget cuts, he said.

"I will fight for the restoration of the budget so that we can start the upgrades next year," said Ejercito.

The NAIA can also purchase highly accurate radars for the short term, so that the arrivals and departures of passenger aircraft can be carried out in closer intervals, he said.

With shorter intervals there would be more slots in terminals and the NAIA runway for aircraft, Ejercito said.

Ejercito said in the medium term that the government could accelerate the ongoing upgrade of the Clark International Airport, which had been budgeted for P12 billion.

Senator Richard Gordon proposed the immediate opening of the Subic Bay International Airport in Zambales which he said he only needs new equipment and a minor refurbishment of his terminal.

Gordon said he has appropriated P553 million of the General Credit Act 2017 for restoring facilities and purchasing digital radar systems and instrument landing systems, among others.

"The solution is right up our nose, Subic used to host FedEx (Federal Express) with 18 747 jets, Subic airport also dealt with the arrival of presidents at the 1996 APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Coooperation) conference," said Gordon.

The Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) said that the immediate upgrade of NAIA appears to be the most cost-effective and fastest solution for the severe congestion that is currently the country's main gateway. – With Rudy Santos, Paolo Romero, Pia Lee-Brago

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