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Clear provincial runways of livestock, CAAP told

MANILA, Philippines – Cows, buffaloes or carabao, a condominium and what have you – aviation officials cited various problems hampering smooth travel by air in the country.

Senators said something must be done about the problems quickly.

The lawmakers took the opportunity to press for solutions to the country’s airport woes during the Senate hearing on the proposed P56.2-billion budget of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and its attached agencies for 2017 yesterday.

Senate President Pro Tempore Franklin Drilon called on the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) to address the embarrassing situation at provincial airports where livestock are still often found grazing along or near the runways.

Drilon recalled he was at the Naga airport in Bicol recently and noticed sirens blaring out of the blue. “I heard it. I said, ‘What is that?’ They said, ‘Sir that is the siren, that means that a plane is arriving,’” Drilon said.

It was then explained to him, Drilon said, that the sirens were meant to scare off the cows and carabaos that might be grazing along the runway.

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CAAP officer-in-charge Manuel Antonio Tamayo said it was part of their standard operating procedures, particularly at provincial airports, to use a siren whenever an aircraft was landing or departing.

But Drilon said this practice should have been eliminated by now. He noted this was understandable 50 years ago when even the airport at his home province of Iloilo also had livestock encroaching on the runway.

In this day and age, Drilon said addressing the problem should have been as easy as putting up perimeter fences to keep the animals away.

“For a major city like Naga with the tourism industry a major source of the gross domestic product contribution, why are we having this kind of airport?” Drilon said.

“We are in the stone age insofar as those airports are concerned. It is quite embarrassing and now you are saying that in all provincial airports, there are sirens to scare off the water buffaloes and cows?” he added.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said the previous administration did not do something about the issue even though it had sufficient funds to take care of the problem.

Flight diversions

Also during the budget hearing, the spate of flight diversions as well as increased risks in landings at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) have been attributed to delays in the acquisition of specialized equipment and the presence of a condominium obstructing the flight path of aircraft.

Officials of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) and CAAP said one of the two instrument landing systems (ILS) of the NAIA remained inoperable after being struck by lightning a year and a half ago.

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