Tugade the Clark boss when collapsing airport was built
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - April 26, 2019 - 12:00am

Transport Sec. Arthur Tugade denied that Clark International Airport was substandard. TV Patrol reported him inspecting the damage from Monday’s earthquake. Ceilings had fallen and windows shattered. The terminal is 98 kilometers from the Magnitude-6.1 epicenter. Seven persons were hospitalized for injuries.

Tugade knows the facility well. He was president of Clark Development Corp. (CDC) when passenger Terminal-2 was expanded for international flights in May 2013. CDC oversees all constructions and operations within sprawling Clark Freeport. That includes Clark International Airport Corp., although attached to the Bases Conversion Development Authority.

Tugade would do well voluntarily to stand aside. Aviation authorities are to investigate design and fabrication flaws. Those officials are under Tugade’s transport department. The airport head is his nominee. He had moved the DOTr central office to Clark where he resides. A credible investigation is crucial. Same as the one in Porac, Pampanga, closer to the epicenter. There President Rody Duterte had ordered the investigation of the owner and constructor of the collapsed grocery store where five persons perished. The Dept. of Interior and Local Government is looking into who had permitted the construction.

Interestingly, the old domestic Terminal-1 beside Terminal-2 was unscathed. It was built decades ago when Clark was a US air base. A Terminal-3 under construction a kilometer away showed no damage too.

Global standards vary slightly in specifications. The International Civil Aviation Organization, International Air Transport Association, and US Federal Aviation Administration have parallel safety measures. All state that international airports must be impervious to earthquakes, floods, and blackouts.

Earthquake proofing requires the use of durable but lightweight modern materials. Design must take into consideration the history of tremors or volcanic eruptions in the vicinity. The objective is for the facility not only to withstand but also continue operating after a shake. To absorb Magnitude 8.0 the Istanbul airport, unveiled in 2009, was built on special seismic isolators that let it lift and sway safely. Builders must look into minutest details of the work. No room for the shabby attitude of “puwede na ‘yan (that’ll do).” Iloilo International Airport was ballyhooed to survive Magnitude 9.0, and did endure three separate temblors five hours apart in Nov. 2018. Yet one loose ceiling lamp fell on and bloodied a flight attendant.

Local building standards also must be followed in airport design and construction. ICAO, IATA, and FAA manuals uniformly emphasize that. Unlike Tugade, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian doubts Clark International’s integrity. Not only were there injuries. Operations ceased for two days as well. More than 200,000 passengers from afar were stranded with no food and hotel accommodations. Airlines lost revenues from over a thousand cancelled, diverted, and delayed flights. “The contractor should be held liable for the damage incurred from the earthquake and inconvenience to passengers,” Gatchalian declared. “It was a Magnitude 6.1. The National Building Code calls for structures to withstand Magnitude 8.0. Why was the damage so severe?”

Like in the Porac grocery building, the government agency-owner and approving authorities too must be made to answer.

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For last month’s water crisis, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System board not only has fined Manila Water Company. The latter also readily has committed to the P1.13-billion penalty. Earlier the concessionaire of Greater Manila’s east zone also voluntarily waived the basic water charge for March of homes and offices where faucets went dry for weeks.

What does that make of MWSS Regulatory Office chief, Atty. Patrick Ty? At the height of the shortage, the captured regulator had sworn in Congress inquiries that his agency was powerless. No way could it punish water utilities for poor or no service, he said. In earlier radio-TV interviews he even alibied for Manila Water that external factors –weather, lack of alternative dams – were the culprits.

It’s such statements and the continuing stay of such appointees that give administrations a bad name.       

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

Gotcha archives on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jarius-Bondoc/1376602159218459, or The STAR website https://www.philstar.com/columns/134276/gotcha

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