Davao airport resumes operations; city suffers at least P250-M losses

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/05 June) —    Operations at the Davao International Airport resumed at 8 p.m. Tuesday, 49  hours after a Cebu Pacific aircraft veered off the runway on Sunday night and caused the closure of the airport, cancellation and diversion of flights and losses to the local economy of at least P250 million.

“Conservative estimate of losses to the local economy since yesterday is around P250 million,”  Jason Magnaye, head of the Davao City Investment Promotion Center said. The amount includes  “losses from cargo, allied industries, hotel cancellations, airport concessionaires, airport management, among others.”

The  airport alone lost about P1 million a day as 80 flights were canceled that could have carried about 2,000 to 3,000 passengers, he said.

Terminal fees alone are a major source of  losses as each departing passenger pays P200.

Initial investigation by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) has pointed to “pilot error” as the cause of the mishap, CAAP Deputy Director General Capt. John Andrews told reporters in Manila.

Businessman John Gaisano described the landing of Cebu Pacific Flight 5J971 Sunday night as “very rough” he thought they would die.

“We could have died when we landed,” Gaisano told MindaNews on Monday. He said he felt like “we did not land on the runway.” “I think we landed on the soil,” he said.

Andrews showed  photographs of  the runway that showed the aircraft touched down on the shoulder of  Runway 23 all the way to the grassy area.

Gaisano said Flight  5J971  was supposed to have left Manila at 4:50 p.m. but the flight was delayed and they took off only at 5:30 p.m., expecting to land at the  Davao International Airport at around 7:30 p.m.

He said there was no announcement at all from the cockpit or the crew about what was happening.  “It was strange. There was no announcement at all for so long, maybe 15 to 20 minutes or longer. The pilot said nothing. The flight crew did not come out.”

Andrews said the aircraft was “beyond economical repair.”

Lance Gokongwei, Cebu Pacific President and Chief Executive Officer apologized for the mishap at the Davao airport. He told ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) Business Nightly on Monday that the incident was “most unfortunate” but said it was too early to speculate why it happened. He explained to ANC that the pilot opted for  “precautionary disembarkation” rather than “emergency disembarkation” to avoid panic and injuries.

Meanwhile, the city government gave airport officials until 5 p.m. Wednesday, June 5, to  provide written explanation on what happened on Sunday night. The order was issued at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio gave the airport management until 5 p.m. Wednesday to submit the documents asked for. The letter was received by Jose Emmanuel Saddam, assistant airport manager.

“In view of the incident which transpired last June 2, where Cebu Pacific Flight 5J971 crashed and overshot the airport runway, please submit to this office the following information and documents,” the mayor wrote.

The order said airport management should submit the name and complete contact information of the designated airport disaster and emergency response officer; its standard operating procedures/ standard operational guidelines on airport emergency and or contingency plans.

She also instructed management to provide a schedule of emergency response drills this year. The documents will be included in the formal complaint of the city government against the airport management for its alleged lack of cooperation with the local government unit. The complaint will be formally filed with the CAAP.

Saddam said  they will follow the order of the mayor and will submit the information and documents before the deadline. He also assured the public they have an airport emergency plan which was made in August last year. (MindaNews)