Davao Airport cleared

Davao City - The ill-fated Cebu Pacific plane was finally moved out of the grassy portion of the Francisco Bangoy International Airport (Davao international airport) at 5 p.m. yesterday, paving the way for the clearing of the runway and the resumption of normal operations.

Joint crew of the Cebu Pacific and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) here successfully moved the plane out of the grassy portion of the airport onto the old parking ramp of the airport.

Normal operations of the Davao international airport were to resume at 8 o'clock last night.

Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) Deputy Director General Rodante Joya said they have already released a notice to airmen (NOTAM) about the looming resumption of flights going to and from Davao.

Joya said that CAAP and Cebu Pacific personnel towed the aircraft to the old parking ramp of the airport to eventually clear the runway from obstructions.

"As per Director General William Hotchkiss, we are set to open the airport at 8 p.m.," he said.

"We have already sent notice to airmen that Davao Airport is closed (only) until 8 p.m. (and that) airline companies can already inform their passengers that they will be landing in Davao thereafter," Joya added.

The aviation official, however, would not comment on what penalties or fines will be imposed on Cebu Pacific for failing to meet government's deadline to remove the aircraft from the runway at 3 p.m., saying Hotchkiss would be the appropriate person to quote on the legal matter.

But Joya confirmed that CAAP has incurred a minimum loss of P1.5 million due to the closure of Davao international airport for the past two days. He said there is an average of 3,750 passengers that pay P200 terminal fees for departing Davao on a daily basis.

"CAAP lost at least P1.5 million in terminal fees for almost two days. This does not even include other revenues from log in, parking fees, and other charges," he added.

On June 2, Cebu Pacific flight 5J-971 from Manila veered off the runway of the airport amid heavy downpour. Cebu Pacific apologized for the incident and the consequences it entailed after assuring that all 165 passengers of the aircraft were "unhurt and safely shuttled to the terminal, where their needs were taken care of."

On Tuesday afternoon, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte Carpio reiterated her plan to sue airport management due to their refusal to allow emergency personnel from the Central 911 to help them.

Mayor Duterte Carpio said they are now in the process of completing all the documents necessary for the filing of cases at the Ombudsman.

The mayor had already sent a letter to Frederick San Felix, the airport area manager of CAAP in Davao City, to submit to her office the name and complete contact information of the designated airport disaster and emergency response officer; the standard operating procedures operational guidelines on airport emergency; and the schedule of emergency response drill for 2013.

Earlier, Malacañang issued an ultimatum for Cebu Pacific to clear the airport or the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) will do the towing of the crippled plane.

Presidential Communications Development Secretary Ramon Carandang said the government was ready to take over the removal operations of the plane from the runway if Cebu Pacific could not do it by 3 p.m. Tuesday. He emphasized that airport runway must be cleared so flight operations can be restored in Davao.

"DOTC (Department of Transportation and Communications) Secretary Jun Abaya has given instructions to CAAP that if the timetable to remove the airplane is not acceptable, then CAAP has to take over the clearing," Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said.

"We wanted to give Cebu Pacific a chance to do it themselves. It's their property that was damaged. But if they're not able to do it by today, by 3 p.m., then we will be forced to come in and clean it up ourselves," he said.

"It's also important for us to get the normal traffic going again in the Davao airport," he added. "We understand the concerns of the public and we share those concerns." (With a report from Genalyn D. Kabiling)