Philippines to fine Xiamen Air P33 million

Photo by Rudy Santos

By Paolo Romero/The Philippine Star – The government will demand from Xiamen Air at least P33 million in fines for the inconvenience caused by the accident involving its jet last Aug. 16 that delayed flights and stranded thousands of passengers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) general manager Ed Monreal said the amount could go higher depending on the outcome of negotiations. The Chinese carrier has indicated it will pay for the damages, Monreal said.

He said the fine would cover the cost of lifting and towing the damaged passenger jet that affected at least 250,000 passengers using the NAIA.

At the inquiry conducted by the Senate committee on public services chaired by Sen. Grace Poe, officials of Xiamen Air, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade and Monreal separately apologized for the incident.

“Xiamen Air would like to express our regret for the inconvenience suffered by those affected by the unfortunate incident,” general manager Lin Huagun said through a female interpreter after he stood up and bowed to the panel.

Lin said the Chinese airline will cooperate fully with the investigation of Philippine authorities while liaising with other parties affected by the incident.

He said all needs of the passengers of Xiamen flight MF 8667, including food and accommodation, were addressed and their luggage returned the next day.

Tugade also apologized at the start of his testimony even as he hit those criticizing him and other officials at the height of the crisis that virtually shut down NAIA for two days.

“It was a regrettable incident that is not of our own liking, nor of our own making. I am deeply sorry for the inconveniences. I apologize to all our kababayans who were looking forward to a fun holiday. I apologize to our OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) who missed their flights. From the bottom of my heart, I am truly, deeply, sorry,” he said.

He said the NAIA was “a picture of chaos” as the MIAA closed the runway.

Lapses

Poe and Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito, vice chairman of the committee, grilled Tugade, Monreal and other aviation officials on the preparedness of airport authorities to swiftly deal with such incidents.

Monreal said the MIAA annually conducts live and table top training but admitted that there was no simulation conducted to address situations similar to what happened to Xiamen Air due to lack of high-capacity cranes and other equipment.

It took two cranes – one 500-ton and another 200-ton – borrowed from a private company to lift the damaged Boeing 737 jet from the runway and place it on a flat-bed truck 36 hours after it hit the runway.

He said the agency was studying whether to purchase such equipment or just lease them since buying a single crane would cost several million pesos. –

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