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Senator Gatchalian pushes for air traffic emergency powers

Flight attendants pass by Manila-bound passengers in Tacloban Airport in this December 2016 file photo. Bottlenecks at the country’s premier airport, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, have a domino effect in the country’s civil aviation industry, resulting in passengers experiencing delayed flights on a normal basis. (Photo by Mark Cayabyab)

As the Senate continues deliberations on the granting of presidential emergency powers in order to solve the land traffic crisis, Senator Win Gatchalian is pushing for a similar measure to address air traffic congestion in the skies above Metro Manila by filing Senate Bill No. 1067, otherwise known as the “Air Traffic Act”. 

The Air Traffic Act proposes a two-year grant of emergency powers which would empower the President to make drastic reforms in air transportation by consolidating air traffic regulatory and management authorities, while also streamlining procurement and eminent domain procedures for the speedy construction of key infrastructure, especially runways.

“At this point, the traffic in the skies is as bad as the traffic on our streets. Before, we only had road rage, but now we are seeing reports of ‘air rage’ as frustrated passengers lash out at our broken aviation sector. In the interest of passenger safety and sanity, we must give the President a free hand in bringing change to the dismal air traffic situation above Metro Manila,” Gatchalian said.

In the bill’s explanatory note, Gatchalian mentioned that the existing runways at Ninoy Aquino International Airport can only accommodate an average of 36 takeoffs and landings per hour, while the overflowing schedule of commercial and general flights often require as many as 50 runway events per hour.

The strained capacity of NAIA’s runways have made flight delays and cancellations daily occurrences, causing the International Air Transport Association to declare NAIA as a high-risk airport due to unresolved safety issues and poor infrastructure.

“The magnitude of the air traffic situation is alarming. All efforts must be directed to expedite the improvement of existing facilities, building of new infrastructure, use of new hubs outside of Metro Manila, and other urgent measures to address the air traffic emergency,” Gatchalian said.

In order to ensure the proper and effective use of the emergency powers, the Air Traffic Act calls for the formation of an oversight committee composed of members of both houses of Congress, to whom the President will be required to submit a quarterly report on the actions taken under the provisions of the law.