Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Legazpi airport executive gets ax

MANILA, Philippines - The manager of Legazpi City airport in Albay was relieved yesterday after a van driven by his son almost collided with a plane on the runway last Saturday.

Frisco Sto. Domingo was replaced last Monday by Edgardo Ramos on orders of Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza, according to Undersecretary Thompson Lantion, Mendoza’s de facto spokesman.

“(Sto. Domingo) was ordered to report here at the CAAP (Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines) headquarters,” Lantion said

Sto. Domingo will be on “floating status” at the CAAP, he added.

At MalacaƱang, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said yesterday Frisco Sto. Domingo has been suspended pending an investigation into the incident at Legaspi City airport involving his son.

In Legaspi City, Albay Gov. Joey Salceda has advised Sto. Domingo to file his immediate retirement.

“The increasing number of flights at the city airport, as well as the new Bicol International Airport to be constructed at Barangay Alobo in Daraga town, shows that such violation of basic safety rules is a disgrace to our rising reputation as a tourism destination, a disservice to the riding public and temporary setback to our tourism effort,” he said.

Salceda and Legaspi City Mayor Noel Rosal immediately asked for the suspension and relief of Sto. Domingo after his son’s van almost collided with a Cebu Pacific flight from Cebu last Saturday afternoon.

Senior Superintendent Emmanuel Tallento, Police Aviation Security Group commander in Legaspi, will also be investigated, Rosal added.

Sto. Domingo went on official leave of absence following the incident involving his son and namesake, Frisco Sto. Domingo Jr.

Last Saturday, Cebu Pacific flight CEB172 aborted its landing at 2:10 p.m. when Sto. Domingo Jr.’s car, a Delica Lite Ace van, crossed the runway while the plane was about to land.

The plane circled the runway and safely landed some 10 minutes later.

The elder Sto. Domingo was also the manager of the Daet, Naga, Bulan, and Virac airports.

Director General Ruben Ciron of the CAAP sent a team of investigators to Legaspi last Monday to conduct an investigation.

The group consists of Col. Jose R. Saplan, chairman of the Aircraft Accident Investigation Board; Gil Macapagal of the Enforcement and Legal Service, and Luciano Macose, assistant chief of administration and also an airways communications specialist.

Reports reaching Ciron said that CEB 172 originated from Mactan International Airport in Cebu.

Prior to a plane’s landing, the control tower activates the airport siren with a series of blasts to warn everyone in the vicinity of an approaching airplane.

The siren is a warning to civilians not to cross the runway or enter the aircraft movement area, encompassing the tarmac and the parking lots, except employees of the CAAP and those connected with airline companies.

Legaspi control tower noted heavy rains and poor visibility at the time of the incident, Ciron said.

Shortly after the incident, Sto. Domingo Jr. said he did not hear the siren or see the incoming plane due to poor visibility.

However, Ciron said that the excuse does not absolve Sto. Domingo of his liability.

Ciron also ordered a review of all existing security measures in key airports, along with appropriate remedies to prevent similar incidents.

The plane was carrying 80 passengers including Tourism Secretary Ace Durano and his family.

Rosal said he and his party as well as Tourism regional director Nini Ravanilla were waiting for Durano’s arrival from Cebu when they saw the plane suddenly abort landing as a gray van crossed the runway from out of nowhere.

Lantion said that they will await the results of the CAAP probe ordered by Ciron before issuing the punishment for Sto. Domingo.

Sto. Domingo, it was learned, was not the airport manager on duty during the incident since he was in Iloilo City on official CAAP business.

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