CAAP: Priority landing privileges suspended since 2016

Davinci Maru, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 18 2022 09:56 AM | Updated as of May 18 2022 10:12 AM

Cebu Pacific airplanes at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 on April 16, 2018. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News
Cebu Pacific airplanes at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 on April 16, 2018. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines said Wednesday that President Rodrigo Duterte suspended priority landing privileges given to heads of state since 2016.

"As of July 28, 2016, nag-order po ang ating mahal na Pangulong Mayor Digong Duterte na alisin 'yang pribilehiyo na 'yan at 'yung mga flights nila, isusunod sila dun sa schedule dun sa airport," CAAP spokesperson Eric Apolonio told TeleRadyo.

While this privilege is still afforded to government officials and foreign dignitaries, he said it should be made in advance.

"Pag nag-file ng flight plan 'yung air operator, dapat kasama na roon na kailangan nila ng priority landing," Apolonio said.

The President, Vice President and Senate President are entitled to landing and take-off priority in all airports in the country.

CAAP's statement comes after a pilot from Cebu Pacific claimed in a now-deleted Facebook post that Vice President Leni Robredo allegedly requested for priority landing last month, which forced flights to divert.

The budget carrier has since placed the aviator under a disciplinary review after it found out that the pilot's claim "had no basis" and " was purely speculative and careless on his part".

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Among the most common reasons for plane diversions are medical emergencies such as heart attack, bird strikes, disruptive passenger behavior on board, insufficient fuel due to congestion in the airspace or lack of landing space at the airport, Apolonio said.

For now, the issue on the viral post is an internal matter between the airline and the pilot, he said.

Apolonio said the agency would only look at it once Cebu Pacific files a report or if that flight's safety was "compromised".

He reminded professional aviators that disclosing air traffic data is illegal.

"May violation po 'yan kasi dahil sa Data Privacy Act at saka pinagbabawal ho i-announce publicly 'yung mga nangyayari, 'yung mga procedures sa flights," he said. "Bawal na bawal po 'yan dahil po sa safety and security nung nasabing flight."

Robredo's camp has also belied the pilot's claim, saying it is a "malicious fabrication".

"During her entire tenure as Vice President, VP Leni has never asked to be prioritized for taking off or landing when traveling by air. Any claim to the contrary is a lie," the Office of Vice President said in a statement Tuesday.

Her camp expressed concern that "disinformation and fake news" continue to be hurled against Robredo even after losing the presidential race.

"Lying, unfortunately, has become a full-blown industry on social media," the OVP said.