MANILA - Senators on Wednesday slammed Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade for not immediately going to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport during its 36-hour runway closure earlier this month.
The stranding of a Chinese commercial plane on NAIA's runway 06/24 from August 16 to 18 left hundreds of flights cancelled and thousands of passengers crammed inside the capital's busiest airport.
Tugade issued an apology via a statement hours after the incident instead of personally going to airport to oversee matters.
"Technically, you are the secretary of the DOTR. You should have been on top of everything," Senator Nancy Binay told Tugade during a congressional inquiry.
"Hindi kayo nakita, wala kayo dun sa scene of the crime, you were never seen during the critical moments. 'Di ba being on top means being there physically?" Binay said.
(You were not seen, you were not there during the scene of the crime, you were never seen during the critical moments. Doesn't being on top mean being there physically?)
Tugade told lawmakers he opted to coordinate with airport officials through phone conversations to allow ground staff to focus on their work.
"Ayoko pong magkaroon ng maraming distraction ang mga taong nagtratrabaho. Kung pumunta ako ay baka mataranta sila," Tugade said.
(I don't want to create a distraction for the workers. If I went there, they might have panicked.)
Senator Grace Poe hit Tugade's excuse and told the Cabinet secretary that his presence in the airport during the crucial hours could have resulted in faster, more efficient operations.
"Siguro kung siya (Tugade) mismo ang punmunta doon, mas maraming airlines 'yung nagpunta sa crisis committee meeting kasi yung Transportation Secretary na 'yung nagpatawag e," Poe told reporters.
(Maybe if he personally went there, maybe more airlines would have attended the crisis committee meeting because it was the Transportation Secretary who called for it.)
"Para din sa ating mga pasahero, mga empleyado ng airport, kapag nakita mo yung Secretary na nandun baka mas kampante, kumpiyansa ka," she said.
(For our passengers and airport employees, if you saw the Secretary there then you might have been more at ease, more confident.)