(The Philippine Star) Updated Sept 12, 2012
After a brief lull, the battle for Manila Bay—or at least a portion of it—has resumed between safety advocates and aviation regulators, on one hand, and environmentalists and bird watchers, on the other. In particular, this battle, which is increasingly being waged in the publicity sphere, concerns the decades-old bird sanctuary on the fringe of Manila Bay, which also happens to be near the flight path of aircraft taking off from or landing at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport’s Runway 06.
Amid the debate of human safety versus the environment, Biz Buzz took a look at the records lodged with the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines and found that there were a total of 247 bird strikes reported by one airline alone from January 2006 to August 2012. That’s an average of 35.3 potentially deadly accidents waiting to happen a year involving hundreds of airline passengers and hundreds more on the ground. (Incidentally, the month with the most number of bird strikes each year is October, most likely due to the increase in migratory birds from the Asian mainland).
For the country’s biggest carrier, Philippine Airlines, the airspace around Naia has proved to be specially problematic, costing the carrier millions of dollars in repairs for damaged jet engine blades, engine cowlings and windshields, among others.
For the same period in question, PAL reported 86 bird strikes (known in the aviation industry as BASH: bird aircraft strike hazard) around Naia. In contrast, the airline only reported nine bird strikes in Iloilo over an eight-year period and only eight in Bacolod.
Environmental groups and bird watchers have disputed these figures. (The Wild Bird Club of the Philippines is holding on Wednesday a press conference on aviation safety and bird strike incidents in relation to the Las Piñas-Parañaque critical habitat and ecotourism area, or the bird sanctuary, at Max’s Restaurant on Maria Orosa Street in Manila.)
So far, regulators and various aircraft operators based in Naia have been pushing for the relocation of the bird sanctuary to little avail, given the strong environmental lobby in the country at present.
But the new data about the hazards these migratory birds pose to aircraft and passengers are something to consider. It remains to be seen if the bird lovers (as well as some influential business concerns riding on the issue) will accede to the proposal to move the bird sanctuary—if this is indeed possible—to another location out of the planes’ flight path.—Daxim L. Lucas