Saturday, January 29, 2005

Allowed air raids

Allowed air raids

Posted 01:56am (Mla time) Jan 29, 2005
By Isagani Cruz
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A14 of the January 29, 2005 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

AT THE HEARING last week of the Senate committee on public welfare headed by Sen. Joker P. Arroyo, the personnel of the Department of Transportation and Communication attended in full force and crowded the spacious Padilla Room with Secretary Leandro Mendoza himself in attendance. Also present were Nilo C. Jatico, a retired general who replaced Adelberto Yap (also a general) as head of the Air Transportation Office. Their boss, Mendoza, is also a former general.

There were three representatives from Merville, Semito Alparce, Telesforo Tayko (a retired general, too) and Cesar Jota, to reiterate their complaints against the noise pollution being committed by the airplanes flying over their community and other areas with the permission or collusion of the ATO. They were heavily outnumbered but held their ground against the generals and in fact outpointed them.

When asked searching questions by the committee, particularly Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, about the offensive noise of the airplanes of Cebu Pacific and Air Philippines, Jatico was unable to answer satisfactorily or even to consult his technical staff, who did not volunteer any help to their befuddled general. This prompted the committee to suspend action on their budget until they could adequately rebut the complaints of Alparce's group.

The argument raised by Cebu Pacific that the residents have no reason to complain because they voluntarily chose to reside near the airport is a stupid answer. It is like saying that their passengers cannot complain if their airplanes should crash because people voluntarily run the risk of dying when they choose to fly.

Jatico now seeks to justify his office and himself and says, "contrary to (my) insinuations that the ATO is sitting on the problem and blatantly violating environmental regulations on noise pollution, this office, as early as 1999, has continuously and vigorously required the retro-fitting of airplanes with hush kits in compliance with Annex C of the International Civil Aviation Organization."

He says 55 percent of the DC-9 airplanes owned by Cebu Pacific ands 66 percent of the Boeing airplanes owned by Air Philippines have now been hush-kitted. That means that 45 and 34 percent of their respective aircraft have not yet been similarly equipped. Jatico says they started enforcing this requirement since 1999, six years ago, and yet they can expect full compliance with it only in 2006, still one year from now. That does not speak well of their efficiency or their strictness with the powerful airlines.

My question is, why are the airplanes that have not yet been hush-kitted allowed to fly just the same despite their non-compliance with the regulation? Non-compliance means violation, and yet Jatico's ATO allows these airplanes to fly with its blessings to the prejudice of the people residing in the communities below. Cebu Pacific justifies its violations "in the greater interest of the riding public" or is it in the greater interest of less expenses and more profit for it?

The higher interest is the comfort and convenience, and principally the health, of the people they are oppressing with their intrusive and injurious noisy airplanes. This is a case of Big Business v. The Little People, and ATO should know where its loyalty lies.

The objection of the offending airlines to the regulation is that the cost of the hush-kits at P1 million per unit will unduly reduce their profits. That is a cynical and inane argument that cannot be accepted in a welfare state. Businesses are entitled to a reasonable return of their investment but not at the expense of the public they are supposed to serve.

This is especially true of companies engaged in public transportation, which are legally described as businesses affected with public interest. They should be operated with the public interest as their primary objective and only collateral profit as their secondary purpose.

Alparce invited all interested parties to stay for at least one day in Merville so they can experience how its residents are oppressed by the intrusive airplanes with the permission, nay, connivance, of the ATO. Jatico cites the restrictions supposedly imposed by his office on the airlines and seems to be satisfied that he has done enough to solve our problem.

It's one thing to prohibit and another to enforce compliance. The ATO is not being followed; in fact, it is permissively ignored. They are only paper rules that Jatico invokes as if they were the Ten Commandments. Jatico cannot hear our complaints because he has been deafened by the noisy airplanes he is assiduously protecting. Or as the Good Book says, there are none so deaf as those who will not hear.

The generals in the DOTC, and particularly the ATO, should remember that they are no longer issuing commands to their enlisted men but are dealing with civilians who are not impressed by their military rank. It's about time that the civilian jobs they are bungling are transferred to responsible civilians who can perform their work better in promoting the greater public interest.


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