PH military for disaster response, internal defense

18 July 2014
By Kristine Angeli Sabillo

President Benigno S. Aquino III looks at a model of a South Korean-made FA-50 Light Combat Aircraft on display during the Asian Defense, Security, and Crisis Management Exhibition and Conference (ADAS) at the World Trade Center in Pasay City on Thursday, July 17. With him are Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and AFP chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista. Gil Nartea
Disaster response and internal defense. Those are the only reasons why the Philippines is beefing up its military, President Benigno Aquino III said Thursday.

“Lest anyone accuse us of shifting to a more militaristic position, I must emphasize: Our efforts seek to modernize the capabilities of our security sector to address the needs in human disaster response arenas and for our own internal defense,” Aquino said during the opening ceremony of the Asian Defense, Security and Crisis Management Exhibition 2014 (Adas 2014) at the World Trade Center in Pasay.

“None of these actions are meant to increase tensions in the region; rather, they are meant to address our domestic problems and issues,” he added.

Aquino attended the defense and security conference amid territorial disputes among Southeast Asian countries and China in South China Sea.

During his speech, the President expressed concern for the equipment of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), which he said has “long been neglected.”

“It reached a point where even lawless elements possessed superior equipment,” he pointed out.

He added, “This is precisely why, from day one, we have done everything in our power to give the AFP the support they need to perform their duties to the fullest of their capabilities―and to make sure that the risks they take in the battlefield are reduced to a bare minimum.”

Since Aquino became president, more than P40 billion has been allocated to modernize and upgrade military capabilities.

At one point in his speech, Aquino beamed at his accomplishments compared to the paltry allocation former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo gave.

“Compare this to the 26 billion that my predecessor released in a span of nearly ten years,” he said.

“Most prominently, we have added two Hamilton Class Cutters to our fleet, namely the BRP Gregorio del Pilar and the BRP Ramon Alcaraz. We have also acquired eight Sokol Combat Utility Helicopters, three AW-109 naval helicopters, four refurbished UH-1 helicopters, and the BRP Tagbanua, the first locally-built landing craft utility ship, among many others,” Aquino added.

He also announced that 50,629 M4 Caliber 5.56mm rifles is set to be distributed before the year ends.

Aquino said the “fair and transparent procurement process” allowed the government to save P1.2 billion in purchasing the rifles, allowing it to purchase another 12,657 units and “set aside a budget for succeeding rifle procurements.”

“We are also looking forward to the arrival of two out of twelve FA-50 lead-in fighter trainer jets next year, with the others all arriving before 2017. Apart from these, we are expecting seventeen more refurbished UH-1 helicopters, eight more combat utility helicopters, two long-range patrol aircrafts, six close-air support aircrafts, two anti-submarine helicopters, two frigates, and three full missile capable multi-purpose attack crafts, along with other equipment that will strengthen the capacities of our armed forces,” he added.

The Great Migration

Ducking Typhoon

17 July 2014

Manila International Airport was a ghost port yesterday after all aircraft, except Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines, evacuated to much safer place across the country in Cebu, Davao, Bacolod, Iloilo, Cagayan de Oro, and Zamboanga.

Typhoon Flew Planes Off-Ground

17 July 2014

A Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-200 and a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 737-800 plane were blown out of its mooring at Ninoy Aquino International Airport early morning yesterday after strong winds from Typhoon Rammusun, local name Glenda blasted the tarmac and lifted the behemoth planes off the grown knocking Gate 6 Air Bridge at Terminal 1 and hitting the steel stairway while parked at the cargo terminal, airport official said.

Terminal 1 Manager Dante Basanta said strong winds flew the two parked planes of Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines despite being  adequately moored.
Basanta said the Boeing 777 aircraft of Singapore Airlines were literally flown by the winds and dragged about 5 meters, causing it to hit the air bridge hard and dent the left engine and thereafter its left wing.

Meanwhile, the Boeing 738 plane of Malaysia Airlines also sustained damage to its fuselage after it turned some 45 degrees to its side and hitting a service stairs stationed nearby while it was still parked at the remote parking bay of the cargo terminal.

Both planes were ordered grounded by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAAP) citing their airworthiness as reason. Damage to the airplanes were assessed at more than 1 million dollars.

The typhoon forced the aviation authorities shut down the airport’s  two runways,  practically paralyzing the entire airport operations for nearly four hours Wednesday morning causing disruptions and cancellation of 120 domestic and international flights.

The runways were closed by CAAP at 7 a.m. Wednesday due to poor visibility caused by heavy rains and strong winds, and was reopened at 10:40 a.m.

NAIA terminals also showed damage with broken glass panels, fallen construction scaffoldings and damaged fixtures at Terminal 1. 

There were no substantial damage reported at Terminal 2 and 4, while terminal 3 boarding bridges 101 to 106 were reported to have suffered minimal damage which requires few days of work.

There were no reported casualty or injury by the airport authority.

PAL Selects PW for A320Neo's

16 July  2014

Engine Manufacturer Pratt & Whitney of Canada has announced at the FARNBOROUGH AIRSHOW yesterday that Philippine Airlines has selected Pratt's new PW1100G geared turbofan engine to power its 10 Airbus A320neo aircraft orders.

"As we continue to modernize our fleet, we consistently turn to Pratt & Whitney for innovative and reliable technology to power our aircraft," said Ramon S. Ang, president and chief operating officer of Philippine Airlines.

"The PurePower engine will help us to reduce fuel burn, improve our environmental performance and lower our cost of operations," Ang adds.

The initial agreement signed through Letter of Intent between Philippine Airlines and Pratt & Whitney includes a long-term maintenance service agreement with the turbo fan engine.

The PurePower Geared Turbofan™ engine family has more than 5,500 orders and commitments, including options, from more than 50 global customers.

"We look forward to working with Philippine Airlines and we are pleased to offer the airline new technology solutions to meet its business needs," said Dave Brantner, president, Pratt & Whitney Commercial Engines.

Airbus Launches A330NEO

 14 July 2014

Airbus has launched the newest variant of the A330 family with new engines, the A330-800 and A330-900 expected to carry between 250 and 300 passengers following a decision by the Board of Directors of the Group.

The new variant which is larger than the current A330-200 and A330-300 will exclusively incorporate a larger wing, a latest generation Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines, aerodynamic enhancements and new cabin features.

The A330neo will reduce fuel consumption by 14% per seat, as compared to the current A330 model making it the most cost efficient, medium range wide-body aircraft on the market. A330neo operators will also benefit a range increase of up to 400 nautical miles from the existing variant at 6100nm.

Airbus expects to achieve a range of 6,200nm with its 242 ton A330-900, which will be the first re-engined variant to enter the market in 2017, while the -800 will be able to reach 7,450nm.

The A330-900s will have a maximum landing weight of 191t while that for the -800neo will be 186t.

The aircraft is expected to compete against the Boeing 787-800s  to be sold at a significant discount than their composite skin counterparts.

Air Lease will be the launch customer of the aircraft after it ordered 25 units of the plane at the Farnborough Airshow in England slated for delivery to the airline in 2018. Deliveries of the A330neo will start in Q4 2017.

In addition to the new Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines, the A330neo will feature incremental innovations such as re-twisted wing and optimised slats, including composite ‘A350 XWB inspired’ winglets and a wing span extension from 60.3m to 64m, will together confer increased lift and reduced drag.

Pilots will benefit from latest generation cockpit systems, and the already very comfortable A330 cabin will be further optimised to offer up to ten additional 18 inch wide seats.

The new plane will also have a built-in  including 4th-generation High-Definition In-Flight Entertainment (IFE), and wifi connectivity plus the same full-LED mood-lighting as in the A330’s big brother – the A350 XWB. The LED cabin lighting will be lighter and cheaper to maintain than traditional illumination while offering unlimited mood-lighting customisation scenarios.

JICA Proposes Sangley Runway As NAIA's Third Runway

Sangley Sought For NAIA Integration

14 July 2014

Sangley Airport is poised to become part of Ninoy Aquino International Airport complex if the proposal of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to the Philippine government is to be adopted, Transport Secretary said Sunday.

JICA Has proposed that Sangley Point airport in Cavite be linked to Manila International  Airport under an integrated airspace with Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) until 2025.

Its not clear from JICA's recommendation whether a taxiway is to be linked from NAIA to Sangley airport runway or whether they will still be classified as two separate airport.

“JICA’s recommendation means that, in effect, the new Sangley airport will be NAIA’s ‘third runway’ until greater expansion can be made in the long-term," Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) Secretary Jun Abaya has said.

NAIA will be constructing a 2km parallel runway next to 6-24 to handle narrow body traffic aimed at decongesting its airspace until 2025, the timeframe when the new airport would become operational

The proposal will provide NAIA with 3 parallel runways with the existing runway turned into 6-24 center, the soon to be constructed parallel runway at 6-24 right, and Sangley airport runway providing 6-24 left.

“Upgrading Sangley’s existing airport may be done faster and at a lower cost, since initial reclamation will be needed for only one to two runways, instead of three to four,” says Abaya.

Initial investment for the massive airport project could be low as it cover only land reclamation for the taxiway connecting NAIA and the Sangley runway.

“This will significantly bring down JICA’s initial ballpark estimate of $ 10 billion to build a four-runway airport in Sangley,” Abaya added.

This could provide NAIA with tremendous expansion capacity with Sangley providing two more runway for NAIA while also opening the complex to future growth.

One of the other options for 2025 and beyond would be to close NAIA once Sangley is expanded into a four-runway airport, make it a mega complex airport merging NAIA and Sangley, or operating it as dual-airport system.

DOTC's next step after this proposal is to prepare a feasibility study of the proposed options slated for completion in 2015. Project construction  is expected to commence in 2017 for completion in 2024.

Abaya clarified that the DOTC will still have to finalize the best airport strategy and present this to President Benigno Aquino III as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, the Transportation Department will continue to develop Clark International Airport as alternative airport to Manila.

Orbis Visits Davao and Pampanga

13 July 2014

By Vaughn Alviar

Hospital with wings for the visually impaired

It might have seemed like any other landing to residents around Clark International Airport, another prosaic aircraft that would depart as soon as it landed. But the Flying Eye Hospital (FEH) was not usual. It rolled out its generators and then stayed for two weeks since June 23.

Until July 4, the 20-plus staff members of the Orbis initiative would treat 100 visually impaired citizens of Pampanga, with partner Jose B. Lingad Memorial Hospital (JBLMH) providing the steady stream of less fortunate—and thankful—patients.

“It helped tremendously,” patient Nelba Magallanes said of the only hospital plane in the world, “because I wouldn’t know where to source the payment for an operation… I’m thankful for the help Orbis has given to [JBLMH’s] patients.”

Magallanes walked into the hospital for a glaucoma checkup on June 23, and the medical staff told her to head upstairs for a free operation care of Orbis.

Critical issue
THE FACILITY stayed at Clark for two weeks.
THE OPERATION room during an oculoplastics surgery
It was the FEH’s 13th operation in the country, with the first two dating back to 1982. Including the recent landing in Davao, it has now provided treatment for more than 1,000 patients across all the age groups, mostly in the current facility, a repurposed DC-10 aircraft used since 1994.

“Eye care is a critical health issue … [and] the main causes are the high cost of healthcare in urban areas and a lack of trained eye health specialists in rural areas,” said Rhicke Jennings, FedEx managing director for the Philippines and Indonesia.

There are about 3.9 million visually impaired individuals in the country. FedEx provides the logistics and expertise for the FEH, helped fund the purchase of the DC-10 and donated an MD-10 which will be the third-generation airplane hospital.

Even the ophthalmic community should be thankful for the visit. The New York-based non-profit has now provided lectures and hands-on training for over 1,000 local practitioners, all for making every operation endure, explained FEH communication manager Joni Watson.

The hospital has a 48-seat classroom that hosted lectures and symposiums. The participants watched live feeds from operations done two rooms away. Moreover, the staff gave hands-on training to 18 ophthalmologists, 8 nurses and about 8 doctors.

On hand was a high-caliber staff, including two Filipino nurses, from “15 to 16 countries all over the world,” Watson said. “We pull people from all over… It’s kind of a real mix. Other people just [learn] through friends; see it online, apply.” (Job opportunities are on

FedEx also offers a fellowship grant for eye care specialists, getting them to work in hospitals in developed countries, and trains volunteer pilots, mostly from its own pool—the reason it has touched down on 92 countries.

Orbis contacts its partners a year prior to make sure that the training sessions translate to real operations. For Pampanga, it asked the Central Luzon Ophthalmology Society and JBLMH for the most prevalent eye problems in the country—cataract is the top case and glaucoma follows. The FEH also offered pediatric ophthalmology, medical retina and oculopastic surgery, a procedure tackling problems with the eyelids and eye sockets.

About time

“It is about what they (the eye care specialists) see every day,” said Dr. Ahmed Gomaa, the medical director of FEH. “We are here to enable them to deliver care for their own patients, so whatever they see every day in their own practice are the cases we list for the program.”

“The main focus of the hospital is not to do challenging or very difficult cases… It’s not about doing heroic surgery and then we disappear, because otherwise this would be a problem,” he added.

The transient hospital envisions a Philippine health sector with the skills to address the needs of visually impaired Filipinos, Watson said, just days before the FEH flew out of the country gearing up for Mongolia. Over two weeks, it proved that it wasn’t the usual aircraft—and it’ll come back again: “Soon,” Gomaa said with a smile.