Eighty passengers on a domestic flight narrowly escaped disaster in Bicol over the weekend. Only the deft handling by the pilot of the Cebu Pacific flight kept the plane from colliding with a Lite Ace van on the tarmac of the Legazpi City airport Saturday afternoon. French pilot Christopher Nowioki managed to make the plane climb back up moments after it touched down.
What was the van doing on the tarmac? An airport VIP, the son of the head of the local office of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, was teaching his girlfriend how to drive, according to reports from Legazpi. For Luis Sto. Domingo Jr., nothing less than an airport tarmac would do for the precious driving lessons. The younger Sto. Domingo also reportedly used the tarmac as access road to his home.
There was no immediate comment yesterday from the privileged driving tutor’s father, Frisco Sto. Domingo, probably because Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal was fuming over the incident. Rosal was at the airport to welcome Tourism Secretary Ace Durano, who was on the Cebu Pacific flight, and was surprised when the plane took off as soon as it touched down.
Apart from vans where private driving lessons are given, it would not be surprising to see cattle, dogs and goats on Philippine airport tarmacs. In several airports, children can enter the airport grounds from shanties straddling the perimeter walls. As the case in Legazpi showed, tarmacs can also be used as access roads to private residences.
Mayor Rosal is seeking immediate sanctions on the elder Sto. Domingo. The driving tutor must also be held liable for entering a restricted area and endangering the safety of a commercial flight. Unless sanctions are imposed, this dangerous incident will be dismissed as Pinoy comedy and may be repeated. And the next time, disaster may not be averted.