New flight rules eyed in Baguio

By Vincent Cabreza

BAGUIO CITY – Civil Defense experts are exploring an afternoon no-fly rule for Baguio’s Loakan Airport, in the aftermath of the April 7 helicopter crash that killed eight aides of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In Ifugao, where the Bell 412 had crashed, the weather bureau has been constructing a weather observation outpost to help make sense of the region’s intemperate weather patterns, according to Salvador Olinares, Baguio weather observer.

Olive Luces, Cordillera director of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), said these were developments that surfaced from an April 15 emergency meeting of the regional disaster coordinating committee here.


The meeting was called following the Holy Tuesday crash that claimed the lives of Brigadier General Carlos Clet, Malacañang senior military assistant; Press undersecretary Jose Capadocia Jr.; undersecretary for Presidential Engagements and Appointments Malou Frostrom; three aides and the chopper’s two pilots.

Luces said the RDCC did not discuss the details of the crash because the meeting was to evaluate the rescue efforts.

But she said the Philippine Air Force Tactical Operations Group (TOG) offered the RDCC a few operational reforms for the airport.

Lieutenant Colonel Domingo Palisoc, TOG 1 group commander, had suggested that the airport tower be manned beyond office hours, Luces said.

No commercial flights

Operations at the Loakan Airport have slowed down because no commercial airlines used this route due to concerns about the restricted flight hours because of the afternoon fog.

“Here [in Baguio], even at 10 a.m., there is fog [and mist],” Luces said.

Asian Spirit was the last airline to operate here. The opening of an international airport at Poro Point in San Fernando City in La Union, a two-hour drive from Baguio, has also imperiled the continuous operations of the Baguio airport.

Luces said the TOG also wanted to deregulate the protocols for clearing pre-departure flights. Last-minute flight instructions, including the latest weather forecasts, are still radioed from Manila, she said.

Airport authorities said there were no specific prohibitions for afternoon flights in Baguio, but the OCD was exploring such a rule because of the city’s extraordinary climate patterns, she said.

Olinares said the weather bureau has state-of-the-art weather technology but needed to secure better data from “blind spots” like mountain regions.

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