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MANILA, Philippines – As in many airports worldwide, bird strikes may pose a problem to aircraft taking off and landing at the NAIA, but closing down a nearby bird sanctuary is not a solution, a bird expert who advised Danish authorities said Wednesday.
“You don't solve potential bird strikes in NAIA by trying to vacuum-clean Coastal Lagoon. There are more than 100,000 wetlands birds in Manila Bay moving from and back every day and every season and they can’t be eliminated,” ornithologist Arne Jensen said in a forum organized by the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines in Ermita, Manila.
The Club invited Jensen amid proposals to remove the bird sanctuary near the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, in hopes of preventing planes getting entangled with migratory birds upon takeoff or touchdown.
No fatalities have been reported in bird strikes in the Philippines, but incidents have cost airlines millions in damage.
Jensen, who for 11 years worked as Bird Strike Advisor for the authorities of Copenhagen Airport, the largest in Scandinavia and located next to two major bird sanctuaries, says the plan to remove the bird sanctuary near NAIA is not the ultimate answer in solving the perennial problems of bird strikes here.
Jensen said: “Each bird species/family requires different bird strike adaptation and mitigation strategies which NAIA has not fully developed yet. And if you don't know the location and altitude of strikes and what species are causing problems, any extirpation attempt becomes absurd and a waste of money.”
The Wild Bird Club of the Philippines stressed that it holds the safety of passengers in airplanes paramount, but added there is not a shred of evidence that the critical habitat is in any way connected with any bird strikes in Metro Manila.
The group added that in fact, several airports around the world co-exist well with sanctuaries and large bird populations close to them, including London Heathrow and Bangkok’s new Suvarnabhumi Airport, some of the busiest in the world.
Migratory birds have been known to pose headaches to airline operators and pilots. When any one of them or part of the flock collides with airplanes flying in and out of the runway, the impact could post serious risks to the plane’s engines.
So far, there have been no human fatalities reported in local bird strikes, except for costly maintenance and repairs and cancelled flights, according to Philippine Airlines.
Most local airplanes have encountered bird strikes over the years, but damage was deemed negligible because local birds are smaller and lighter.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) data show 15 percent of bird strikes worldwide caused actual damage. Engine damage could cost as much as $5 million.
In 2008, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) recorded bird hits involving three international air carriers. On May 12, 2008 a Cathay Pacific airlines plane, arriving from Hong Kong, collided with a bird while landing.
All over the country, the record jumped from 42 bird strikes in 2009 to 120 in 2010.
Air carriers and pilots said they could pose serious risks to aircraft landing and taking off.