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Incidents of bird strikes, which occur when birds collide with aircraft, have risen by fifty percent at the Philippines’ premier airport, data from the agency running the facility said.
From January to July this year, 39 bird strikes have been reported at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), 50 percent more than the same period last year, data from the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) indicated.
These incidents involve aircraft of Philippine Airlines (PAL), Cebu Pacific, Zest Air, Cathay Pacific, Jet Star Asia, Air Philippines Express, and Qatar Airways.
Since 2006, 208 bird strikes have been recorded by Philippine Airlines in Manila, where the NAIA is located.
Save for costly maintenance and repairs and cancelled flights, no fatalities have so far been reported by Philippine Airlines.
Other airlines have encountered bird strikes over the years, but the damages were negligible because local birds are smaller and lighter.
In July, PAL earlier reported a bird strike which occurred earlier in July 24 this year involving flight PR 105 that just arrived in Manila from Guam. The aircraft’s entire set of fan blades had to be replaced due to irreparable damage.
To reduce the number of birds in the area, local authorities introduced ordinances and other measures disallowing the breeding of pigeons and other birds within a 13-kilometer radius from the airport.
However, the nearby 175-hectare Las Pinas-Paranaque Coastal area regularly attracts migratory birds. The coastal lagoon and mangrove forest along the Coastal Road is home to about 5,000 migratory birds.
The situation is not helped by Executive Order No. 1412 which created a sanctuary called the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area.
Signed in 2007 by then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the order also banned activities that would impede the area’s ecologically vital role as a bird sanctuary.
According to the experts, the man-made bird sanctuary lies within the NAIA’s flight path and is the main source of wild birds that cause the strikes in the area.
NAIA General Manger Jose Angel Honrado said that the MIAA is working proactively to have the sanctuary removed to lessen the threat of bird strikes to aircrafts using the NAIA.
“Whatever precautions we take will be next to useless because it (bird sanctuary) is almost at our door,” Honrado said.
“Why should we wait for something bad to happen before we do something about this?” he added.
Currently, airport authorities are improving the runway and its drainage system to ensure that there are no open waterways within NAIA that could attract water birds from nearby area.
The so-called BASH (Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard) issue is an industry-wide problem not only in the Philippines, but also worldwide. Industry estimates as to damage to aircraft engines reaches over $1 billion yearly.