If one ditched plane could wreak havoc on NAIA, then how much more ‘the big one’?

The August 17 to 19 mayhem at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport due to the runway excursion of a Xiamen Air jet was an eye-opener of sorts, and has prompted the Senate and the House to launch separate inquiries into the readiness of the country’s airports to cope with potential disasters.

One such natural disaster that truly worries airport officials is “The Big One”, the 7.2-magnitude quake likely to strike Metro Manila “in our lifetime”, according to geologists.

This early, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and the Department of Transportation should prime Clark International Airport so that it can fully function as the country’s main gateway, should “The Big One” knock out the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), according to Makati City Rep. Luis Campos Jr last September 2.

“Clark should gear up this early so that it can seamlessly absorb all of NAIA’s international and domestic flight operations in the event that the latter’s two runways and systems are put out of action by a 7.2-magnitude earthquake,” Campos, a deputy minority leader, said.

Campos said Clark’s aviation infrastructure would likely be left undamaged or only slightly so by the massive tremor bound to strike and devastate Metro Manila “in our lifetime.”

“Considering that ‘The Big One’ may happen anytime, Clark should be prepared to methodically mobilize and run as our primary aviation gateway anytime, complete with ready access to the required additional logistics,” Campos said.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology looked at 18 earthquake scenarios in a joint 2004 study with the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

The study selected three scenarios for detailed damage analysis: A 7.2-magnitude earthquake from the West Valley Fault; an offshore 7.9-magnitude earthquake from the Manila Trench, and a 6.5-magnitude earthquake hitting Manila Bay.

That of the West Valley Fault—a 130-kilometer planar fracture that runs through six cities in Metro Manila and extends from Doña Remedios, Bulacan to Calamba, Laguna—is considered the most destructive and the worst-case scenario. This would be “The Big One.”

West Valley Fault | Photo from Wikipedia.org

Meanwhile, Campos welcomed the government’s plan to allow the development of two new airports in Bulacan and Cavite.

“If we look at many rapidly growing metropolitan areas around the world, they tend to rely on multiple airports, not just one or two,” Campos said.

“The state of New York, for instance, which has a population of almost 20 million, has 16 primary airports, plus dozens of secondary, reliever and general aviation airports,” Campos said.

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