Statistically speaking, the rate of bird strikes is insignificant: few collisions out of the hundreds of flights each year for the past two years. But when you think about its impact – human lives going down and orphans they leave behind – you know that the real worth of human life cannot be tied down to numbers.
Bird strikes at NAIA and the Centennial terminals have been taken up as part of the public agenda but it struck me as funny how heads of public offices meeting for a solution can’t seem to deliberate on a solution (unless they meant “further study” is the solution). I’m reminded of the joke about committees especially those comprised of economists. Such committees approach a problem from ivory towers, which is to say that the use of sophisticated calculations and tools can divert one from the real explanation which is actually obvious and simple.
On clear days, from the plane, either just after take-off or during approach, I see that the land surrounding one side of the NAIA and Centennial airports, stretching out into – is it Laguna de Bay? – are fish pens (I’ve noted an increase of these over the years). I see flocks of birds – exactly those reported to collide with the planes – on the edges of these pens, apparently attracted to the smell of and feasting on fattened food.
Similarly, when I’m on the road to Northern Luzon from Metro Manila, I see on either side of the North Luzon Expressway particularly the land close to the intersection into Subic (which leads to the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport), flocks of birds especially egrets wallowing in the marsh which is also used as natural fish pens.
What these reveal is that behind the apparent problem of bird strikes is the lingering problem of land use planning, in this case use of land within and near airports.
CAAP, in all urgency, should review the land use plans of airports, if there are, and institute measures accordingly. Otherwise, is it too late to hash up one for each airport? It is a known fact even among students in land use planning that you don’t use land inside or near airports in ways that pose or invite risks to the business of flying people (which is already a high risk business to start with). You don’t wait for commercial establishments (and settlements) to invade or threaten designated airport space. Unlike mixed use areas, the airport space cannot be an ecotourism site or for livelihood (fish pens) at the same time.