TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines - A C-130 Hercules of the Malaysian Air Force carrying tons of relief goods for survivors of Supertyphoon "Yolanda" (Haiyan) was ready to land at the airport here on Thursday but was told to fly to the Mactan airport in Cebu to give way to a small private plane carrying eight VIPs.
Eight days after Yolanda's high winds and a surge of ocean water laid waste to the entire city and left its population prostrate, aid missions to the shattered province of Leyte and neigboring areas are hounded by matters like this and other logistical problems.
Citing the limited capacity of the airport, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas ordered the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines to prioritize big planes bringing relief items over smaller private planes to prevent delays in the distribution of aid already long delayed.
He also directed CAAP area manager Efren Nagrama to make sure that all relief flights are able to land in Tacloban after learning that the Malaysian C-130 was turned away to accommodate a chartered Beechcraft King Air.
"There are relief flights which were not allowed to land because of the air traffic," Roxas told Nagrama during the daily meeting of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council at the sports complex here.
He noted that Tacloban airport's apron, which barely survived the storm surge and powerful winds of the typhoon, can accommodate only three planes at a time.
"You have a King Air carrying eight persons and a C130 carrying tons of relief items. Which one would you let in first? Unfortunately, the C130 had to return to Cebu," Roxas said. "Whoever executive was on that King Air flight, you should have ordered him to go to Cebu and wait for clearance to return."
Roxas said he was not told who were the passengers of the chartered flight, but he surmised they could be leaders of a private volunteer organisation.
While the government was thankful for the private group's help in gathering support for the survivors, he said private flights should not hamper the delivery of aid.