After Rizal photobomb, DMCI 'obstructs' NAIA flight path – Ejercito

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – After photobombing the Rizal Monument at Luneta Park, property firm DMCI is now being accused of obstructing the flight path of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) with its high-rise condominium development.

Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito revealed this on Wednesday, September 14, during the Senate hearing on the proposed 2017 budget of the Department of Transportation.

Ejercito said he received complaints that Cypress Towers along C-5 in Taguig City is blocking the path of incoming aircraft to NAIA, saying this could be the reason for frequent flight diversions to Clark International Airport.

The senator claimed that the original 300-feet minimum descent altitude (MDA) of aircraft to land had to be adjusted to 900 feet because of Cypress Towers.

"Probably that's one of the reasons why the aircraft with bad, poor visibility, mas madalas ngayon ang diversions (there are more frequent diversions now)," Ejercito said during the hearing.

Manuel Tamayo, deputy director general for administration of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), confirmed that the MDA was indeed adjusted because of the condo.

"I'd agree Mr Senator. This was done several years ago. They had to adjust the minimum descent height for the non-position approach specifically because of this tower," Tamayo said.

With this, Senate finance committee chairperson Loren Legarda asked: "So you have to adjust because of a building? It's a condominium, it could have been avoided."

Ejercito replied: "Madam, you will be surprised who the developer is. Before it was just a photobomber in Rizal, now it's an obstruction of the flight path. I think it's developed by DMCI also."

DMCI's Torre de Manila has been dubbed the "national photobomber" for "ruining" the sightline or view of the Rizal Monument. (READ: TIMELINE: The Torre de Manila case)

The condominium project is the subject of a pending case before the Supreme Court, with the SC earlier temporarily halting the building's construction. 

The Senate of the 16th Congress also conducted a probe into the matter, saying that Torre de Manila damages the preservation of the country's rich heritage and culture.

Safe for riding public

Tamayo explained that NAIA uses 3 approaches for landing aircraft – visual, non-precision, and precision such as the "more efficient" instrument landing system (ILS).

At present, he said NAIA only uses the non-precision approach because the ILS was destroyed by lightning in 2015. The government has already ordered spare parts but the supplier has not delivered them yet, he added.

In the hearing, Tamayo admitted that the DMCI condo has affected the currently applied approach, but he maintained this is already a non-issue as they already increased height limits.

He then assured the public that the non-precision approach is still "safe" despite the existence of the tower.

"I'm not sure how high the building is. But I just want to assure the riding public that safe 'yung approach (the approach is safe) even if it's non-precision approach," Tamayo said.

DMCI statement

In a statement on Thursday, September 15, DMCI said Cypress Towers was “structurally completed” in 2006, even before flight diversions to Clark International Airport became frequent.

It said the 20-story project got a height clearance permit from the Air Transportation Office (now Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines) in 2003.

That permit limits the height of the project to 85.35 meters above mean sea level (amsl). At 82.3 meters amsl, Cypress Towers should to obstruct the NAIA runway, said DMCI.

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is a multimedia reporter focusing on media, technology, and disinformation.