Drilon to DOTr: Stop use of 'stone age' sirens to shoo animals off runways

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon on Wednesday, September 14, asked the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to stop the use of sirens in some provincial airports to drive animals away before planes land.

Citing his own experience in the airport of Naga City, Camarines Sur, Drilon said he was surprised to hear the sound of a siren. He only found out about its purpose when people told him.

"You know for a major city like Naga, for example, that's the city or province of the Vice President, do you know in that airport they would have to have a siren before planes land? Why? Para po umalis 'yung mga baka at 'yung iba pa (So the cows and other animals would leave)," Drilon said at the budget hearing of the proposed 2017 budget of the agency.

Manuel Tamayo of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) explained to the senator that the use of sirens in provincial airports has been a standard operating procedure (SOP).

"As far as CAAP-controlled airports are concerned, it is SOP especially in provincial airports to have a siren pagka nag-a-approach 'yung aircraft o nagde-depart (when an aircraft is approaching or departing)," Tamayo said.

Saying all their provincial airports have perimeter fences, Tamayo said the siren is more for people in the airfield, as instances of stray animals are far and few in between.

But Drilon said airports – regardless if international or domestic – should not have those "embarrassing" sirens.

"I could not accept that, provincial man o international, nakakahiya na may siren papaalisin 'yung baka bago mag-landing eroplano (it's embarrassing to have a siren to drive away cows before an airplane lands). Panahon pa ng Second World War 'yan (It dates back to the Second World War), can you do something about that?" Drilon said.


Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, for his part, said the DOTr has already talked with local officials to address the issue.

He expressed confidence that the problem would be easily solved because the past administration had millions of unused funds.

"Sa Naga po, ang laki-laki ng unobligated funds, ma-address po agad 'yan (In Naga, there are huge amounts of unobligated funds, we can address that immediately). But this has been addressed already. Nakausap na po namin local officials (We've already talked with local officials)," Tugade said.

To which Drilon said in jest: "So wala nang baka doon?" (There are no cows anymore?)

"'Pag nagastos na ho namin, makikita na lang 'yung baka sa kuwan, sa corned beef (Once we've spent the unspent funds, the cows would just be seen in corned beef)," joked Tugade. 

Drilon, turning serious, then highlighted the need for the government to modernize its airport facilities.

"I make fun of it just to highlight the point that we are in the stone age in so far as those airports are concerned. It is quite embarrassing," he said.

The DOTr has a proposed budget of P56.2 billion next year, higher than its present budget of P42.68 billion. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com