POSTSCRIPT / November 5, 2017 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

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‘Heal the land’ rally a prelude to what?

A PROTEST march culminating in a mass at 3 p.m. today on historic Epifanio delos Santos Ave. will kick off a 33-day “Start the Healing” campaign called by the local Catholic church through Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

The church-led activities could attract the attention of foreign dignitaries attending the multilevel meetings of officials and partners of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations with the Philippines as chairman and host.

While Catholic groups form the core of the marchers, the event is likely to also draw malcontents, the political opposition, and sectors protesting the extrajudicial killings associated with President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal drug war.

We do not see destabilization resulting from the scattered protests, but there are prophets of doom still coaxing their crystal balls to show scenes of disorder reminiscent of the EDSA Revolt of 1986.

Today, marchers will assemble in various places, march to the EDSA Revolt shrine at the Ortigas corner for the mass, then proceed to the People Power monument off Camp Aguinaldo for the usual program. Motorists will blow their horns to protest – the resulting traffic obstruction.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said: “This will prepare us to make our act of consecration to the Immaculate Mother. We are requested to pray the rosary and receive Holy Communion, if possible every day, for the healing of our bleeding nation and for the peace of the souls of all those killed.”

The CBCP-inspired event may not be as raucous as the Iglesia ni Cristo mobilization of Aug. 28-29, 2015, that started outside the Department of Justice on Padre Faura in Manila and spread to the Shaw and Ortigas intersections on EDSA as more INC members estimated at 5,000 joined the protest against alleged DoJ “meddling” in church matters.

Depending on how the “healing” activities are managed and how the Duterte administration responds, today’s march-mass event could signal an escalation of protests against corruption, poverty, and the violation of human rights.

• Where will ‘Air Force One’ land?

IT BEING a top security matter, nobody knows this early where “Air Force One” bearing US President Donald Trump will land when he arrives for the Nov. 12-13 summit and related ASEAN activities in Manila.

The majestic flying fortress emblazoned with the presidential seal and the name “United States of America” is one of two highly customized Boeing 747-200B series aircraft carrying the Commander-in-Chief in an airborne White House and command center in case of an attack.

Since nobody is saying where Trump will touch down, we suggest Clark International Airport in Pampanga – the former premier base of the US 13thAir Force — instead of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City.

No offense meant, but NAIA is congested and more difficult to secure. And with the No-Fly Zone protocol enforced before, during, and after the arrival/departure of “the Angel,” commercial air traffic would be thrown into confusion.

Airline passengers affected would be swearing at Trump, like when his host Duterte – then a candidate for president — cursed Pope Francis when the pontiff’s visit in January 2015 caused the Davao mayor’s being caught in traffic and arriving late for an event.

From Clark, Trump could be ferried by “Marine One” chopper to wherever. Manila is less than 30 minutes away. Meanwhile, US warships could be in readiness on Manila bay or Subic – unless the Russians and/or Chinese had gained Duterte’s permission to anchor there ahead.

Where will Trump spend the night? We think he would feel safer and more at home at the Forbes Park residence of American Ambassador Sung Kim. We heard that the vaunted Trump Tower built by Philippine special ambassador to the US Jose Antonio in Makati is not ready.

We are just talking here of the safety and comfort of Trump, the star of the show. There are a dozen or so other foreign leaders participating in the ASEAN activities and side-events also requiring special attention befitting their stature.

• Clark is ready and able – CIAC chief

WE asked President/CEO Alexander Cauguiran of the Clark International Airport Corp. if they can handle “Air Force One” in case Trump decides to land at CRK – and he gave a quick Yes!

On Clark’s capability, Cauguiran rattled off data so fast that one would think he was born and raised at Clark Field, the old name of the base that was once a US cavalry station known as Fort Stotsenberg. He said among other things:

> Last count of aircraft of participating foreign leaders is 33. All have been given pre-designated aircraft parking space, including for support aircraft. If “Air Force One” uses Clark, the No-Fly Zone protocol for it is one hour before landing and 30 minutes after. If other chiefs of state are landing at the same time, “Air Force One” will get priority.

> Clark runways are the same ones used by the 13th Air Force. The primary runway, completed in 1991, was designed as an alternate landing site of the US Space shuttle at that time. It is 16 inches thick, and can take the largest US military planes such as the C-5 Galaxy, and the largest commercial aircraft, including the Airbus A-380.

> The primary runway is 3,200 meters long and 61 meters wide, with a 300-meter overrun at both ends. It is equipped with modern navigational aids. The secondary runway parallel to (430 meters away) the primary strip is 3,200 meters long and 45 meters wide, with a 300-meter overrun at both ends. The smaller runway has been de-commissioned to give way for a new terminal building.

> There is a plan to build another runway that is 4,000 meters long and 60 meters wide, separated from the primary runway by 2,000 meters.

> There were 951,000 passengers that passed through CRK in 2016, while some 1.42 million are expected in 2017. International flights number 156, and domestic flights 126 per week.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 5, 2017)

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