Areas to be visited by Pope Francis to be declared no-fly zones
MANILA, Philippines—The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) on Friday recommended that the committee organizing the papal visit in January declare a no-fly zone policy in areas to be visited by the Pope.
Aviation officials also found it necessary to close down Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport in Tacloban City on Jan. 17, 2015, the day Pope Francis is expected to give a Holy Mass and meet survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda.”
“We will establish flight restrictions over the duration of his visit. We will give him priority befitting his status,” retired Gen. Rodate Joya, deputy director general for operations of the CAAP, said in a news briefing on Friday.
In CAAP’s recommendation to the Papal Visit 2015-National Organizing Committee (PV-NOC) headed by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., a no-fly zone of 2 nautical miles and height of 18,000 feet “from the point of engagement” should be implemented during the papal visit.
“This is to ensure that the Pope is safe from any threat,” Joya said, noting that a security protocol similar to the one implemented during the visit of US President Barack Obama will be in place.
“The difference, however, is with the Pope’s movement, expect a great multitude to swarm around him,” the CAAP official said.
Pope Francis is scheduled to visit the country from Jan. 15 to 19, 2015.
Apart from a meeting with President Aquino in Malacañang and religious leaders of the Catholic Church at University of Santo Tomas in Manila, Pope Francis will lead a Holy Mass at Rizal Park where a huge number of Catholics are expected to attend.
“From the Luneta grandstand, the no-fly zone could cover areas up to the Baclaran area,” Joya said.
In Tacloban, the airport would be closed to other flights within two to three hours after his departure.
“These are our recommendations which are still subject to the approval of the NOC,” he said.
The no-fly zone policy covers commercial, cargo and general aviation flights, fight training, radio-controlled aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles such as drones.
However, exemptions may be granted by the NOC, particularly for news organizations covering the papal visit.
The CAAP is speeding up the rehabilitation of the runway of the Tacloban airport, which can only accommodate turbo-propeller aircraft.
Joya noted that in a previous meeting, CAAP officials were told by the NOC that the Pope will ride an Airbus A320 of the flag carrier Philippine Airlines from Manila to Tacloban and back.
“We still have plenty of time to finish the work ahead of Pope Francis’ visit,” he said.
The 2,140-meter runway of the Tacloban airport, which was among the structures destroyed by Yolanda last year, has been riddled with potholes. This has prompted aviation officials to begin the repairs and open the airport on a limited capacity.