CNA – The Philippines’ main gateway scrambled to resume full services yesterday after a new year power outage jolted its air traffic control and disrupted 300 flights, prompting calls from business leaders and a top senator for urgent action.
A failure of primary and secondary power supplies caused the outage at Ninoy Aquino airport, and it should take about 72 hours for airlines to normalise their operations, said Manila International Airport Authority General Manager Cesar Chiong.
There were 361 flights delayed, cancelled or diverted to other regional airports on Sunday, affecting some 65,000 passengers, while may other flights were rerouted around Philippine airspace.
Chiong said the airport was handling a maximum of 15 flights per hour yesterday, down from the usual 20.
Several of the airport’s four terminals were crowded yesterday, with long queues of people trying to re-book flights while other weary passengers slept on chairs or on the floor.
“In the 24 hours that we’ve been waiting, we are now very exhausted from lack of sleep, my body is aching from all the waiting,” said Kirana Mangkabong, 32, an overseas worker.
The airport has been ranked among the world’s worst international gateways, with flight backlogs a regular occurrence and a history of upgrades being delayed or abandoned due to disputes between airport authorities and contractors.
The Transport Ministry ruled out sabotage but vowed to investigate the airport chaos, which renewed calls for existing gateway to be upgraded and better operated.
“The government should look at this wake up call to improve, either through public or private efforts, or a joint venture,” the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry President George Barcelon said.
Former presidential candidate and head of the public services committee Grace Poe called for a congressional inquiry into the incident, saying it was “a national security concern”.
Chiong said the facility introduced its own power system in 2018 but that on Sunday, both the main and backup systems failed.
Once connected directly to the regular commercial electricity, the systems experienced a power surge that forced equipment to shut down, including radar and communications, he said.
Government business advisor Joey Concepcion said authorities should revive a proposal for a consortium to modernise the airport.
“Any inefficiencies in the airport translate to big losses in business down the line and are felt throughout the country,” he said in a statement.