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Bad luck blamed for NAIA blackout

File photo shows Transport Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya (left) and MIAA general manager Jose Angel Honrado during a recent inaugural flight at the NAIA-3. President Aquino has been urged to fire and punish those responsible for the five-hour airport blackout at Terminal 3. RUDY SANTOS

MANILA, Philippines – It was tough luck and they are sorry for the crippling blackout, transport and airport officials said yesterday even as they brushed aside calls for their resignation.

Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) general manager Jose Angel Honrado yesterday attributed to bad luck the blackout at the Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) on Saturday night.

The incident led to the cancellation of 82 local flights and delays in at least four international flights, but Honrado said he has “no plans to resign.”

“Sorry, minalas kami,” he told a press conference yesterday.

He said the airport generators did not function as well as expected, failing to provide enough power to run the lighting, air-traffic control, elevator and escalator, conveyor and almost a dozen other systems.

Honrado blamed the poor preventive maintenance of all 10 standby generator sets.

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“Instead of jolting automatically through the automatic transfer switch in five to 10 seconds, the gensets failed such that they had to be manually started. When they came to life, the required power to activate the lighting system was found to be insufficient,” Honrado narrated.

Honrado, along with senior assistant general manager Vicente Guerzon and Terminal 3 manager Octavio Lina, rushed to Malacañang the other day to meet with President Aquino, who admonished them and ordered that the incident that affected at least 14,000 passengers should not happen again.

Liberal Party presidential candidate Mar Roxas yesterday said heads must roll over the embarrassing power outage that hit Terminal 3 as he called for a thorough and impartial investigation to determine exactly what happened, including the accountability of concerned officials. 

“Where was the tripping? Why was this (power outage) not immediately addressed... because the system was supposed to have back-up and double back-up generators, so this should not have happened,” Roxas told reporters. 

He wanted “those responsible fired, punished and reprimanded,” stressing that politics should not come into play in sanctioning officials.

The NAIA is under the Department of Transportation and Communications that is headed by Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, the LP secretary general.

Senator and vice presidential bet Alan Peter Cayetano yesterday called for the dismissal of Abaya for “unparalleled level of incompetence” following the blackout that hit Terminal 3 of the NAIA until early Sunday.

The lawmaker questioned in a statement what makes Abaya “so special that despite his series of monumental blunders, Malacañang can’t seem to sack him?”

He said the blunders at the Department of Transportation and Communications include special screws, overcharging of non-delivered stickers, late license plates and no available driver’s licenses, frequent MRT breakdowns, abandoned license plates at the Bureau of Customs, stolen plate sheets and now airport blackouts.

“I have never seen such a display of incompetence in our recent political history. Why Secretary Abaya continues to serve at the DOTC despite these is mind-boggling. It defies all existing logic,” Cayetano stressed.

In a text message, Abaya said: “We continue to be focused on our work, and right now that includes ensuring that a similar incident will not happen at NAIA.”

The “DOTC ineptitude is so meteoric that it borders on the criminal. Worse, it not only victimizes our people but our foreign guests as well. It’s a continuing international embarrassment,” Cayetano said. 

He urged Abaya to show compassion to his department’s rank-and-file employees by saving them from further ridicule and ire from the public.

Vice presidential candidate Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. also called for Abaya’s resignation. He described the latter as a “disappointment.”

“I’m sorry but the DOTC has been the source of so many problems. When he came in, we had hoped that he would rationalize the department. But he has been a disappointment,” Marcos said.

He also called for the resignation of MIAA’s Honrado, whom he described as someone who does not know his job.

The airport blackout, Marcos added, is just one of many incidents that show the “incompetence of the people at the DOTC.”

Overseas Filipino workers’ advocate and senatorial candidate Susan Ople also pressed yesterday for a comprehensive “vulnerability check” on all international and domestic airports nationwide.

“That calamitous power outage may have branded NAIA as among the world’s most vulnerable airports, thus catching the interest of international terror groups,” Ople said in a statement.

She said the DOTC must immediately conduct a comprehensive sweep of all airports and seaports to ensure all security features, including emergency power supply, are up and running.

Ople is concerned that the recent problems at the DOTC will create a lingering effect on the mindset of both foreign and domestic tourists.  – With Mike Frialde, Robertzon Ramirez, Mayen Jaymalin, Louella Desiderio

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