NAIA blackout probe ordered


MANILA, Philippines - President Arroyo ordered yesterday an investigation into Sunday’s power outage at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) that caused the radar system to break down.

Meanwhile, the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) said yesterday it had nothing to do with the power outage.

Ricardo Buencamino, Meralco executive vice president and head of networks group, said the problem was internal to the airport.

“The problem that affected NAIA operations was due to internal technical trouble traced to the power supply of its air traffic communication systems,” he said.

“It was not due to the massive loss of power or blackout of Meralco circuits supplying the airport complex.”

Buencamino said power to its Sun Valley circuit serving NAIA’s radar station and Malibay circuit serving air traffic control tower did not encounter power disruptions.

On the other hand, power was restored in three seconds after a circuit in its Parañaque substation serving NAIA terminals 1 and 2 tripped at around 2:29 p.m., he added.

Speaking to reporters, deputy presidential spokesman Anthony Golez said Mrs. Arroyo instructed aviation authorities to submit a report on the incident as soon as possible.

Golez said the Department of Transportation and Communications would most likely lead the investigation to ensure impartiality.

“We will find out who were at fault and who should be made accountable because this goes against the principle of giving safety to our passengers,” he said.

Golez said the sides of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) and airport officials must be heard.

“We will see what needs to be done,” he said. “What’s important is that in this issue, let the chips fall where they may.”

Golez said the power outage caused “wastage in energy” and risked the lives of passengers as aircraft hovered before being diverted to another airport.

“And of course the reputation (of the country), especially, on the first timers to the Philippines, who are supposed to have a beautiful experience to come here in the Philippines, even before they can enter the airport, this thing happens,” he said.

The incident is a “very good start” to upgrade the capability and standards of NAIA, as well as the standards of safety of the airline industry, Golez said.

CAAP spokesman Eduardo Batac said faulty radar system that should have been replaced four years ago was to blame for the problem.

“Our system should have been replaced in 2005, but because of the processes that we had to go through, it is only now that we are starting to put in place the new systems,” he said.

Radar back at NAIA

Two of the four radar screens and all radio communications at the Manila Area Control Center are in partial operation.

The air controllers have adopted a “flow control” system that limits arrivals and departures, giving them five-minute separations so as to assure relatively fast and safe landing and takeoff.

Alfonso Cusi, Manila International Airport Authority general manager, said Sunday’s power outage did not affect NAIA.

“The NAIA itself was a victim of the power failure although we were able to immediately put into operations our backup power,” he said.

CAAP Director General Ruben Ciron said when the power failure occurred, the uninterrupted power supply failed to activate for the first time, which would have assured the continuity of communications and radar operations.

CAAP has put in place a contingency plan to prevent the recurrence of a similar incident, he added —Paolo Romero, Donnabelle Gatdula, Rainier Allan Ronda, Rudy Santos

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