Noy tells Abaya: No more NAIA blackouts
(The Philippine Star) - April 4, 2016 - 10:01am

MANILA, Philippines - There should be no repeat of the power outage that crippled the country’s premier international airport for five hours over the weekend, President Aquino told the airport manager and the transport chief yesterday.

“The President has directed Secretary Abaya and airport general manager Honrado to adopt contingency measures to prevent the recurrence of the power outage that disrupted operations at NAIA-3 over the weekend,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said. 

He was referring to Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya and Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) general manager Angel Honrado. 

At the same time, airport authorities were also “instructed to maintain vigilance so that the safety of travelers will be assured continuously,” Coloma said.

Abaya and Honrado were summoned to a meeting at Malacañang yesterday afternoon.

The MIAA said a Manila Electric Co (Meralco) substation tripped, causing the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 to lose power.

Meralco spokesman Joe Zaldarriaga confirmed the tripping, but clarified that the trouble lasted only for about 45 seconds and the substation was able to immediately restore power supply to NAIA-3.

He said Meralco dispatched an inspection team to the NAIA substation at 1 a.m. Sunday but found the facility already working. Zaldarriaga said the blackout continued due to “load pressure from the internal electrical facilities.”

Nonetheless, Zaldarriaga said Meralco is checking all its facilities serving the NAIA-3 to prevent another power failure at the busy airport facility.

“Based on our assessment, the power interruption that occurred was apparently due to problems in NAIA’s internal electrical facilities,” the Meralco spokesman said.

He declined to give an update on the meeting between Meralco and airport authorities.

“We are working very closely with NAIA-3 and part of that is to do an inventory which includes a thorough check as well on all our facilities serving the terminal,” he said.

“We are committed to provide efficient, adequate and reliable electric service, especially to a very vital installation like NAIA-3,” he added.

The five-hour power outage forced the cancellation of 82 domestic flights and delays in four international flights. “NAIA and Meralco are still investigating the incident,” Department of Energy director Irma Exconde said in a text message.

‘Unacceptable’

The NAIA-3 blackout drew condemnation from lawmakers, with Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto questioning the poor services at the airports despite the billions of pesos collected from passengers and airlines.

In 2014 alone, the government collected P9.3 billion from NAIA passengers and airlines.

“NAIA is a profit center. Lack of money can’t be an excuse on why it is hit by blackouts, or its ceilings are crashing down, or its air conditioners are conking out,” he said.

Recto said the Saturday incident was “unacceptable and preventable.” 

“NAIA is in the black. So there should be no blackout. This ridiculous incident is simply unacceptable. Government has billions of pesos to spend for improvement of airport facilities,” he said.

Out of its gross income of P9.3 billion in 2014, Recto said MIAA posted a net profit after tax of P3.06 billion.

On top of this, it remitted P1.08 billion as national government share to the Treasury and paid P1.1 billion in taxes, “which means government netted close to P5.3 billion from NAIA users in 2014,” Recto said.

“The government can observe a moratorium from enjoying NAIA profits and instead reinvest the same for facility improvements, including the one-stop, multi-agency government assistance and complaints desk to be operated by the Presidential Action Center,” he added.

Recto said funds for the improvement of NAIA can also be sourced from travel tax collections.

Most of the nearly P2-billion travel tax collected by the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) in 2014 came from NAIA outbound passengers.

“NAIA is a major collection point of this tax. This tax is either included in the ticket fare or paid before check-in at the TIEZA kiosk,” Recto said.

“Part of this travel tax collections should be plowed back to NAIA, for comfort facilities like clean toilets, better Wi-Fi and tourist help desks and brochures, “Recto said.

Security issue

Sen. Nancy Binay said the incident “adds to the chaos and instability in the light of global terrorism” and that it “should not be taken for granted because thousands of lives are at stake.” 

“It is deplorable that the Department of Transportation and Communications and the Manila International Airport Authority would pass the blame on Meralco when they should be the one prepared in cases of emergency,” Binay said.

Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who is running for vice president, said the stranded passengers should be compensated.

“At the very least if the passengers were stranded their food, hotel accommodation must be compensated by airport authorities because of the brownout,” the senator said.

He also said the incident may have provided the public a foretaste of what is to transpire during the elections.

“Maybe the Commission on Elections must give priority to providing backup power to precincts during Election Day, to prevent any attempt to manipulate the election,” Marcos said.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, for her part, warned that the country is again at risk of getting the world’s worst airport tag.

 “The Manila International Airport Authority seems eager to regain the ‘world’s worst airport’ title which it lost only in 2015, not only for inconveniencing passengers, but for not working as it should,” the senator said in a statement.

For Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, the incident was symptomatic of the administration’s ineptitude and “a clear embarrassment for the nation.”

“Again, the government consistently failed to make progress because of too much details, tweaking, brainstorming, research and among others in making important decisions that would benefit the poor people,” he said.

“How can we evade the tag as one of the worst airports in the world if this incident has been happening? We have to improve our services and facilities available within the terminals especially cleanliness, customer service, comfort and their overall airport experience,” he added.

“They only have less than three months left in office. Time is up for studying. That studying line went on for too long that it has become an analysis leading to paralysis,” he said.

Former Metro Rail Transit (MRT) general manager Al Vitangcol III, meanwhile, said the NAIA-3 incident was proof of government’s incompetence and should convince voters to shun candidates of the administration.

“Government leadership should not be like this,” Vitangcol said at the Kapihan sa Manila Hotel organized by the Samahang Plaridel.  – Paolo Romero, Christina Mendez, Perseus Echeminada, Rainier Allan Ronda, Rudy Santos

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