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DOTr not ruling out sabotage in latest NAIA power outage

James Relativo - Philstar.com
DOTr not ruling out sabotage in latest NAIA power outage
Passengers wait for information about their flights at terminal 3 of Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay, Metro Manila on January 1, 2023. Thousands of travellers were stranded at Philippine airports on January 1 after a "loss of communication" at the country's busiest hub in Manila forced hundreds of flights to be cancelled, delayed or diverted.
AFP / Kevin Tristan Espiritu, File

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Transportation is considering the possibility that the power outage on Monday at Ninoy Aquino International Airport's Terminal 3 was intentional because of the timing.

Multiple flights were either cancelled or delayed last Monday during the International Workers' Day due to a power outage, stalling thousands of passengers in the process. Power distributor Meralco earlier said that the problem points to a "main circuit breaker problem."

"Because this is the second time that it happened on a long weekend, I think you cannot really discount the possibility of having somebody do it to embarrass the government, or to prove that they have something that we should give into," said Transport Secretary Jaime Bautista in an interview by CNN Philippines this Tuesday. 

The last incident was on New Year's Day when the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines' air traffic management system went offline because of a power outage.

"We're not discounting the possibility that there might be a sabotage. I hope it's not. That's the reason why we asked the other agencies to join us."

A joint committee of the DOTr, Office of Transport Security, Manila International Airport Authority and National Intelligence Coordinating Agency will meet to "determine the real cause" behind the problem.

They will be joined by the National Bureau of Investigation and Philippine National Police. For now, the transport official claims that there is in fact "no circuit breaker problem," and that "it's not a regular fault that entered the system of NAIA-Terminal 3."

"In fact, there are a lot of angles that were considered by NICA yesterday. But of course I do not want to preempt them. So we'll just wait for the result of their investigations," Bautista said.

"Well, I think some [of the theories considered] are serious. But I really want just them to look at it."

'Haven't we learnt from the past?'

Senators were annoyed by the situation yesterday, asking airport authorities if they even picked up any lesson from the last major mess at NAIA at the start of 2023. The last glitch was also due to a power outage.

"Unfortunately, we are starting to sound like a broken record when we say that the steps being taken to improve our airport and our Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines are disappointing," said Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva on Monday.

"Definitely, we cannot let the concerned government authorities escape accountability for this."

Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the public services committee, for her part said that the disruptive failure again caused grave inconvenience to travelers, hinting that DOTr and airport authorities "had not learned from the earlier fiasco."

Businessman Manny V. Pangilinan, who also chairs Meralco, shared his experience regarding the issue last January when he was on his way to the Philippines from Tokyo. He was three hours into the flight but had to return to Haneda, calling it " hours of useless flying" and a "horrendous" loss to tourism and business.

Additional generators sought

Bautista is now mulling for additional generator systems within NAIA, especially that a lack of airconditioning during the power outage made the ordeal worse health-wise especially for the elderly.

"One of the problems is that there are areas in the airport where the temperature is quite warm because the existing power provided by the generator is not enough to support the whole operations of terminal 3," he said.

"We need to acquire more generators so that we can support the 100% power requirement of our Terminal 3... You know this terminal is a 25-year-old terminal."

The DOTr says that terminal upgrades should really be prioritized by the government after this mishap. It could be remembered that NAIA was tagged as the "worst business class airport in the world" by an international study published last May 2022.

It was likewse ranked as the third "most stressful airport in Asia and Oceania" last November by travel blog Hawaiian Islands.

NAIA-3 was only partially opened last July 22 after being originally scheduled to operate in 2002 due to a legal dispute between the state and Philippine International Air Terminals Co. Inc. over the build-operate-transfer contract.

vuukle comment

DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

LABOR DAY

MERALCO

NINOY AQUINO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

POWER INTERRUPTION

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