The Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), the country’s premier gateway, suffered another 30-minute-long power outage on Friday – barely a month after a similar brownout on Labor Day — as travelers sought to leave for the long Independence Day weekend.
The power interruption from 12:51 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. at NAIA Terminal 3 resulted in long queues at immigration booths, while airlines had to resort to manual check-in and loading of baggage. Some flights were also delayed by the brownout.
“Again, we would like to apologize to all the passengers and stakeholders here at Terminal 3 today for the inconvenience because of this brief power interruption that affected the terminal,” said Manila International Airport Authority acting general manager Bryan Co.
Co said the brownout was caused by a power shortage traced to substation roadway 2.
“As a background today, there was a scheduled electrical audit that was being done, by of course, MIAA and Mserv (a Meralco company). This is still part of our power services improvement because of the May 1 incident. So, today there was a testing that was being done at roadway 1 substation and roadway 2 substation by Mserv and MIAA,” he said.
Co said the checking included the breakers, circuit breakers, cable tests bus bars, relays, current transformers, and the other cables of these systems.
“That started around 7:45 a.m. This was a planned check of the base power facilities, so we can note what we have to improve on or what we have to change as part of the comprehensive electrical audit as mentioned previously,” he added.
Co explained the incident “was not a complete loss of power” for the airport because after 12:52 p.m., “our generators kicked in and as we were conducting all the checks so that we can reanalyze, of course there is a process so that we can get a first… the probable causes.”
But the power outage once again shows the need for urgent power augmentation while a full electrical audit is ongoing, said Senate Public Service committee chairperson Sen. Grace Poe.
Regardless of the brownout’s duration, Poe said power outages at NAIA are enough to cause a domino effect of flight delays, passenger confusion, and reduced business.
On May 1, thousands of passengers were stranded due to cancelation of at least 46 domestic flights following an eight-hour brownout at the same terminal.
A special team from the airport management and Meralco is currently conducting a joint technical assessment with assistance from an independent third party expert to determine the causes of the said power interruption.
That followed the incident on New Year’s Day, when the country’s airspace was shut down due to a technical glitch at the air traffic management system, affecting more than 360 flights and 65,000 passengers at NAIA alone.
All incidents happened during holidays where there were influx of passengers, prompting lawmakers to invite MIAA and Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines officials to a legislative inquiry to shed light on the matter.
During the Labor Day power outage, the Department of Transportation said the agency is already working with the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency and other authorities to explore the possibility of a sabotage. This report remains to be seen, Poe noted.
According to the senator, it also remains unclear why the electrical plan of NAIA Terminal 3, among other important building plan documents, has not been turned over by the contractor despite the government having already paid the just compensation.
In the interim, DOTr should look at adding generators and providing comfortable waiting areas to passengers especially, the elderly and those with ailments.
“Even if NAIA’s privatization is being explored, this is no excuse for airport officials to drop the ball. MIAA should implement proper maintenance and contingency plans to prevent any future outages and travel disruptions,” Poe said.
“There should be comprehensive responses for all emergency scenarios. Any audit or improvement needs to be planned ahead of time,” she added.