Philippines airport scrambles to restore normalcy after power cut
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[January 02, 2023]
By Neil Jerome Morales and Adrian Portugal
MANILA (Reuters) -The Philippines' main gateway scrambled to resume full
services on Monday after a New Year power outage jolted its air traffic
control and disrupted 300 flights, prompting calls from business leaders
and a top senator for urgent action.
A failure of primary and secondary power supplies caused the outage at
Ninoy Aquino airport, and it should take about 72 hours for airlines to
normalise their operations, said Cesar Chiong, general manager of the
Manila International Airport Authority.
There were 361 flights delayed, cancelled or diverted to other regional
airports on Sunday, affecting about 65,000 passengers, while may other
flights were rerouted around Philippine airspace.
Chiong said the airport was handling a maximum of 15 flights per hour on
Monday morning, down from the usual 20.
Several of the airport's four terminals were crowded on Monday, with
long queues of people trying to re-book flights while other weary
passengers slept on chairs or on the floor.
"In the 24 hours that we've been waiting, we are now very exhausted from
lack of sleep, my body is aching from all the waiting," said Kirana
Mangkabong, 32, an overseas worker.
The airport has been ranked among the world's worst international
gateways, with flight backlogs a regular occurrence and a history of
upgrades being delayed or abandoned due to disputes between airport
authorities and contractors.
Airports are being built in provinces surrounding Manila to relieve
pressure, including in Cavite and in Bulacan, which is due to start
operations in 2027.
The transport ministry has ruled out sabotage but vowed to investigate
the airport chaos, which has renewed calls for existing gateway to be
upgraded and better operated.
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Passengers queue at airline counters in
the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, in Pasay City, Metro Manila,
Philippines, January 2, 2023. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez
"The government should look at this wake up call to improve, either
through public or private efforts, or a joint venture," George
Barcelon, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and
Industry, told Reuters.
His flight from Dubai was affected, as was that of tycoon Manuel
Pangilinan, who on Sunday said his flight from Japan had to turn
back halfway through and tweeted: "Only in the PH. Sigh".
Grace Poe, a former presidential candidate and head of the public
services committee, called for a congressional inquiry into the
incident, saying it was "a national security concern".
Airport general manager Chiong said that the facility had introduced
its own power system in 2018 but that on Sunday, both the main and
backup systems failed.
Once connected directly to the regular commercial electricity, the
systems experienced a power surge that forced equipment to shut
down, including radar and communications, he said.
Joey Concepcion, a government business adviser, said authorities
should revive a proposal for a consortium to modernise the airport.
"Any inefficiencies in the airport translate to big losses in
business down the line and are felt throughout the country," he said
in a statement.
(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales and Adrian Portugal; Editing by
Martin Petty and Gerry Doyle)
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