I am fond of taking airplanes and traveling around the country, but I shudder at the thought of the glitches and hassles of going via the national gateway—the NAIA—with all the consequential delayed flights, glitches in the air transport communication systems, and now the Labor Day brownout (or blackout is more apt a term) that lasted from past 1 a.m. to past 8 a.m.
Imagine the huge number of stranded passengers all occupying a cramped space and no one would dare leave such a precious space because they might not be able to get in once again should flights resume with the restoration of power.
Seeing those huge crowds slumped on the floors of NAIA—Terminal 3—because of the blackout I could only sympathize with their frustration, anger and distraught over the inconvenience they are made to go through.
And now the Department of Transportation is again calling for a thorough electrical audit of the power system of NAIA following the outage. My god, when the communication glitch happened last New Year’s Day, a comprehensive check on the power supply system should have been done especially in light of the Labor Day outage. The audit will also cover Terminals 1 and 2.
Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista said he is not ruling out sabotage for this outage, which is why he is ordering the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, NAIA, MIAA and Meralco to step in and conduct the audit.
“We are talking about a full electrical audit of Terminal 3, which started operations in 2009 and underwent electrical audit in 2017. Not all recommendations were implemented and since then the capacity of Terminal 3 increased,” he said.
Bautista told media “sabotage” was possible cause of Monday’s power outage at Terminal 3 and previous outages on New Year’s Day in 2023, and last September 17, 2022.
MIAA General Manager Cesar Chiong apologized for the inconvenience experienced by the passengers at NAIA 3 due to the power outage. He said 9,000 passengers and 247 flights were affected by the power failure, which lasted from 1:05 am to 8:46 am. “No international flights were affected,” he noted, and underscored that the 9,000 passengers affected accounted for 7 percent of total passengers who use the NAIA daily.
Bautista said that “not all documents and manuals were turned over to the MIAA” when it got possession of the airport facility in 2009, following a legal battle with the contractors.
He even intoned that rehabilitating Terminal 3 would involve a huge budget that needs to undergo regular procurement processes and it would be such a huge undertaking.
The capacity of NAIA 3 has increased since the last audit in 2017, with more concessionaires and so with the number of flights. The audit would include Terminals 1 and 2“since our other terminals are also old,” Bautista said adding it could take 60 to 90 days but will commence once the procurement process has been completed.
MIAA says it conducts a regular electrical audit of the NAIA every five years. Its last audit was in 2017.
But theauditwas stalled in 2022 because of the pandemic, said MIAA Civil Works Department OIC Antonio P. Mendoza. Even then, if the audit had pushed through, there was no telling if the outage on Labor Day could have been prevented. “If there was a need to upgrade and parts replaced, this doesn’t happen overnight,” he said, emphasizing that the rehabilitation would have also taken time.
The Labor Day outage affected 24 domestic flights or 6.5 percent of total flights on a daily basis.
Chiong, for his part, said the power generators kicked in immediately after the outage, but serviced just 30 percent of NAIA 3, so-called “mission critical areas,” which included check-in counters and the Immigration areas. “There were air conditioned parts but due to the heat of the season, they were also not as comfortable,” he admitted.
A team from the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) immediately arrived at the terminal to conduct necessary works to restore the power.
Meralco Manager for Manila Sector Noel Espiritu said initial investigation showed that a “fault indication at the main circuit breaker of NAIA Terminal 3” caused the power outage. A spike in power “stressed” the elbow connector, which was then replaced to restore the power at the terminal.