Iloilo City — Business and tourism officials have raised concerns about the Iloilo airport’s ability to handle international flights after a malfunctioning electrical gadget caused a power blackout that crippled the airport’s operations last Tuesday.
Maria Lea Victoria Lara, executive director of the Iloilo Business Club, said she was among hundreds of passengers who were stranded for hours in the airport after its uninterrupted power supply (UPS) unit caught fire, triggering the blackout.
The UPS serves as a protection from surges or fluctuations in the flow of electricity from power distributors.
“Many waited for hours outside the terminal in the darkness,” Lara said in a telephone interview.
At least 10 incoming and outgoing flights were canceled because even the tarmac’s lights were affected.
Flights resumed early Wednesday after technicians restored the airport’s power supply by bypassing the UPS.
Airport manager Efren Nagrama said the device could have overheated due to heavy load and the extremely hot weather.
He apologized to passengers and stressed that the blackout was a rare technical malfunction.
But Lara said the passengers were severely inconvenience because of lack of information as to when flights would be restored. Moreover, the stranded passengers were not provided food or water.
“How can we bring in international flights if the airport does not have a power supply back-up and prepared contingency measures to deal with emergency situations,” Lara asked.
Lara said contingency measures should be put in place not only by the airport but also by the government agencies concerned to deal with unforeseen and emergency situations such as Tuesday’s power blackout.
Helen Catalbas, tourism regional director, said the incident was “unfortunate” and should be avoided through improved facilities and adequate preparation.
“An airport offers the first and last impressions about a place and it would be unfortunate that an enjoyable and pleasant stay in Iloilo would be ruined at the last minute due to airport problems,” she said.
The Iloilo City government, along with business and tourism organization and agencies, is working to bring in directly international flights to Iloilo within the year. It is envisioned to be another international hub in Western Visayas next to the Kalibo International Airport in Aklan.
The Iloilo City airport, located in the town of Cabatuan, opened on June 2007 and was built at a cost of P8.76 billion. It is among the most modern in the country and is supposedly capable of accommodating international flights. /INQUIRER