No lesson learned? Senators dismayed by yet another airport flop
MANILA, Philippines — Several senators have wondered if concerned agencies learned anything from the outage that crippled operations at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) last New Year’s Day.
They were curious because another power interruption hit Naia Terminal 3 on Labor Day, May 1.
Lawmakers were disappointed that another electricity service breakdown delayed or canceled scores of flights at the country’s crucial gateway, upsetting travelers again. Manila International Airport Authority (Miaa) General Manager Cesar Chiong said the latest disruption affected 9,000 travelers.
READ: Flights delayed, canceled due to power outage at Naia Terminal 3
Senator Grace Poe, head of the Senate committee on public service, said the fiasco shows “another disruptive failure of the airport systems causing grave inconvenience to travelers.”
“Hindi katanggap-tanggap na tuwing may brownout, maaantala ang buong sistema ng airport at ang byahe ng publiko. Parang hindi natututo ang Department of Transportation (DOTr) at Naia sa mga nauna nitong kapalpakan,” she said in a statement.
(It is unacceptable that every time there is a brownout, the entire airport system and public travel will be disrupted. It seems the DOTr and Naia are not learning from their previous failures.)
Aside from being troublesome, Poe said the outage could also be a health hazard, especially for elderly passengers, since it also results in the lack of functioning air conditioners at Naia.
Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva said lawmakers have started sounding like broken records as they repeatedly air their disappointment over the steps being taken to upgrade the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) systems.
“Muli, gusto naming malaman iyong maayos na explanation nila at inaasahan namin na maiintindihan namin iyong kanilang explanation sapagkat noong mga nakaraan, hindi po katanggap-tanggap ang mga binigay nila sa amin na explanation…Wala tayong nakikita na no-nonsense effort para siguruhin na hindi na ito maulit,” he told reporters in an interview.
(Again, we want to know their proper explanation and hope we can understand it because, in the past, the explanations they gave us were unacceptable…We don’t see any no-nonsense effort to make sure it doesn’t happen again.)
Villanueva also promised to hold concerned government bodies accountable for this latest airport mess.
Wrong message to the world
Meanwhile, Senator Nancy Binay lamented how yet another airport chaos sends the unfavorable message to the world that “traveling in the Philippines has become an unpleasant and frustrating experience.”
She pointed out that airports should always brace for “extraordinary and emergencies,” especially during summer and peak travel seasons.
“What happened to the backup and redundant systems that the DOTr and Miaa promised to upgrade? Yes, we expect a certain amount of chaos during holidays and peak seasons. But now, outages and technical glitches seem to have become a common occurrence at our airports – hindi na tayo natuto (we have not learned at all),” Binay said in a separate statement.
A broken promise
Senator Jinggoy Estrada similarly asked aviation and transport authorities in the country: “Have you not had enough yet?”
“We’ve been in this situation last New Year’s Day and it was even worse. This power outage could have been avoided if the necessary measures are already in place, at least in having an uninterruptible power supply, considering the thinning of power supply this summer season and when demand usually peaks,” he said in another statement.
READ: January 1, 2023, the day PH airspace went blank, strips mask off air travel woes, outdated system
Meanwhile, Senator Risa Hontiveros recalled that during the upper chamber’s probe into the New Year’s Day airport flop, concerned government agencies vowed that major problems such as electricity interruption would not happen again.
“Pangakong napako na naman ang tugtugin (A promise that had been broken yet again),” she said in a statement Monday
The opposition lawmaker also wondered if the latest outage falling on a holiday was just pure coincidence, if it was related to the plan to privatize Naia operations, or if it was just Miaa’s blatant neglect of its duties.
READ: Gov’t plans to privatize Naia operations — DOTr chief
“Ano pa man ang dahilan, malinaw na hindi uubra ang economic recovery na hinahangad natin matapos ang pandemya kung magpapatuloy ang ganitong mga kapalpakan,” she said.
(Whatever the reason, it is clear that the economic recovery we seek after the pandemic will not work if these failures continue.)
Hontiveros likewise said she hopes the Labor Day flight cancellations due to the power service disruption did not affect the jobs of Filipino migrant workers, especially those employed in countries with strict re-entry protocols.
“In case this happens, it should be the duty of the government to negotiate on their behalf to ensure that their jobs are protected,” she pointed out.
‘We need diligence’
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III said government agencies “must be serious in monitoring their equipment, noting their condition, and acting quickly when and where necessary.”
“The budget is there. Tap competent technical people. If we are to contract out the maintenance services, then we have to make sure to deal only with competent technical people and firms. The culture of vigilance is what we need to develop. DOTr leaders must show the way. We need ‘sipag’ (diligence) too,” he told Inquirer.net in a message.
READ: Meralco exec: ‘Fault current’ triggered power outage in Naia Terminal 3
Last March, the Senate adopted and approved the findings and recommendations of its committee on public services which conducted a probe into the New Year’s Day air traffic system shutdown that affected at least 65,000 travelers and canceled, delayed, or diverted some 600 flights.
READ: Senate panel report rules out sabotage, cyberattack in New Year’s Day airport fiasco
Among the Senate’s proposals was to legislate the creation of a Philippine Transportation Safety Board *remove: (PTSB)*. This independent body would study transportation safety and probe land, sea, air, and rail accidents and incidents.
READ: Poe refiles transport safety board bill: ‘Veto should not be end of the road’
It also sought to strengthen CAAP by making it a regulator-only body, relieving the agency of its operator duties.
READ: Senators recommend CAAP to have regulatory-only role
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.