(CTN NEWS) – MANILA – A New Year’s power outage shocked the air traffic control system at the main gateway of the Philippines, disrupting 300 aircraft and forcing it to hustle to regain full operations on Monday.
This prompted calls for immediate action from business leaders and a leading lawmaker.
According to Cesar Chiong, general manager of the Manila International Airport Authority, the outage at Ninoy Aquino airport was caused by a breakdown of the primary and backup power supply.
It should take around 72 hours for airline operations to return to normal.
About 65,000 people were affected by 361 flights that were delayed, canceled, or diverted to other regional airports on Sunday. Many more planes were rerouted to avoid Philippine airspace.
Chiong said fewer flights were being handled at the airport on Monday morning than usual—only 15 at most.
On Monday, the airport’s four terminals were packed, with long lines of people waiting to rebook flights while tired travelers dozed off on seats or the ground.
The 32-year-old foreign worker Kirana Mangkabong stated, “In the 24 hours that we’ve been waiting, we are now quite fatigued from lack of sleep, and my body is aching from all the waiting.”
The airport has a reputation as one of the worst international gateways in the world, with frequent flight backlogs and a history of improvements that were postponed or scrapped because of conflicts between airport management and contractors.
To ease the strain on the provinces surrounding Manila, airports are being planned, including in Cavite and Bulacan, which is scheduled to open in 2027.
The airport mess has prompted calls for the current gateway to be renovated and properly run, but the transport ministry has ruled out sabotage and promised to look into it.
George Barcelon, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told Reuters that the government should consider responding to this wake-up call by making improvements through either public or private initiatives or a joint venture.
Those who boarded their aircraft before the glitch was announced had to wait hours before disembarking.
The Philippine telecommunications conglomerate PLDT Inc’s chairman Manny Pangilinan tweeted that he was flying from Tokyo to Manila when his plane was diverted to Haneda Airport in Japan due to “radar and navigation problems.”.
Former presidential candidate and chair of the public services committee Grace Poe demanded an investigation into the incident from Congress, calling it “a national security problem.”
The institution installed its power system in 2018, but according to Chiong, both the primary and backup systems failed on Sunday.
He said that the devices encountered a power surge after being linked directly to the standard commercial energy, forcing radar and communications equipment to shut down.
According to government business consultant Joey Concepcion, a plan for a consortium to modernize the airport should be revived.
He stated in a statement that “any inefficiencies in the airport translate to substantial losses in business down the line and are felt throughout the country.”
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