The President was accompanied by Manila International Airport Authority General Manager Ed Monreal, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines Director General Capt. Jim Sydiongco, incoming Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, and Davao businessman Sammy Uy.
More than 60 domestic and international flights were affected by a lightning alert Sunday night. Seven of those flights were diverted to Clark International Airport in Pampanga while more than 50 scheduled to depart from Manila were delayed.
Duterte discussed the causes of the cancellations and delays with airline and NAIA officials and asked them if affected passengers were given anything to offset their inconvenience. He also discussed how the problem could be minimized and what actions the government, particularly the Department of Transportation, could take to address such situations in the long term.
The President apologized to the passengers and vowed to come up with a remedy within a month.
Airport officials said flights were delayed by almost two hours Sunday evening because of a lightning alert.
The alerts are issued when bad weather might affect the safety of the passengers, airport officials added.
“The Manila International Airport Authority jointly with the airlines are exerting every effort to address the situation so that normal flight operations can resume as soon as possible,” the MIAA said.
Philippine Airlines said that several flights on June 9 experienced delays in departure as well as in the deplaning of passengers solely as a result of a lightning “red alert” issued by the airport authorities, which suspended all ground movement and operations from 6:40 p.m. to 9:15 p.m. affecting ramp personnel, and other operational movements at all the NAIA terminals.
The situation was difficult for arriving passengers who could not get out of their plane.
“We didn’t know what to do at the time. Imagine [being] stranded inside the aircraft for more than three hours,” said Maricar Yango, one of the affected travelers. “Some passengers were panicking.”
Acting on President Duterte’s instruction to ease congestion at the NAIA, Romualdez on Monday appealed for multi-partisan congressional support in securing additional funding for the rehabilitation and upgrade of all vital airports.
“The President saw the chaos at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 this (Monday) morning and he was not pleased that passengers had to endure congestion due to flight delays and cancellations. He said this is an urgent problem that need to be solved ASAP,” Romualdez said.
Romualdez, who accompanied Duterte on his inspection, said passengers clapped when the President apologized, appreciating his humility.
“President Duterte took it upon himsef to apologize personally to passengers who were affected by the flight delay and the cancellations. The President’s gesture was warmly received by the passengers,” Romualdez said.
“Having seen the disruption myself, I appeal to my fellow legislators to cross partylines and help government address the problem at the NAIA. Congress must act fast to seek funding for the rehabilitation and upgrades of our airports. The President cited Sangley, which he said must be upgraded the soonest time possible,” he added.
To help decongest NAIA, Romualdez said the government must upgrade all vital airports across the country particularly those departing from and arriving in Manila.
The airport upgrades, he said, must include the widening of the breath of the runway and the upgrade of terminal facilities for night-flight capabilities.
Airport authorities noted that domestic flight departing Manila are crammed during daytime due to inability of provincial airports to receive flights at night. This contribute to heavy traffic at the NAIA, which has only two runways handling both international and domestic flights.
PAL, in a statement, said red alerts in the middle of a thunderstorm with lighting strikes are mandatory for the safety of airport personnel and passengers.
“President Duterte appeared to be generally satisfied on the actions taken by PAL management to address the concerns of affected travelers. Passengers of canceled flights were rebooked on next available flights and several transit and elderly and PWD passengers were provided hotel accommodations,” PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said.
The MIAA said the red lighting alert was lowered at 9:15 p.m. Sunday.
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