President Duterte swore to resolve flight delays and cancellations at the country’s premier gateway, as he conducted a “surprise inspection” of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 (NAIA-2) early Monday morning.
Malacañang stated that Duterte made the visit after a lightning alert disrupted operations at the NAIA for hours on Sunday evening.
In a statement, “The Chief Executive discussed how flight aberrations could be minimized and what actions could be employed by the government, particularly the Department of Transportation, to solve the problem in the long term.”
“He then talked to the passengers, apologizing to them on the inconvenience caused by the disruptions. The President vowed to come up with a remedy within a month,” it added.
Duterte, the Palace continued, “talked to airline and NAIA officials regarding the cancellations and delays to know whether there are flight diversions and if affected passengers are given incentives to ease their inconvenience.”
“A Philippine Airlines (PAL) manager and a NAIA-Terminal 2 airport duty manager briefed the President on the flight woes and explained actions being undertaken to normalize the situation.”
Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo stated the President had yet to signify his intentions when asked if Duterte’s surprise inspection could lead to the sacking of airport officials.
“He has not made any announcement. Maybe in the Cabinet meeting tonight he will make some announcement or will discuss the problem there or the department head may discuss it with us,” Panelo added in a briefing
Associating Duterte during the NAIA visit were Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Ed Monreal, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) Director General Jim Sydiongco, Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez and Davao businessman Sammy Uy.
Seven flights bound for Manila were diverted to the Clark International Airport and 54 flights were delayed due to bad weather on Sunday, according to the MIAA.
The agency stated a Red Lightning Alert — indicating that strikes were likely — was in effect from 6:40 p.m. to 9:15 p.m., which meant that ground movements for ramp personnel and flights were suspended for at least 2.5 hours.
“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 added.
In a joint statement, the Department of Transportation, MIAA, CAAP, Civil Aeronautics Board and the Office for Transportation Security said they “remain committed in ensuring safe, secure and convenient gateways for Filipinos and guests throughout the country.”
“The unannounced visit of President Rodrigo Duterte to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in the wee hours this morning is an expression and manifestation of his deep concern for the welfare of the air-riding public,” they added.
Romualdez added the 18th Congress should work on securing additional funding for the rehabilitation and upgrade of all vital Philippine airports.
“The President saw the chaos at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2… and he was not pleased that passengers had to endure congestion due to flight delays and cancellations,” he said.
Romualdez, who is seeking the House speakership, stated: “Having seen the disruption myself, I appeal to my fellow legislators to cross partylines and help the government address the problem at the NAIA.”
PAL noted the lightning alert was mandatory and claimed that Duterte “appeared to be generally satisfied on the actions taken by PAL management to address the concerns of affected travelers.”
NAIA-2 is exclusively used by the flag carrier. While budget airline Cebu Pacific, which uses Terminal 3, also announced that they were exerting all efforts to make up for weather disruptions after 41 flights were cancelled from Sunday to Monday.