Manila Starts Air Traffic Upgrades Amid Power Outage Probe

 - May 5, 2023, 9:24 AM
Representatives from several Philippine authorities met on Tuesday to determine the cause of the May 1 power interruption at Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3. (Photo: Ninoy Aquino International Airport)

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines is embarking on phase two of a highly anticipated and long overdue upgrade of its Communications, Navigation, and Surveillance (CNS) and Air Traffic Management (ATM) system.

Work began on May 3 to replace the uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and perform maintenance on the automatic voltage regulator—two components behind a larger system failure that led to Manila’s January 1 power outage. CNS-ATM upgrades will recommence on May 17th, between 2:00 am to 4:00 am local time, causing minimal disruption to commercial flights.

Modernization efforts coincide with a second power outage this week that lasted nearly nine hours, affecting dozens of flights on the Philippines’ Labor Day. Government officials called for a probe on Tuesday to determine the cause of the May 1 power interruption at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (RPLL) Terminal 3. Meeting attendees include the Department of Transportation (DOTr), the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, the Office for Transportation Security, the National Bureau of Investigation, the Philippine National Police, and subject matter experts.

Meanwhile, the DOTr is considering a recent $1.8 billion unsolicited proposal to rehabilitate RPLL. The plan comes from the newly formed Manila International Airport Consortium, which consists of six local conglomerates and the New York-based Global Infrastructure Partners—an investment fund manager whose portfolio includes airports in England, Scotland, and Australia.

The remaining investors include the Filinvest Development Corporation, JG Summit, Aboitiz InfraCapital, AC Infrastructure Holdings Corporation, Asia's Emerging Dragon Corporation, and Alliance Global Infracorp Development.

Under a joint venture, Filinvest, JG Summit, and the Singapore-based Changi Airport Group manage Clark International Airport. The Gokongwei family, the owner of low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific, operates JG Summit; and Lucio Tan—the main shareholder of PAL Holdings, the parent company of flag carrier Philippine Airlines—heads Asia's Emerging Dragon Corporation.

In February, the DOTr and the Asian Development Bank inked three transaction advisory service agreements to develop the terms of reference (TOR) for the privatization of operations and maintenance at RPLL. The newly submitted proposal will be measured against the TOR, set for release in June.

This week also saw the Office of the Ombudsman suspend two senior MIAA managers—acting general manager Cesar Chiong and Irene Montalbo, acting assistant general manager for finance and administration. Both were placed under preventive suspension for up to six months amid allegations of grave abuse and misconduct.

The suspension comes after a group of anonymous MIAA employees filed a complaint over Chiong’s “reassignment of 285 employees and the designation of Montalbo as acting assistant general manager despite her unsatisfactory rating,” reads a statement from the Ombudsman.