THE “red lightning alert” issued by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), which freezes airport operations whenever intense lighting activity is detected within 9 kilometers of the airport, was the cause of air congestion at the premier airport on Sunday night.
This was clarified by Alger Ramo, chief of airport Ramp Control Terminal 1. He said the airport operation was halted for nearly four hours, from 7 pm until about 11 p.m. on Sunday.
Because all airport activities are suspended during the alert, all departures were put on stand by at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) while arriving aircraft were diverted to Clark International Airport, he said.
However, the complaints of affected passengers must have reached Malacañang, so President Duterte made a surprise visit to the Naia at 2 a.m. on Monday to look into the situation.
Ramo said the yellow and red lightning alert scheme was adopted at the Naia last year following the death of an employee who was struck dead by a lightning bolt on the tarmac of Naia Terminal 3 at the height of a thunderstorm over the airfield.
The chief of airport branch of Pagasa Aeronautical Meteorological Service Section, Marygrace Cristi, said that following the death at the tarmac, they installed last year a Lightning Activity System (LAS), which tells them whether to raise the yellow or red alert warning.
“Yellow means the thunderstorm is more than 9 kilometers away from the airport and the airport operation continues.”
“However,” she said, “when the thunderstorm, accompanied by intense lightning activity, is within 9 miles from the Naia, we raise the red alarm to stop airport operations.”
Meanwhile, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said the President’s 2 a.m. visit to the Naia was an expression of “his deep concern for the welfare of the air-riding public.”
The meeting in the wee hours with airport and airline officials, Tugade stressed, was “to seek the best modality and platform in meeting the objective of resolving airport and aviation concerns at the fastest possible time.”
Following the meeting, Tugade immediately met with officials from the Department of Transportation (DOTr), Manila International Airport Authority (Miaa), Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (Caap), Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) and Office for Transportation Security (OTS) remain committed in ensuring safe, secure and convenient gateways for Filipinos and guests throughout the country.