Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines' president, speaks at the Future of Asia conference in Tokyo, Japan. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Manila: President Rodrigo Duterte conducted a surprise visit at one of the terminals at the country’s premier gateway during the wee hours of the morning amid news that the facility was having difficulty serving passengers.

Duterte arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 2 in Pasay City at 2am on Monday and inspected the premises while also apologising to passengers whose flights were either cancelled or delayed.

The 25-year-old NAIA 2 has been undergoing a programmed rehabilitation of its facilities.

“The President apologises for the inconvenience to the public because of the delays,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a Palace briefing on Monday afternoon.

“I understand the head of NAIA committed to the President that they are doing something about the problems in NAIA,” Panelo said.

Last Sunday arrivals at the NAIA suffered delays due to a red lightning alert that caused the suspension of ground movement for ramp personnel and flights.

“NAIA is now experiencing a succession of flight arrivals as a result of a 2.5 hours suspension of ground movement for ramp personnel and flights. This is due to a red lightning alert that prevailed from 6.40pm until 9.15pm on June 9,” the MIAA (Manila International Airport Authority) said in a statement also on Monday.

Ramp operations were back to normal at around 10pm.

“The MIAA, jointly with the airlines, are exerting every effort to address the situation so that normal flight operations can resume as soon as possible,” the statement added.

Seven international and domestic flights to Manila were diverted to Clark International Airport due to bad weather in Metro Manila.

Duterte has been sensitive on any report concerning the NAIA in the news. More than just a gateway to the world, the country’s international and local airports are also considered as the face of the Philippines before the world.

For this reason, mulcting airport and customs personnel can be reported by the public and their concerns acted upon immediately.

The Philippine airports serve a steadily increasing number of passengers every year, NAIA’s four terminals, for one, served more than 45 million passengers in 2018 up from 27 million in 2010 according to figures of the airport.