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More senators eye probe of air traffic glitch as operations go back to normal

PHILIPPINE STAR/ EDD GUMBAN

By Revin Mikhael D. Ochave and Alyssa Nicole O. Tan, Reporters

RESOLUTIONS seeking to probe the technical problem in the Philippines’ air traffic management system on New Year’s Day have been filed even as the aviation regulator on Tuesday said flight operations at Manila’s international airport and those in the province were back to normal.

Senator Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva in Senate Resolution 390 thousands of flight cancellations and delays caused by the glitch highlighted “the impact of the quality of air traffic services on the economy.”

“It is imperative to review and study existing policies and implement actions and measures that will improve the provision of such services to the public,” he added.

“The operation in the whole country is already back to normal,” Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) Deputy Director General Edgardo G. Diaz told a televised briefing in mixed English and Filipino. “Everything is working and our skies are covered by our radar and our communications.”

CAAP is ready to answer questions from lawmakers seeking to probe the incident, he said. “We welcome all the inquiries to be made by any government office and colleagues in the government. We are open. We are willing to talk to them.”

In a separate statement, CAAP said normal operations had resumed across provincial airports. These include the airports in Bicol, Tacloban, Zamboanga, Pagadian, Dipolog, Jolo, Tawi-Tawi, Misamis Oriental, Camiguin, Ozamiz, Dumaguete, Bohol, Puerto Princesa, Tuguegarao and Cauayan.

Other provincial airports that resumed normal operations were the ones in Basco, Iloilo, Kalibo, Bacolod, Roxas, Antique, Butuan, Siargao, Surigao, San Jose, Romblon, General Santos, Cotabato and Davao.

“Recovery flights from diverted and delayed flights in these airports have been successfully dispatched to their location and mounted by the airlines on a case-to-case basis,” CAAP said. “Other passengers have been rebooked to other scheduled flights with the assistance of their airlines.”

Cebu Pacific spokesperson Carmina Reyes-Romero told One News it had started normal operations. The budget carrier was looking at resuming 390 flights on Tuesday after 334 flights got canceled on Jan. 1 and 2, she added.

“We are hoping to start fresh and hopefully, we can really go back to normal operations.”

AirAsia Philippines Chief Executive Officer Ricardo P. Isla told the news program they expect to go back to normal operations after three to four days.

“Our flights are catching up,” he said. “Hopefully, it gets better and better. Let us give it three to four days and we should be back to normal for both domestic and international flights.”

Philippine Airlines (PAL) spokesperson Cielo C. Villaluna said the flag carrier was transitioning to normal flight operations by Jan. 4 after completing its recovery and extra sector flights.

“Although the radar system has been fully restored, the return to Manila hub of our stranded aircraft the day after the incident led to flight delays covering the Jan. 2 to 3 period,” she said in a Viber message.

PAL, which operated 30 recovery flights, has gradually calibrated its operations as it transitions into normal flight operations.

Also on Tuesday, Senator Jose “Jinggoy” P. Estrada filed Senate Resolution 392 for the same purpose, noting that the glitch had affected the country’s economy and its image as a tourism destination.

“The country’s main gateway being paralyzed by technical issues and power outage highlights the need for the installation of more sophisticated technologies, setting up of effective backup mechanisms and the hiring of competent manpower and experts to man them,” he said.

Senator Ana Theresia “Risa” N. Hontiveros-Baraquel said the Senate should investigate if the problem was compounded by human error or negligence in equipment maintenance.

“This may not be just an ordinary glitch, as the early diagnosis said,” she said in a statement. “Dismissing it as a simple bug ignores the systemic problems at our airports.”

Senator Ramon B. Revilla, Jr., who filed Senate Resolution 391 for the same probe, said the shutdown of the country’s whole airspace should be looked into.

“You should not only look at the glitch, but the appropriateness of the response,” he said in a statement in mixed English and Filipino.

“We understand that it was right to fix everything first, and we are thankful that no tragedy happened, but now that we are back to normal operations, everything that happened needs to be investigated.”

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