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Senate panel recommends immediate technical capacity, system upgrade for CAAP 

THE DEPARTURE area of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 was crowded with passengers at midnight of Jan. 2 after the Philippine air space was shut on Jan. 1 due to technical problems with the air traffic control system. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

THE SENATE public services committee called for an immediate improvement in the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines’ (CAAP) technical capacity and equipment, citing that the New Year’s Day power outage that crippled airport operations nationwide was caused by several malfunctions.  

“The January 1 systems failure was indeed a confluence of factors and errors. Experts likened it to the planets aligning albeit with an unfortunate consequence,” Senator Mary Grace S. Poe-Llamanzares, chair of the committee, said in a statement on Wednesday. 

“It’s rare but we know it can happen, and it will continue to happen if we don’t do anything about the problems of the air traffic system in the country,” she added. 

The panel conducted an investigation on the incident and its report, released on Wednesday, indicated that sabotage and cyberattack did not cause the glitch.  

“Although there are many deficiencies in the security of our facilities such as the lack of CCTV, and the system itself such as outdated computer systems and other cybersecurity vulnerabilities, no data compromise occurred due to the incident,” Ms. Poe-Llamanzares said.  

Nonetheless, she said that a conclusive finding on this possibility can only be reached after the uninterruptible power supply data logs sent to Turkey have been fully examined.  

The senator said that upgrading critical equipment will be necessary to avert a repeat of the incident, complemented by the rollout of sufficient engineering guidelines as well as training of accredited engineers who will man the system.  

“There is a lot of work needed for a better system,” she said.  

Ms. Poe also called for CAAP’s immediate compliance to the International Civil Aviation Organization’s recommendations as well as the amendment of the CAAP charter to improve efficiency and transparency.  

The senator said the panel does not intend to recommend penalties against CAAP officials based on their findings, stressing that public safety is their primary goal. 

“Accountability will follow after we’ve laid down safety measures for our air passengers,” she said. 

The committee also recommended that another Communications, Navigation, and Surveillance System be set up in an independent location.  

Feasibility studies on the proposed Ninoy Aquino International Airport privatization should also be fast-tracked. 

The panel also sought for the swift passage of relevant bills such as the Philippine Transportation Safety Board, Philippine Airports Authority Act, and Air Passengers Bill of Rights. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan 


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