MANILA – The massive flight delays that affected at least 56,000 passengers on New Year’s Day Sunday are matters of national concern that should not happen again, according to Senator Grace Poe on Monday.
The chair of the Committee on Public Services said they will launch an inquiry to determine liability and find ways to avoid a repeat of such.
"Thousands of lives depend on the efficiency and competence of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP). There needs to be transparency and accountability from CAAP," Poe said in a statement.
After the Manila Electric Company clarified in a statement that there was a steady supply of power, Poe said the failure seems to be on CAAP and its navigation equipment.
"Give them time to restore normal flight operations. After which, we will conduct an inquiry and direct them to submit a full report of what caused the supposed glitch and power outage," she said.
Congress will resume sessions on Jan. 23.
Senator JV Ejercito suggested that the government take back vital utilities such as the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines which concerns national security and economy.
"What is baffling is that the Air Traffic Management System should have a backup. Having a totally non-functioning radar system is not only dangerous for air travel but is a concern of national security," Ejercito said in a separate statement.
CAAP’s Aerodrome and Air Navigation Safety Oversight Office has already launched an investigation.
In a press conference on Sunday, CAAP cited technical glitches that affected nearly 300 flights.
As of 6 p.m. Sunday, authorities have logged 288 delayed, canceled and diverted flights at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
Partial operations with limited capacity resumed at 4 p.m. and normal operations at 5:50 p.m.
The domino effect would be felt for at least the next three days, according to a radio interview of Philippine Airlines spokesperson Cielo Villaluna on Monday.
“The incident that resulted in the loss of power in the system was due to a problem in the system’s electrical network, with its uninterruptible power supply, which is to be used as backup power supply, also failing. The main cause of the power supply problem is still being determined and is subject for investigation,” the Department of Transportation (DOTr) said in a statement on Monday.
CAAP spokesperson Eric Apolonio said in a radio interview that they are looking forward to fix the system after the approval of their PHP120-million budget to procure spare parts and upgrade the Communications, Navigation and Surveillance/Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM).
"Alam niyo naman po ang teknolohiya ngayon, kelangan mag-a-upgrade ka. Imagine po naman ginawa ito 2010 pa. So, nag-operational ng 2019. Between that time, malaki na po ‘yung improvement ng technology na dapat talaga isunod namin (You know how technology is. You need to upgrade. Imagine this was created way back 2010 and became operational in 2019. Between that time, there has been a big improvement in technology and we were supposed to keep up)," Apolonio said.
Under the CNS/ATM system, the country has 13 radars at NAIA Terminals 1 and 2, Clark, Tagaytay, Aparri, Laoag, Cebu-Mt. Majic, Quezon-Palawan, Zamboanga, Mactan, Bacolod, Kalibo and Davao covering around 70 percent of Philippine airspace.
“With the introduction of the Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Contract and the Controller-Pilot Data Link Communications, the CNS/ATM is able to cover 100 percent of the remaining oceanic airspace, hence increasing air traffic safety and capacity in the oceanic region of the Manila flight information region,” the DOTr said.
Senator Nancy Binay expressed concern that tourists may now be having second thoughts on visiting the Philippines and urged the Department of Budget and Management to find funding sources for CAAP to upgrade its system and equipment.
"Sadly, we just hogged the headlines in every news channel and newspaper abroad. How do we guarantee a unique high-value experience to our foreign guests if we don't address, find solutions and fix our broken public transport system?" Binay said in a statement.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said it was unfortunate that it happened when air travel has just been restored to normal levels following the lifting of Covid-19 travel restrictions.
“Airport operations have an impact beyond managing incoming and outgoing flights. The government must do everything in its power to ensure that this doesn’t happen again, given the impact it would have on affected passengers and the negative impression that it would have on our foreign visitors,” he said in a statement
He also called on airport authorities to address the needs of affected passengers and ensure their safety and convenience until normal airport operations are restored.
"The public, particularly affected passengers, should also be apprised of the latest situation and should be made aware of new flight schedules,” Gatchalian said. (PNA)