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Senate to probe NAIA tech glitch; MVP offers help

by Leila Salaverria

THE glitch that shut down the air traffic management system in the country’s main airport and canceled hundreds of flights is a “national security concern” and will be the subject of a Senate inquiry, according to Sen. Grace Poe.

Poe, who chairs the committee on public services, is set to summon transportation officials to seek an explanation and to prevent a repeat of the incident, which inconvenienced thousands of passengers on New Year’s Day. 

Flights resumed on Monday afternoon, but schedules were disrupted. 

“What a way to welcome the new year at our country’s airports. We will conduct an inquiry to find out who is liable and how we can avoid this from happening again,” Poe said. 

She said the power outage that hit the Communications, Navigation, and Surveillance/Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines was a “national security concern.”

“Thousands of lives depend on the efficiency and competence of CAAP,” she said. 

Old system

As she vowed a deeper look into the issue, the CAAP said the P10.8 billion CNS/ATM system it is using to control flight traffic is already outdated. 

“CAAP recognizes that the system is already behind when it was first used in 2019 and has made recommendations to the President on improving the country’s air traffic management system,” it said on Monday. 

The CNS/ATM project was financed by the Japan International Cooperation Agency and completed in October 2017. It was inaugurated the following year, and “comprehensive operations” began on July 26, 2019.

This system includes computer-aided safety measures and other features to optimize the use of airspace. 

CAAP earlier said its Air Traffic Management System went down due to a power outage and led to the loss of communication, radio, radar, and internet at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. 

It said the loss of power was due to a problem in the system’s electrical network. Its uninterruptible power supply that was supposed to serve as a backup power supply also failed.

“The main cause of the power supply problem is still being determined and is subject for investigation. The CAAP’s Aerodrome and Air Navigation Safety Oversight Office will be tasked to investigate the incident,” it said.

It apologized to the affected passengers and thanked them for their patience. 

MVP offer

One of these passengers, business tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan, whose flight  back to the Philippines from Tokyo had been disrupted for several hours, offered to come to the aid of the government after the crisis in NAIA.

On Twitter, the PLDT chair said he could provide assistance to improve power supply protection and connectivity in the country’s air facilities. 

“If our Group could be of any help to DOTr/CAAP, we’d be happy to participate – colocation of 2nd, even 3rd, redundancies in our nationwide data centers, required connectivities – fiber, satellite, wireless – robust even redundant power supply protection etc. Let’s all support,” he said.

He was able to return home to the Philippines close to midnight on Monday, but not before his flight had to turn back to Tokyo, after three hours in the air, because of the problem with NAIA’s navigation facilities. 

“6 hours of useless flying but inconvenience to travelers and losses to tourism and business are horrendous. Only in the PH. Sigh,” he tweeted on Sunday. 

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