CAAP rules out cyber attack on NAIA technical glitch, reiterates need for upgrade

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) has ruled out cyber attack on the technical glitch that hit the air traffic management system at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) that affected around 65,000 domestic and international flight passengers on Jan. 1.

In a statement, the CAAP said it has already informed National Security Adviser Clarita Carlos and the Department of National Defense (DND) of its initial findings that the technical glitch was not connected to cyber security.

"The does not appear to be a cybercrime because affected electrical equipment cannot be manipulated from outside CAAP compound," the statement read.

"Nonetheless, a review will still be conducted by cyber-security experts," it added.

The Jan 1 technical glitch did not only affect almost 300 domestic and international flights but also affected other international airports in the country as flights had to be diverted, cancelled and delayed.

Three days after the technical issue at the Air Traffic Management Center (ATMC) of the CAAP was fixed, its effects are still felt since some Jan. 2 flight had to be cancelled.

Manila International Airport Authority *MIAA) General Manager Cesar Chiong said that it will take 72 hours for airlines to recover from the glitch, adding that they also assisted the stranded passengers and airline by suspending the 1:30 a.m. to 3:30 a.m. NAIA runway closure protocol for three days.

Upgrade needed

The CAAP also stated that there is a need to upgrade the existing facilities and replacement of affected equipment.

CAAP Director General Manuel Tamayo earlier said that while the use of the Communication, Navigation and Surveillance/Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) was completed for Philippine aviation in 2018 through a P10.8 loaned budget from Japan, the existing system was actually outdated since it was first introduced in the country in 2010.

Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Jaime Bautista said over P13 billion is needed to upgrade the CAAP's ATMC.

Aside from the immediate upgrade, Bautista earlier disclosed that he already told President Marcos on the need to set up a back-up system outside the NAIA area.

He said they will study a proposal to install a back-up system for the CAAP-run ATMC and present the feasibility study to the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).


Bautista said Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Secretary Ivan John Uy offered to assist CAAP in expediting acquisition of the needed updated electrical equipment.

“We will give our full support to DOTr and CAAP at resolving this issue," said Uy during a meeting of top security and aviation officials over the incident.

Carlos, for her part, suggested to declare such communications and electrical equipment as vital to national security, thereby facilitating any purchase and prevent a repeat of the incident.

She added that the breakdown of vital infrastructure, such CAAP’s CNS-ATM system, constitutes a threat to national security and thus the need for immediate action.