Another party, not CAAP, should lead New Year’s Day airport fiasco probe—Hontiveros

Senator Risa Hontiveros on Thursday, January 12 said another agency, and not the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), should lead the investigation on the New Year’s Day air traffic shutdown.

Hontiveros pointed out that the aviation body has backtracked on several statements regarding to the system glitch that hit the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) that led to the serious delays and flight cancellations last January 1.

“What if the negligence is from CAAP's end? There's a clear conflict of interest if they are investigating themselves,” Hontiveros said in a statement.

“Hindi lang iyon, pero paiba-iba ang nilalabas nila sa media at ang nirereport nila sa Kongreso (Not only that, they are releasing different reports to the media and to Congress. Perhaps, we at the Senate, should consider a different aviation body that could join the investigation,” she said.

“CAAP cannot even get its facts straight. It’s been one and a half weeks since the incident, dapat klaro na sa kanila kung ano ang naging problema (It should have been clear among themselves what the problem was all about).

“At kung hindi pa nila alam, mas malala pa iyan sa nangyari (and if they still do not know, then that is worse that what happened). That would make them both negligent and incompetent. The CAAP should not, in any way, attempt to absolve itself of any faults,” she also said.

The senator also said cross-checking their documentation is crucial to make any progress. She said a third party should double check both the equipment log and the manual log of the system error.

“Let’s identify who entered the manual log of the system error. The Senate needs their firsthand account of what they had observed to cross-check CAAP’s statements. The suppliers of the equipment should also check the logs themselves and provide that information to the Senate committee,” Hontiveros stressed.

CAAP should explain to the Senate how it ruled out cyberattacks within 24 hours as a cause for the shutdown.

Hontiveros added that increased cybersecurity steps should be taken because the meltdown was also a security risk.

“We want to be immensely thorough before we rule out a cyberattack. Let’s get this verified by our other cybersecurity bodies like the DICT),” she said referring to the Department of Information and Communications Technology.

“Kung di man cyber-attack ito (if this isn’t a cyber attack), if our systems are that vulnerable, it means we are exposed to possible attacks from entities that can shut down our major airports so easily,” she said.

"I brought up these same security risks for our national grid, the NGCP. Extensive measures need to be explored and put in place so that there are no sizeable weaknesses in our cybersecurity," she added.

Hontiveros, likewise, said the people that would be found accountable for the power outage in NAIA, should be charged with gross negligence.

“This mess could have been much worse. There was a report that the paths of two planes were dangerously close to each other and could have resulted in a mid-air collision that day. This was a tragedy narrowly avoided,” she reiterated.

“There should be no scapegoats or free passes from liability. If someone became sloppy, they must be held accountable. In all honesty, this seems to be an extraordinary event caused by very basic mistakes. Totally unacceptable,” the senator emphasized.