The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) said Tuesday, Jan. 3, that it is prepared to face legislators for a possible inquiry into the power outage and technical glitch of its air navigation system that forced the closure of the country’s airspace on New Year’s Day.
Capt. Edgardo Diaz, CAAP deputy director general for operations, said they welcome the proposed Senate inquiry even as their operations have resumed normal operations following a power outage that resulted in the failure of its Communications, Navigation, and Surveillance/Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) System and uninterruptible power supply (UPS) or backup power supply.
The incident affected around 300 flights and 65,000 passengers, most of them scheduled at the country’s premier airport, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
“Kami po ay nakahanda. We welcome all the inquiries na gagawin ng anumang sektor ng ating gobyerno, mapa-Senado o mga kasamahan sa gobyerno. Open po kami dyan (We are ready. We welcome all the inquiries that will be done by any sector, may it be the Senate or other colleagues in the government. We are open to all of it). We are willing to talk with them, to show them whatever they wanted,” Diaz said in a Laging Handa press briefing.
The Senate inquiry is being pushed by Senator Grace Poe as soon as soon as airport operations return to normal, underscoring the importance of determining the liability of aviation and airport officials and preventing a repeat of the incident in the future.
“Sa ngayon po, ang operation sa whole country is already back to normal. Ibig sabihin gumagana na lahat at ang himpapawid ay nako-cover na ng ating radar at ng ating communication (Right now, our operation in the whole country is already back to normal. That means all are working and the entire airspace is being covered by our radar and communication system),” DIaz added.
The CAAP said that normal operations have also resumed at provincial airports that were affected by the power failure encountered by the Air Traffic Management Center (ATMC) which houses the CNS/ATM.
These include Bicol International Airport, Tacloban Airport, Zamboanga Airport, Pagadian Airport, Dipolog Airport, Jolo Airport, Tawi-Tawi Airport, Laguindingan Airport, Camiguin Airport, Ozamiz Airport, Dumaguete Airport, Bohol-Panglao International Airport, Puerto Princesa International Airport, Tuguegarao Airport, Cauayan Airport, Basco Airport, Iloilo International Airport, Kalibo International Airport, Bacolod-Silay Airport, Roxas Airport, Antique Airport, Butuan Airport, Siargao Airport, Surigao Airport, San Jose Airport, Romblon Airport, General Santos Airport, Cotabato Airport, and Davao International Airport.
Ahead of the Senate probe, Diaz revealed that an internal investigation is also being conducted by CAAP’s Aerodome and Air Navigation Safety Oversight Office (AANSOO).
“Ang pinakamalaking concern namin is always the safety of our riding public. Kaya po ‘yan ay sinisiguro namin. Noong mangyari ang power failure, ang masasabi namin, hindi nakompromiso ang kaligtasan ng mga mananakay and the airlines (Our biggest concern is always the safety of our riding public. That’s what we always make sure. When the power failure occurred, what we can say is we never compromised the safety of our riding public and the airlines),” he said.
Diaz added that the oversight office will also study the suggestion of House Ways and Means panel Chairperson and Albay Representative Joey Salceda to compensate all of the affected passengers for the inconvenience they suffered due to the cancellation, delay, and diversion of their flights.
“’Yan ay pinaguusapan pa sa ngayon. Wala pa kaming full assessment kung anong nangyari at nagkaroon ng failure (We are talking about it right now. We have no full assessment yet of what really transpired which caused the failure,” he said.
Aside from determining what caused the power failure, Diaz said the oversight office will look into ways how to upgrade CAAP’s air navigation system.
Earlier, the CAAP bared that the power outage caused the failure of the P11-billion CNS/ATM which was inaugurated only in 2018 and fully operated the following year.
“‘Yan pong equipment ay nasa midlife, hindi pa completely obsolete though we need upgrades to make sure na siya ay makakatutugon sa lahat ng pangangailangan. Sa ngayon, maganda pa po ang performance (That equipment is on its midlife, it is not yet completely obsolete though we need upgrades to make sure it can address all our needs. Right now, it is still performing well),” Diaz said.
The CAAP is also subjecting the equipment to a “constant maintenance” to ensure it is capable of operating at its best capacity.