Senate probe into New Year’s Day PH air traffic snag sought
MANILA, Philippines — Three resolutions seeking to look into the technical glitch in the Philippine air traffic management system have been filed in the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva, Senators Ramon Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada on Tuesday filed Senate Resolution Nos. 390, 391, and 392, respectively, directing the appropriate panel to conduct an inquiry on the matter.
The technical error – supposedly due to a power outage at the Philippine Air Traffic Management Center – resulted in the cancellation, diversion, and postponement of flights on New Year’s Day.
“Failure to address airspace traffic management will likewise continuously impact the facilitation of domestic trade and seamless business transactions due to, among others, delayed shipment of cargo via air,” Villanueva stated in the resolution.
He added that the incident “may also hinder the continuous promotion of tourism in the country, whether to local or foreign tourists, as well as the much-needed recovery of all enterprises in the travel and tourism sector, which were severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Villanueva noted that the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) has been considered the “worst international airport” for three years from 2011-2013.
The senator emphasized it is important to review the policies that will enhance the services for the public.
“The preceding points, among others, highlight the impact of the quality of air traffic services to the economy as well as to various stakeholders, thus, it is imperative to review and study existing policies and implement actions and measures that will improve the provision of such services to the public,” he said.
According to Villanueva, the Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028 acknowledged that little progress had been made to develop the country’s airport infrastructures. The said plan stressed the need to bolster airports to address future demands, among others.
Meanwhile, Estrada said the air traffic control system mess worsens the “unpleasant image” of Naia.
“The incident aggravates the already unpleasant image of the Naia, following the same being regularly labeled as one of the ‘worst’ and ‘most stressful’ airports [in] the world, thereby necessitating remedial legislation and urgent action from the authorities to save it from becoming a national disgrace or pambansang kahihiyan,” he said in his resolution.
“The latest mess becomes yet another stumbling block for the recovery and revitalization of the tourism industry, which is among the most severely affected sectors during the onslaught of the novel Coronavirus pandemic,” he said.
The senator likewise said the country has to be vigilant against threats.
“We also have to be on guard against cybersecurity attacks, sabotage, disasters, and other threats,” said Estrada, chair of the Senate committee on national defense and security, peace, unification, and reconciliation.
He further noted that the paralysis in Naia caused by “technical issues” and “power outage” highlights the necessity to establish “more sophisticated” technologies, install “effective” backup mechanisms, and hire “competent” manpower and experts.
To fully equip the nation’s main gateway, Estrada said there is a need to identify the infrastructure and support from the government and/or private sector to modernize Naia.
“If we really want to transform from being one of the world’s best, we have to ensure the highest quality of service for all its users. It’s high time that we take a look at its current state,” he said.
For Revilla, the airport meltdown had a domino effect. Hence, urging the Senate Committee on Public Services headed by Senator Grace Poe to investigate the matter.
“The malfunction that affected the Naia Communications, Navigation and Surveillance Systems for Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) had a domino effect that not only affected those traveling that day but in effect affected other industries such as logistics, tourism and even our OFWs,” Revilla said in his resolution.
“Hindi lang dapat yung glitch ang tignan, kundi yung appropriateness nung response,” he said in a statement.
(We should not only look at the glitch, but also the appropriateness of the response.)
Last year, Poe lodged Senate Bill No. 1073, which seeks to establish the Philippine Airports Authority, an entity which will focus on the planning, construction, and operation of airports.
The measure aims to untangle the conflicting functions of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines and to fulfill the need to improve the country’s current international and domestic airports and air navigation facilities in compliance with international standards.
The New Year’s Day snag at the Naia affected around 56,000 to 65,000 passengers, including at least 3,000 overseas Filipino workers, some of whom now have their employment status in limbo.