Senators seek thorough probe of Naia fiasco
MANILA, Philippines — Senators on Tuesday urged transportation officials to dig deeper into the alleged technical glitch and power outage that crippled the country’s air traffic navigation system on Jan. 1, with Sen. Jinggoy Estrada saying the government should not set aside the possibility that it could be a cyberattack.
“We have to look at all angles possible. We cannot discount that this could be a cyberattack,” Estrada said in an online press briefing. “We do not know if terrorists [were behind it]. Let’s not be too complacent about it.”
When pressed, he clarified that he had no information showing it was a cyberattack.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros said that the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (Caap) should not conveniently blame “outdated” equipment for the incident.
“Before we get the much-talked about ‘upgrade,’ let’s see if the problem was compounded by human error or negligence in maintaining the equipment,” she said in a statement.
According to Hontiveros, the incident, which affected over 56,000 passengers and more than 300 flights to and from Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) may not be just a simple “glitch” in the Caap’s communications, navigation and surveillance/air traffic management (CNS/ATM) system.
“Dismissing it as a simple ‘bug’ ignores the systemic problems at our airports,” she said. “Let us not take the easy way out and blame the equipment outright. The fact that the backup also failed could mean there are more unseen problems down the line.”
There was also a need to thoroughly inspect and assess the security aspects of the CNS/ATM to check its capability to withstand cyberattacks, Hontiveros added.
“Our vulnerability to cyberattacks using the current system must also be assessed,” she said, “as there have been many cases abroad where it pushed air traffic control systems offline.” Resolutions filed
Estrada, Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva and Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. separately filed resolutions seeking a Senate inquiry into the incident, which the former referred to as “air traffic management fiasco.”
Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the Senate public services committee, earlier announced that she would open an investigation of the matter.
Sen. Nancy Binay, meanwhile, rejected suggestions to hand over the country’s air traffic management to private companies to prevent a repeat of the incident in the future.
“I don’t think we should allow private entities to handle critical government facilities that carry national security concerns,” she told reporters. “It’s nonnegotiable. Otherwise, that means reducing the government’s involvement and control of our airspace.”