Solons grill CAAP over costly P13-M UPS purchase despite faulty circuit breaker
MANILA, Philippines –Why did the government do an emergency procurement of two units of uninterruptible power supply (UPS) if the technical malfunction that brought the country’s airspace to a standstill on New Year’s Day was caused by a faulty circuit breaker?
Several lawmakers raised the question in the House of Representatives during the transportation committee’s hearing on the airspace chaos on Tuesday.
READ: Jan. 1, 2023, the day PH airspace went blank, strips mask off air travel woes, outdated system
One Rider Rep. Ramon Rodrigo Gutierrez asked transport officials why the emergency purchase of UPS units worth P13 million pushed through when the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) said it was not at fault for the fiasco.
“We had a consultation with the supplier and then, they mentioned to us the lifespan of the UPS, so what we did when we found out this information, we did an emergency purchase. These brand new UPS are upgraded, because what we have are old ones. [These] are more modern,” CAAP Director General Capt. Manuel Tamayo explained.
He said that the old UPS equipment would not be discarded as it would be continuously maintained by CAAP to serve as a backup should another unfortunate incident arise.
Tamayo also noted that while the government pursued an emergency procurement, the bidding for the new UPS units was already done.
“We followed the same procedures, but we just had to expedite and other suppliers were invited, including the original manufacturer,” he added.
Gutierrez, however, wasn’t convinced, saying the UPS wasn’t urgently needed.
He also borrowed the words of Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista, who said that CAAP’s current UPS equipment is still functional in its “midlife.”
“We did not really have to fast-track the purchase of the UPS. [We could have] simply focused on fixing the circuit breaker. Is that right?” the solon asked.
But according to Tamayo, they had decided to do an emergency purchase of the UPS units when they were not certain about the cause of the airspace mess.
“There were still a lot of possibilities, so we were not sure. We just wanted to rule out the possibility that the UPS indeed will create future problems,” the CAAP official added.
Gutierrez slammed this claim as inconsistency since aviation authorities discovered the UPS wasn’t the cause as early as 5 p.m. the same day as the airspace chaos began.
The emergency procurement of UPS units was done four days later, on January 5.
“We go back to the assumption that the emergency purchase on January 5 was superfluous. I mean, it’s still preliminary, but that was precisely pointed out,” Tamayo added.
Signed or not signed?
Asked who signed the agreement for the emergency procurement of the UPS units, Tamayo said: “After all the processes were done, I take responsibility. I was the one who signed it.”
He later clarified that “there was an approval as far as our back is concerned because this underwent public bidding.”
Tamayo said that while the bid for the procurement had already been awarded, the new equipment has not been delivered yet.
“Nothing has been signed. It’s still in the process. They’re still evaluating, studying on how to install the new UPS,” he also said, contradicting his earlier statement.
Rep. Rufus Rodriguez of the 2nd District of Cagayan de Oro then sought to have the emergency purchase scrapped as he called for CAAP to pursue a traditional procurement instead as mandated by the law.
“It’s an option for us to do it, and we’ll just have it bidded out through the regular process. Not an emergency,” Tamayo responded.
At least 65,000 passengers were affected after the country’s airspace went offline on New Year’s Day.
Tamayo earlier called the technology behind the Communications, Navigation and Surveillance Systems for Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) “outdated.”
READ: CAAP admits: PH’s air traffic management system outdated
When questioned by House lawmakers about the outdated equipment, he quickly backtracked on his earlier statement.
Bautista also denied calling the air traffic system outdated as he stressed that it had only encountered a “technical problem” due to it being in its “midlife.” – with reports from Niña Cuasay, INQUIRER.net trainee
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