Poe: No one is above accountability for New Year airport fiasco
MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Grace Poe said the report of the Senate public services committee on the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) New Year’s Day shutdown did not clear individuals who have been remiss in their responsibilities that led to the incident.
“To be clear, no one is above accountability for the NAIA fiasco. Whether past or present administration, we will make sure they face the consequences,” Poe, chairperson of the panel, said.
The report discussed in detail that several things could’ve been done differently to prevent what happened.
It stated that the pending dispute with the third-party maintenance provider could have been settled earlier. The requests for a backup system could have been approved in the first instance. And, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines’ (CAAP) funds could have been left alone to answer its needs.
“Evidently, the glitch and the systems failure were caused by the inaction and lack of foresight of CAAP leadership and the consequent lack of support from Department of Transportation at the time the compulsory back up systems were requested. CAAP, as the one ultimately in-charge, should have known better,” Poe said.
“I won’t allow CAAP to get away with just a slap on the wrist. However, I also need to consider and ensure its day-to-day operations are not crippled due to the investigations,” she added.
The Senate independent audit team of engineering experts pointed out that redundancy or backup is necessary for a critical facility like the communications, navigation and surveillance systems for air traffic management.
The senator said the previous CAAP administration, under Captain Jim Sydiongco, knew the need for an independent redundancy given its initial planning as early as 2019.
“Because of the pandemic and the lack of prioritization by both CAAP and DOTr, we still had no functional backup when the incident occurred last January,” she said.
Poe pointed out that based on the submissions to her committee, this was not prioritized by both CAAP and DOTr management at that time. It took a shutdown for the current management to finally realize the urgency of having a redundancy that it is now expediting with a shorter timeline, she said.
“These are only a few of numerous factors that could have spelled a different outcome. Congress never even had the chance to act on any request because none was ever raised. Ultimately, all of these are judgment calls of the past heads of both DoTr and CAAP for which they must answer,” Poe said.
She said the Senate audit team pointed out that pinning the blame on CAAP’s technical personnel would only paralyze the system.
She stressed that the whole maintenance program is lacking and this is something that management could have foreseen.
“There is still accountability to be exacted but to focus only on such would make this into another political circus that is counterproductive to our air safety efforts. To turn this solely into a witch hunt would further drive away the decreasing number of technical air personnel that chose to stay in the country to serve,” she said.
“Accountability follows, and definitely, not cast aside,” Poe added.