Press Release
March 7, 2023

Sen. Grace Poe
Sponsorship speech
NAIA Air Traffic Glitch on January 1, 2023

March 7, 2023

Mr. President, dear colleagues, good afternoon again. Matapos ang dalawang buwan ng trabaho at masusing pag-aaral - a public hearing, an ocular and walkthrough, a technical inspection with an independent audit team, and a series of meetings and consultations with agencies and experts - we have finally identified the cause of the glitch of the New Year's Day Air Traffic shutdown. I'd like to thank those that joined us during the ocular.

The process is no joke, Mr. President. Para tayong nag-crash course sa electrical engineering at air traffic management system. Thus, I want to take this opportunity to thank the Institute of Integrated Electrical Engineers of the Philippines for accepting the Committee's invitation to be our independent audit team and for helping us examine the technical aspect of the investigation. It is my hope that all our hard work pays off at hindi na ito mangyaring muli sa hinaharap.

Nagsimula ang imbestigasyon in a confused note when even CAAP was unable to determine the cause of the glitch. Allow me to walk everybody through why our country's main airport shut down as I present to the Body the findings of the Committee on Public Services:

First, there was indeed a power outage pero hindi dahil sa suplay ng Meralco, but because of several equipment malfunctioning prior to and during the incident. Lahat tayo ay nalito sa paiba-ibang narrative ng CAAP, pero sa huli lumabas din na maraming equipment na ang may problema.

Una ay ang Uninterruptible Power Supply or the UPS which actually only de-energized, as a safety measure para di maapektuhan ang sistema.

Pangalawang problema ay ang circuit breaker. Nagkaroon ng loose connection ang neutral wire ng breaker kaya imbes na 220 volts ay 380 volts ang nailabas nito. The overvoltage led to damage of the communications and navigation equipment of the CNS/ATM system na siyang nagpatagal ng shutdown.

Pangatlong problema ay ang Automatic Voltage Regulator. Meron tayo nito sa bahay natin. Hindi na ito gumagana simula pa noong August 2022, apat na buwan na bago ang insidente. CAAP claimed that the AVR is only used when the UPS is under maintenance but separate reports of the interagency investigation team and the independent audit team said that the AVR is considered critical in the overall safety design of the system. Ang kawalan ng AVR ay kawalan din ng proteksyon para sa UPS mula sa fluctuations ng kuryente. So, ilang buwan na palang di gumagana ang AVR nila.

Mr. President, if you remember during our ocular at CAAP, they committed to have the AVR repaired on February 9 but according to the interagency report, the procurement of a new AVR is still underway. Wala pa rin.

Second, the malfunctioning of these three equipment was worsened by several underlying issues that all aligned on New Year's Day and ultimately led to a system failure. Kumbaga sa sakit, may underlying medical condition na ang pasyente at nagkaroon na ng maraming komplikasyon kaya nangyari ito.

Kabilang sa mga underlying issues ay ang kawalan ng engineering standards at guidelines para sa maintenance at troubleshooting ng mga equipment. Nakumpirma din na wala pang system evaluation para sa buong system at wala pa ring compliance ang CAAP sa energy audit na requirement sa ilalim ng RA 11825 or the "Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act".

There is also no proper personnel training and a glaring lack of electrical engineers. Sumitomo, the third-party maintenance provider, also never got the chance to continue providing technical assistance due to a pending dispute with DOTr.

To illustrate, kumbaga sa ospital ay may kakulangan sa mga espesyalistang doktor. Meron mang mga nurses ay hindi naman sila trained para mag-alaga o magbigay lunas sa pasyenteng may specific na karamdaman o kailangan magpa-opera.

Third, there is no functioning backup or redundancy which is why a single fault in the equipment can and did cause a shutdown. May mga naging proposals pero hanggang ngayon ay wala pa ring naisasakatuparan.

Nevertheless, CAAP reported that they are now expediting the construction of another CNS/ATM facility which will be the main facility while the existing facility will be designated as a backup.

In the interim, CAAP has a budget request of P1.34 billion for the upgrading and replacement of a few critical equipment. NEDA also approved recently the utilization of the JICA loan balance for the procurement of upgrades, spare parts, and a third-party maintenance service provider.

Fourth, we were able to rule out sabotage and cyber attack. Bagamat maraming kakulangan sa seguridad ng pasilidad gaya ng kawalan ng CCTV, at ng mismong sistema gaya ng outdated na computer systems at iba pang cybersecurity vulnerabilities, walang data compromise na nangyari dahil sa insidente.

However, a conclusive finding negating the cyber attack potential will depend on the UPS data logs sent to Turkey for examination which the Committee will monitor and report to the Body once the results are out.

Fifth, CAAP's poor compliance with the audit observations of the International Civil Aviation Organization or ICAO contributed to the failure of the system. Hindi na nakakapagtakang bagsak tayo sa Air Navigation Services category scoring only 45.28% while the global average is 65%.

One significant ICAO observation is the country's lack of a Master Contingency Plan that should have established emergency procedures for events like this. Mr. President, as early as 2017, even before the CNS/ATM system was completed, CAAP was already well aware of the need for this plan dahil nag-create na ito ng TWG, pero hanggang ngayon ay nananatili isang working draft ang contingency plan natin.

The Philippines already has a history of non-compliance to ICAO and I wish to reiterate that there are consequences. A downgrade from Category 1 to Category 2 means Philippine-registered aircraft and personnel would have to undergo heightened inspections abroad which might cause flight delays. Maaari ring mag-impose ang ibang bansa ng restrictions sa ating mga commercial flights. This will translate to huge economic losses for the country.

And lastly, the efficiency and transparency of CAAP are being limited by its own Charter. Currently, CAAP functions as a regulator, operator, and investigator. Even CAAP recognizes the disadvantages of these conflicting roles and supports any proposal to separate these functions.

Nawawala din ang fiscal autonomy ng CAAP dahil pinag-remit ito sa gobyerno na umaabot na ng P22.4 billion simula 2016 na dapat sana ay na-gamit para sa equipment upgrades. But it is worth stressing that Section 16 of its Charter gives CAAP fiscal autonomy. Further, a 2016 DOJ opinion expressly stated that CAAP is a GOCC exempted from the coverage of the Dividend Law and is not obliged to remit dividends.

CAAP has also been experiencing employee recruitment and retention issues due to limitations set by existing laws. The Salary Standardization Law prevents the agency from providing competitive salaries to critical manpower like air traffic controllers. We are being beaten by foreign recruiters with offers of higher pay and huge relocation allowances.

Karamihan din sa CAAP employees ay nananatiling job order. Madami pa ring temporary workers sa ahensiya - kabilang na ang maraming technical personnel noong nangyari ang insidente. Many of them are actually contractual workers, some were even outsourced from a manpower company.

Mr. President, when I began the investigation on this matter, I stressed that the Committee will adopt a non-punitive direction because our primary goal right now is public safety. Accountability will follow after we've laid down safety measures for our air passengers.

The Committee thus submits a long list of recommendations as a form of corrective and preventive action to the deficiencies and inefficiencies in the procedures and protocols of CAAP.

To improve the technical capacity of CAAP, we recommend the urgent replacement and upgrading of critical equipment. To complement this, sufficient engineering guidelines and training of accredited engineers should be rolled out. Another CNS/ATM system in an independent location should also be supported.

To address other non-technical aspects, hinihiling ko ang suporta ng aking mga kapwa Senador para maipasa ang Philippine Transportation Safety Board at Philippine Airports Authority Act, ang pag-amyenda ng CAAP Charter, at ang pag-pasa ng isang Air Passengers Bill of Rights para naman sa ating mga mananakay.

Related to these, the Committee is also recommending that the DOTr fast-track the feasibility studies on the proposed NAIA privatization, and assist CAAP in immediately complying with the ICAO recommendations.

Mr. President, it should be recognized that the CNS/ATM was a project spanning several administrations and changes of heads since its inception in 1997. Hinawakan ito ng anim na presidente, labing-isang DOTr at DOTC Secretaries, walong CAAP Directors, apat na assistant secretaries ng dating Air Transportation Office or ATO and many batches of poorly equipped engineers under them. The Committee believes that CAAP personnel on the ground did their best with the equipment, guidelines, and training given to them. We thus defer to the current administration of CAAP to undertake the administrative investigation for disciplinary action on the culpability of any of its personnel.

The January 1 "systems failure" was indeed a confluence of factors and errors. Experts likened it to the planets aligning albeit with an unfortunate consequence. Bihira pero alam nating posibleng mangyari ito, at patuloy na mangyayari kung wala tayong gagawin sa mga problema ng air traffic system sa bansa.

Mr. President, there's much work needed for a better system. It is my earnest hope that through our investigative work, Congress will be able to assist CAAP in providing a system where travel in our airspace is no longer shut down by causes which could have been avoided.

With that Mr. President, I urge the body to support and adopt the recommendations on this Committee Report and its immediate implementation, to prevent an incident like this from happening in the future and towards safer air travel for all.

Again, thank you to my colleagues for allowing me to deliver this speech, particularly to Senator Loren, and our Majority Leader. Thank you very much.

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