Press Release
January 12, 2023

Hontiveros: Agency other than CAAP should lead NAIA meltdown investigation

After the aviation body backtracked on several statements, Senator Risa Hontiveros said that the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) should not lead the investigation on the NAIA New Year air traffic meltdown that led to delays and flight cancellations in the middle of the holidays.

"What if the negligence is from CAAP's end? There's a clear conflict of interest if they are investigating themselves. Hindi lang iyon, pero paiba-iba ang nilalabas nila sa media at ang nirereport nila sa Kongreso. Perhaps we at the Senate should consider a different aviation body that could join the investigation," she said.

"CAAP cannot even get its facts straight. It's been one and a half weeks since the incident, dapat klaro na sa kanila kung ano ang naging problema. At kung hindi pa nila alam, mas malala pa iyan sa nangyari. That would make them both negligent and incompetent. The CAAP should not, in any way, attempt to absolve itself of any faults," she also said.

Hontiveros said that cross-checking their documentation is crucial to any meaningful step forward. She said a third party should double check both the equipment log and the manual log of the system error.

"Let's identify who entered the manual log of the system error. The Senate needs their firsthand account of what they had observed to cross-check CAAP's statements. The suppliers of the equipment should also check the logs themselves and provide that information to the Senate committee," she said.

She also said that the CAAP should explain to the Senate how it ruled out cyberattacks within 24 hours as a cause for the NAIA meltdown. The senator added that increased cybersecurity steps should be taken because the meltdown was also a security risk.

"Paano nakarating ang CAAP sa ganitong konklusyon sa mahigit-kumulang 24 na oras lang? Siguraduhin natin na hindi basta-basta na naman na pahayag ito. We want to be immensely thorough before we rule out a cyberattack. Let's get this verified by our other cybersecurity bodies like the DICT. Kung di man cyber-attack ito, if our systems are that vulnerable, it means we are exposed to possible attacks from entities that can shut down our major airports so easily," she said.

"I brought up these same security risks for our national grid, the NGCP. Extensive measures need to be explored and put in place so that there are no sizeable weaknesses in our cybersecurity," she added.

The senator said that if proven that the mistakes leading up to the NAIA mess were 'simple and basic', the people accountable could be charged with gross negligence. She also said that small incidents in the following days since the New Year fiasco should be investigated as well to understand the scope of the country's aviation shortcomings.

"This mess could have been much worse. There was a report that the paths of two planes were dangerously close to each other and could have resulted in a mid-air collision that day. This was a tragedy narrowly avoided. There should be no scapegoats or free passes from liability. If someone became sloppy, they must be held accountable. In all honesty, this seems to be an extraordinary event caused by very basic mistakes. Totally unacceptable," she concluded.

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