NAIA going private? Timing of air traffic system glitch raises questions

January 2, 2023 - 12:30 PM
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Passengers at the check-in area in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) wait for an announcement after the cancellation of some flights in the NAIA terminal 3 due to technical issues at the air navigation facilities of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) on Sunday, January 1, 2023 (The Philippine STAR/Edd Gumban)

The timing of the air navigation system’s technical glitch that affected the entire Philippine airspace is raising eyebrows after thousands of travelers were stranded in domestic and international airports yesterday.

Rep. France Castro (ACT Teachers), an opposition lawmaker, said the “timing is quite fishy.”

She noted that the glitch happened two days after transportation secretary and former Philippine Airlines chief Jaime Bautista said they are working on privatizing Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). 

RELATED: Former PAL president Jimmy Bautista is Marcos’ pick for DOTr chief

“Todo naman yata ang pagtutulak na muli sa pribatisasyon ng mga key assets at services ng gobyerno na wala na namang konsultasyon sa mamamayan na papasan ng dagdag bayarin o singil dahil dito,” Castro argued, citing the plan to privitize EDSA bus carousel and NAIA management. 

RELATED: DOTr to privatize EDSA carousel to ‘conform to international standards’

“Have they not learned their lesson that privatization only means higher fees for consumers?” the lawmaker said. 

On the same day Bautista made the statement about NAIA’s privatization, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) issued a notice advising the closure of several area navigation routes from December 30 until Jan. 2, 2023, at 6 p.m.

CAAP cited possible debris drops from China’s Long March 3B rocket launch as a reason for this closure. 

‘Outdated’

Others also questioned the CAAP’s Communications, Navigation, Surveillance/Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) Systems that faced a “technical issue” saying it is relatively new.  

At a press briefing on Sunday night, CAAP said the CNS/ATM systems are already “outdated.” 

“Kasi like anything, it is an electrical system, meron na nga tayong backup, dalawa na nga ‘yan, but still it failed. Now, our CNS/ATM, this was conceptualized way back in the late 90’s, naumpisahan ‘to I think 2010, and finally it was completed in 2018. So medyo — as far as the technology is concerned — it is already outdated,” CAAP Director General Captain Manuel Tamayo said. 

The 10.8 billion CNS/ATM Systems was inaugurated in January 2018 to enhance the air traffic service’s safety, reliability, and efficiency.

Japan International Cooperation Agency financed this under a loan agreement between the Philippines and Japan.

Tamayo urged the transport secretary and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to modernize the country’s air traffic management system. 

The air traffic system woes affected thousands of passengers as flights were either cancelled or delayed. 

RELATED: Data: PHL airspace outage left thousands stranded, hundreds of flights cancelled