By Filane Mikee Cervantes

TECHNICAL GLITCH. Passengers at NAIA Terminal 3 in Pasay City queue at the check-in counter as it resumes its operation after Air Traffic Management Center of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines experienced a technical issue on Jan. 1, 2023. In a House probe on Tuesday (Jan. 10), the Department of Transportation said amendments must be made to the procurement law to expedite the upgrade of facilities and acquisition of crucial air traffic management equipment. (PNA photo by Yancy Lim)

MANILA – The Department of Transportation (DOTr) on Tuesday said amendments must be made to the procurement law to expedite the upgrade of facilities and acquisition of crucial air traffic management equipment to prevent a repeat of the technical glitch that shut down the country’s airspace last New Year’s Day.

During the hearing of the House Committee on Transportation on the technical glitch that resulted in suspended flight operations in several of the country’s major airports, DOTr Secretary Jaime Bautista said around PHP13 billion would be needed to upgrade the country’s air traffic management system.

“We are thankful for the cooperation of other agencies who share similar sentiments about the need to amend existing procurement laws to expedite acquisition of vital technical equipment such as those of CAAP (Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines),” he said.

“We hope to highlight technical and financial support in upgrading the facilities in CAAP, NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) and other regional airports,” he added.

He said the government is committed to providing a permanent solution to improve the air traffic system, as he apologized to the passengers affected by the technical glitch.

“We sincerely apologize to those who were affected by the technical glitch which affected hundreds of flights and inconvenienced thousands of passengers,” he said. “We hope to convey to our lawmakers and to the riding public that we are committed in coming up with a permanent solution affecting passengers and commuters.”

He said the agency is considering proposals to have a backup system to prevent a repeat of the incident, while an intra-agency investigation is being conducted to determine the source of the glitch.

“We are also addressing reports to set the record straight on what really happened,” he added.

On Jan. 1, the CAAP Air Traffic Management system and its backup failed, stranding hundreds of flights and thousands of passengers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Clark, Mactan, Davao and other CAAP-operated airports.

The incident was the result of a loss of power due to a problem in the system’s electrical network and the failure of its uninterruptible power supply that served as the backup power supply.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Friday apologized for the New Year’s Day air traffic management system glitch at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) that led to numerous flight cancellations affecting around 56,000 passengers.

“I’m sorry. Of course, we have to apologize to our kababayans (countrymen), especially those who came from abroad. Limitado ang kanilang bakasyon. Nawala iyong dalawa o tatlong araw eh (Their vacation was limited. They lost two or three days because of this),” said Marcos following an inspection at the NAIA Terminal 3.

“Kaya kami’y humihingi ng inyong paumanhin at gagawin namin ang lahat nang hindi na maulit ito (We are asking for your understanding and we will do everything so that this will not happen again),” he said.

Marcos conducted an ocular inspection at NAIA Terminal 3 and discussed with transport officials several measures to prevent a repeat of the air traffic system mess.

Among the measures, he said, is the emergency procurement of two uninterruptible power supply units.

He said the government also plans to install a backup system.

“Beyond that, is to have a proper backup system so that if the whole system fails, like it did on January 1, we have a complete system ready to go. ‘Yun lamang (However), that might take a little time, but that is something that we will try to fast-track as quickly as possible,” Marcos said.

The President noted that the government has extended assistance to affected passengers.

“Hindi naman sila basta pinabayaan na lang at (They were not just simply abandoned and) left them to their own devices. We tried to support them in every way,” he said. (PNA)