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Senators vow probe on New Year NAIA power outage incident

Senators on Monday vowed to look into the malfunction that marred the Ninoy Aquino International Airport's (NAIA) Communications, Navigation and Surveillance Systems for Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) on New Year's Day, resulting in the shutdown of Philippine airspace.

"[We should] give them time to restore normal flight operations. After which, we will conduct an inquiry and direct them to submit a full report of what caused the supposed glitch and power outage," Senator Grace Poe said in a statement.

The chairperson of the Senate Committee on Public Services, Poe said the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) has a lot to answer for, given that the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) already said that there was a steady supply of power from its end.

"The failure then points to CAAP and their navigation equipment.This is a national security concern. Thousands of lives depend on the efficiency and competence of CAAP," she said.

"There needs to be transparency and accountability from CAAP. We will, therefore, conduct a hearing as part of the Senate's oversight function, to determine who is liable, and what we need to do to avoid the malfunction from happening again."

At least 282 flights were canceled, diverted, or delayed, due to the incident, affecting some 56,000 passengers at NAIA.

Senators JV Ejercito and Jinggoy Estrada, meanwhile, backed Poe, saying such malfunction is embarrassing and burdensome to the public.

"CAAP is the agency in charge, so they have a lot of explaining to do," Ejercito said in a separate statement.

"Nakakahiya. Double black eye yan sa bansa. Makakasira sa imahe ng bansa at makakaapekto sa tourism industry. I will seek a Senate inquiry on this incident," Estrada, for his part, said.

(It's such a shame. It's a double black eye that taints the country's image and our tourism industry.)

CAAP Director General Manuel Tamayo earlier said one of the uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) failed at around 9:50 a.m. on Sunday, and troubleshooting activities had to be done. Backup systems were not immediately available.

Once the system was reconnected to the power supply, however, warnings were released at around lunch time due to over voltage as 380 volts were coming in instead of 220 volts.

This then affected the very small aperture terminal (VSAT), which also had to be addressed. The system was partially restored 4 p.m. on Sunday, and operations have since resumed.

Transport officials have since called for upgrades of the system, including the establishment of a backup system located elsewhere.

"We really need to have a backup system na sana located in a different location. Hindi ‘yung malapit dito sa area where we have the existing system," Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista said Sunday evening. —Llanesca T. Panti/KBK, GMA Integrated News