AS the investigations into the NAIA fiasco get underway, more questions have been raised about the real cause of the “glitch,” which affected more than 65,000 passengers going in and out of the country on New Year’s day.
So far, CAAP officials have attributed it to problems with the circuit breaker, which triggered the technical problems inside the air traffic management center.
But Senators have spotted other red flags in the CAAP’s operations that raised concerns.
They also said more questions need to be answered.
In its recent hearing, the Senate found that the current Communications, Navigation, and Surveillance Systems for Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) that CAAP is using has a warranty that expired in 2020. It was also revealed that the CAAP still has to pay pending claims amounting to almost P1B.
According to CAAP General Director Manuel Antonio Tamayo, the warranty of the country’s Communications, Navigation, and Surveillance Systems for Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) expired in 2020.
This indicates that after the expiration of the existing contractor’s warranty, the CNS/ATM equipment at the CAAP’s air traffic management center in Pasay City was not inspected by a third-party provider for three years.
France-based multinational company Thales Group, in charge of the air traffic management system software, and Japan’s electric service company Sumitomo Corporation, which acts as the “integrator” of the project, had been the joint-venture contractors that served as third-party providers for the CNS/ATM.
“The CNS/ATM had a warranty that expired in 2020, and it’s only up to the time that they were providing support as far as the CNS/ATM is concerned,” said Tamayo.
But he said that even if the warranty had expired, CAAP’s personnel were trained to maintain the system.
“Our personnel in CAAP are qualified and well-trained to maintain the system. In fact, they were trained by Thales themselves aside from CAAP,” he said.
“They are well-experienced, they’ve been with CAAP for quite some time, so they are the ones maintaining the ATM system,” he added.
However, this raised concerns from Senators.
“If left unchecked, any vulnerabilities could undermine government efforts to safeguard economic recovery initiatives for the tourism and transportation sectors,” Senator Win Gatchalian said.
Senator Grace Poe, who chairs the Committee on Public Services, also raised the issue of when the Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) System was last checked by its supplier.
Tamayo revealed that it was two years ago when personnel changed the UPS system’s batteries.
Sumitomo’s Atty Lloyd Chadwick Lim said there should be some regular maintenance aside from the battery check from third-party providers as it is “beneficial” for the system.
“Ideally, there should be regular maintenance aside from battery checks, but DG Tamayo is correct when he says they actually have qualified people inside the CAAP [who have] been working with CAAP for a while, who should be able to maintain by themselves, but if they prefer to have and I agree totally with you [Senator Grace Poe] as well [that] having a third-party expert such as P2RO supplier would be beneficial,” Lim said.
Filipino supplier P2RO Inc. maintains the UPS system, according to CAAP.
Where are the cameras?
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri also raised concerns about the lack of close-circuit television cameras in the equipment room of CNS/ATM Center when it is a sensitive section.
The CAAP said that even without CCTV cameras, strict security measures are being implemented in the area and only authorized personnel are allowed to enter it.
But Zubiri said a CCTV system would allow officials to monitor what is going on in the facility and prevent security breaches.
“Hindi natin alam, baka may double agent na diyan, o may tao na diyan na nag-sabotage ng equipment. We will never know. We will have to believe them hook, line, and sinker, from the logs. With CCTV footage, we would have been able to see if the system was overheating, if the system was diverted,” he said.
The Senate probe revealed that CAAP still owes Thales Group and Sumitomo Corp. a pending claim amounting to P986,653,157.81.
The joint-venture contractors claim that CAAP has to pay them the following amount:
- Suspension claims (Contract suspension) – P477 million
- Prolongation claims (Contract suspension and work implementation by the DOTr) – P387 million
- Price escalation claims (project delays) –P121 million
“The outstanding claims, particularly in the case of the suspension claim, have been outstanding since 2013,” said Thales’ Harry Nuske.
Nuske likewise said that Thales is hesitant to sign a new agreement with the DOTr until the existing contract’s remaining claims have been settled.
“So the position of Thales is that we are not willing to enter into a new contract until we have resolved the outstanding claims of the existing contract,” said Nuske.
The DOTr, on the other hand, has P644 million in claims against Thales and Sumitomo.
According to Lim, the DOTr claims were due to the system’s delivery delay.
Meanwhile, Senator Risa Hontiveros called for an impartial probe into the cyberattack angle.
Hontiveros said the Armed Forces and the Department of Information and Communications Technology should conduct the investigation into this instead of CAAP.
“CAAP’s attempts to blame anyone but themselves includes their hasty conclusion that this was not a cyberattack. That is neither within their mandate nor capabilities to announce so,” Hontiveros said.
Banner Photo Credit: CAAP