Senate report rules out sabotage, cyberattack in New Year’s Day airport fiasco

"While there are many lapses in the security of the facility, there is no data compromise due to the incident", said Senator Grace Poe.

Daniza Fernandez

Daniza Fernandez

Philippine Daily Inquirer


FILE PHOTO: Senator Grace Poe (Eira Caberte/OS Poe/Senate PRIB)

March 9, 2023

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate committee on public services, chaired by Senator Grace Poe, has ruled out sabotage and cyberattack in the New Year’s Day airport catastrophe.

In a speech on Tuesday, Poe also said that the panel’s inquiry found that no data have been compromised due to the mess that affected at least 65,000 travelers and canceled, delayed, or diverted around 600 flights.

Poe subsequently endorsed for plenary approval the committee’s findings and recommendations on the air traffic chaos at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia).

“We were able to rule out sabotage and cyberattack. Bagamat maraming kakulangan ang seguridad ng pasilidad gaya ng kawalan ng CCTV (closed-circuit television), at ng mismong sistema gaya ng outdated na computer systems at iba pang cybersecurity vulnerabilities, walang data compromise na nangyari dahil sa insidente,” she said.

(We were able to rule out sabotage and cyberattack. While there are many lapses in the security of the facility such as the lack of CCTV, as well as in the system itself like the outdated computer systems and other cybersecurity vulnerabilities, there is no data compromise due to the incident.)

“However, a conclusive finding negating the cyberattack potential will depend on the UPS (uninterruptible power supply) data logs sent to Turkey for examination which the Committee will monitor and report to the Body once the results are out,” she added.

Poe said several equipment have issues, leading to the turmoil. Malfunctioned equipment includes the UPS, circuit breaker, and the automatic voltage regulator, she noted.

“The malfunctioning of these three equipment was worsened by several underlying issues that all aligned on New Year’s Day and ultimately led to a system failure,” she said.

Among the underlying issues, according to Poe, are the lack of engineering standards and guidelines for maintenance and troubleshooting of equipment and absence of system evaluation, and the non-compliance of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) to the energy audit.

The senator also pointed out that there is no proper personnel training as there is a lack of electrical engineers.

The CAAP’s poor compliance with the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) audit observations contributed to the system’s failure, Poe also said.

She noted that the country’s air navigation services scored 45.28 percent, lower than the global average of 65 percent.

According to Poe, the CAAP said they are fast tracking the building of another Communications, Navigation and Surveillance/Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) facility. The existing facility, meanwhile, will be designated as a backup.

With these issues, the committee recommended the urgent replacement and upgrading of critical equipment, the rollout of sufficient engineering guidelines and training of accredited engineers, and supporting another CNS/ATM system in an independent location.

The Senate committee on public services also proposed that the Department of Transportation should hasten feasibility studies on the proposed privatization of Naia and assist the CAAP in immediately complying with the ICAO recommendations.

Poe then renewed her call to approve the Philippine Transportation Safety Board and the Philippine Airports Authority Act.

She likewise pushed for the amendment of the CAAP Charter and passage of an Air Passengers Bill of Rights.

“The January 1 ‘systems failure’ was indeed a confluence of factors and errors. Experts likened it to the planets aligning albeit with an unfortunate consequence,” Poe noted. “Bihira, pero alam nating posibleng mangyari ito, at patuloy na mangyayari kung wala tayong gagawin sa mga problema ng air traffic system sa bansa.”

(It’s rare, but we know it can happen, and will continue to happen if we don’t do anything about the country’s air traffic system problems.)

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