Bare Truth by Rose de la Cruz
Bare Truth

No more aviation fiascos please

Jan 7, 2023, 7:12 AM
Rose De La Cruz

Rose De La Cruz


The aviation fiasco on New Year’s Day is not just unacceptable but exposed the vulnerability and highly unsecure environment of our aviation sector, which would drastically negate our tourism progress and make us prone to cyber and physical attackers, from hereon.

It made the country look bad—with those 500,000 passengers (eager to be home for the New Year revelry but were stranded at NAIA instead), the overseas Filipino workers who are returning to their jobs abroad or foreigners who are waiting to vacation or work here and thousands of domestic tourists who wanted to enjoy the remaining long holidays to beaches and other hideouts in the country.

And it exposed the inefficiency of government—and possible corruption that led to the fiasco because communication systems and the radar were powered by ill-maintained basic and back-up power systems.

The airlines suffered enormously as their pilots had to wait word to either take off or land, for which they unnecessarily used aviation fuel in addition to flaring tempers of their passengers, who were either checking-in or were in flight at the time of the fiasco.

And the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, the NAIA and Manila International Airport Authority, aside from the Department of Transportation, even had the nerve to require the airlines to shoulder the cost of feeding of thousands of stranded passengers, book their hotels until flights could resume. Imagine how much it would cost to feed them breakfast, lunch and possibly dinner for the entire time they were in the hotels and NAIA waiting to be boarded. Since it was not the fault of the airlines, the government should have spent for all these aside from rebooking the flights of the stranded people.

There is so much irresponsibility on government’s part, to say the least, and they had the nerve to even blame the previous administration of DoTr for this. Perhaps the blame psyche is ingrained in us or the tendency to not admit our faults is booted in our system, as a people.

The fiasco did not only inconvenience 500,000 passengers and airline crews—both local and foreign, including ground crews on the first day of 2023 it also endangered several lives who were already hovering our airspace, including those that were just passing through because they could not be advised on how they could avoid collisions in the sky, without a functioning radar.

We cannot measure the stress level of stranded travelers and with this trauma if they would ever come back here again. We had such luck in that the shutdown did not cause accidents or casualties up there, otherwise we would forever be removed as a destination by global travelers and kiss our tourism goodbye for good.

Speculations, though not remote, include computer hackers (something authorities were unable to rule out yet), or even a malicious attempt to embarrass the leadership of DoTr who has been shaking things up in various agencies under him, said an Inquirer editorial.

Whatever caused the fiasco, nothing is ever acceptable. It is unacceptable that critical elements of the country’s aviation infrastructure like navigation radars of traffic management systems can fail—along with backup systems.

It is unacceptable that are no redundant systems like radars or facilities strategically placed in the Visayas or Mindanao, which can be activated should facilities in Luzon go down. For a country that prides itself with providing uninterrupted 24/7 call center and BPOs services even during natural and man-made calamities it is unimaginable that such a mindset has not permeated to the leaders of the public sector.

The failure goes back many years to delayed and slow procurement processes that practically ensured that the new system was already obsolete when installed and to current managers who failed to validate that backup systems and contingencies were ready to be activated as needed. Making officials accountable is important.

Going forward the government must put its act together, including fasttracking procurement and installation of more modern equipment, instead of waiting for their obsolescence.

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