MANILA (UPDATED)— The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines is "almost 100 responsible" for the New Year's Day air traffic fiasco, Sen. Grace Poe said Monday.
The travel mess forced hundreds of flights to be canceled, delayed, or diverted, affecting over 65,000 passengers.
"I think CAAP is almost 100 percent responsible for this because when it comes to the operations of commercial air traffic and giving of the permits, it’s CAAP and CAB (Civil Aeronautics Board)" she told ANC's "Headstart".
"But CAB deals more with the economic aspect and CAAP is the operations. Definitely, they’re responsible because those are their people that they assigned there to the air traffic control towers," she added.
Poe had called the incident a “national security concern”, saying aviation officials should be held accountable.
The Senate Committee on Public Services, which Poe chairs, is set to probe the fiasco on January 12.
In the interview, Poe said it's also time to consider privatizing the country's main air hub.
"Not just the air traffic control system but the airport in itself, I have always pushed for privatization," she said.
If a mega consortium had been awarded the airport deal years ago, Poe said they "could have rehabilitated the airport easily because there wasn’t so much activity during that time [of pandemic]".
"It’s a staggering amount that they will invest... to upgrade the facilities of the airport and to expand the terminals and the services," she added.
Poe, meanwhile, rejected calls for Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista to resign following the incident.
"Absolutely not. First of all, Secretary Bautista was just sworn into office. This is a long-standing situation," she said.
"As I mentioned, the bidding process, the approval happened decades ago, if we are to follow supposedly what they said that... the study began in 2000, 2001."
"Definitely, the mettle of the leadership of our secretary of transportation will be tested now if there should be an impartial investigation of who are truly liable for the fiasco," Poe added.
Aviation authorities detected a "technical issue" on the morning of January 1 involving the air traffic management center at Manila's domestic and international airport.
The outage hit as many people began returning to the capital for work and school after the Christmas and New Year break.
Bautista has said the air traffic management center, which controls inbound and outbound flights, "went down" due to a power outage that resulted in the loss of communication, radio, radar and internet. — With reports from Jacque Manabat, ABS-CBN News; and Agence France-Presse
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