MANILA – Northern Samar 1st District Rep. Paul Daza on Wednesday underscored the need to separate the regulatory and commercial functions of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) following the New Year fiasco at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
Daza, however, said reforming the CAAP will require filing of certain bills to ultimately and officially decouple the regulatory and developmental functions of the agency.
“The CAAP must be enhanced to focus on being a regulatory body, while two other operational and independent investigative agencies must be created to perform the mentioned functions. The same also needs to be applied to maritime regulatory agencies such as the PPA (Philippine Ports Authority),” he said.
Around 300 flights were affected by the power outage at the Air Traffic Management Center (ATMC) of CAAP on New Year’s Day, stranding more than 65,000 passengers.
“We are assured that an investigation is already being done, however that is also problematic because it’s the same agency investigating its own,” Daza said.
CAAP was created through Republic Act 9497 of 2008 or “An Act Creating the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, Authorizing the Appropriation of Funds Therefor, and for Other Purposes”.
Its functions include both commercial and regulatory functions, potentially creating conflict of interests, Daza said.
“Many have already spoken and, most likely, everyone is right. There seems to be negligence but the more critical question is, ‘How can we ensure objectivity in the investigation if CAAP is the one investigating itself?,’” he asked.
Section 21 of RA 9497 stipulates that CAAP is tasked with both the “development and utilization of the air potential of the Philippines” and “regulation of air transportation…”. It also enjoys fiscal autonomy (Section 15) and exemption from taxes, customs and tariff duties in the importation of equipment, machineries and other materials.
“We could no longer afford another similar incident; thousands of lives had been put at risk and will be put at risk if this should ever happen again,” Daza said as he called on his colleagues in Congress to hold a joint investigation along with the Senate to get clear answers.
Section 91 of RA 9497 stipulates the oversight functions by both houses of Congress.
Daza said the government needs to create an impartial body that will look into what really happened—a body not within CAAP.
CAAP’s Aerodrome and Air Navigation Safety Oversight Office was assigned to investigate the incident.
He also recommended the immediate review and possibly amendment of RA 9497.
“This is a wake-up call. In an archipelagic country where air- and sea-based travel is critical to growth, we can’t be this complacent and worse, be left behind,” Daza said. (PNA)