PH aviation sector gets big boost

UN regulatory agency lifts safety concerns

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09:28 PM March 4th, 2013

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The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a regulatory body under the United Nations, has officially lifted its significant safety concerns (SSC) grade on the Philippines, paving the way for the eventual return of Philippine carriers to Europe and the resumption of their expansion in the United States.

In a statement Monday, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) cited the Aquino administration’s “active commitment” and “positive response” to international calls for the improvement in safety standards to meet international norms.

CAAP Director General William K. Hotchkiss III, the former chief of the Philippine Air Force, formally relayed to Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya the issuance of an official communication from the Montreal-based ICAO that “the corrective actions taken by the Philippines have successfully addressed and resolved the SSCs identified by ICAO.”

Hotchkiss’ letter to Abaya was sent last Friday, the CAAP said.

Abaya had said that the official lifting of the EU’s ban should come in two to three weeks.

In its 2010 report, the ICAO had cited 89 points of concern in the country’s aviation regulatory framework that jeopardized the safety of airline passengers. ICAO’s SSC grade on the Philippines was used by the European Union in 2010 to ban local airlines from flying to Europe. In 2007, the Philippines was also downgraded by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to “Category 2” status, which meant Philippine carriers were banned from expanding operations in the United States.

The FAA’s downgrade of the Philippines prompted reforms that led to the dissolution of the Air Transportation Office (ATO), which was replaced by the CAAP.

“With this positive development, the CAAP will continue to coordinate with the European Union and the Federal Aviation Administration about upgrading the country’s aviation status,” Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail F. Valte said in a statement yesterday.

“It’s very positive. It’s a positive development and we are very optimistic,” Valte said when asked in a briefing if this was enough to get an upgrade from EU and the FAA. “I was told that the FAA and EU both adhere to the aviation safety standards that are set by the ICAO.”

Even so, she said that the CAAP has to undertake a separate process with the EU and FAA, but the CAAP would continue to talk to both “to take this positive development into consideration for the upgrading of our aviation status.”

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