Japan, Korea asked to lift restrictions on PH carriers

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The government has asked Japan and South Korea to lift their restrictions that block the expansion of local airlines following the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) lifting of its negative rating on the country.

In separate letters, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) asked counterparts in Tokyo and Seoul to remove limits on the operations of Philippine-registered airlines.

Earlier this month, the ICAO, an attached agency of the United Nations, officially lifted its Significant Safety Concerns (SSC) ratings on the Philippines.

Both Japan and South Korea cited the ICAO’s SSC rating on the Philippines as reason to block the entry of new flights by airlines registered in the country.

“The Philippines has successfully addressed and resolved the SSCs that were previously identified by the ICAO-Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme,” the CAAP letter dated March 5 read.

The letters were sent to Hye-Ryong Yu, deputy director of South Korea’s Office of Civil Aviation, and Hirohishi Narahira, director of International Transport at Japan’s Civil Aviation Bureau.

“In view of this development, it is our candid position that this positive report of the ICAO should pave the way for the prompt lifting/removal of any technical and economic restrictions that were imposed by the Japan-Civil Aviation Bureau (and Korea’s Office of Civil Aviation) to Philippine carriers,” the letters added.

ICAO originally cited 89 points of concern in the country’s aviation regulatory framework that jeopardized the safety of airline passenger. Some of these concerns involved the registration of aviation companies and regulations covering the training of pilots and other industry personnel.

The ICAO audit was used by the European Union as basis for a ban on local airlines from mounting flights to any point within the economic bloc. The ban also meant that no Philippine carrier was allowed to even enter EU airspace.

In its latest exit report that showed the country meeting minimum safety standards, the ICAO cited the Aquino administration’s “active commitment” and “positive response” to international calls for the improvement in safety standards to meet international norms.

The government hopes that the United State Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will forego its option to conduct its own audit and adopt the ICAO’s findings. This could lead to the lifting of the FAA’s Category 2 status on the Philippines, which means Philippine carriers are currently banned from expanding operations in the United States.

The FAA’s downgrade that came in 2007 prompted several reforms that led to the dissolution of the Air Transportation Office (ATO) and the creation of its replacement, the CAAP.

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