Fate of aviation industry hangs in balance
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials have concluded a technical assessment on the Philippines to determine the country’s compliance with internationally accepted air safety standards.
The technical assessment is a precursor to a more comprehensive FAA audit that could result in the lifting of the country’s “category 2” status, which at the moment bans local carriers from expanding operations in several key markets around the world.
“Representatives from the FAA arrived here last Monday and left at the weekend,” Transportation Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II said in an interview.
“They conducted a technical audit and we expect them to make a report to Washington about the progress of the Philippines. It should take at least a few weeks because they have their own bureaucracy to deal with,” he told the Inquirer.
The country’s downgrade to “category 2” status in 2008 reflected the aviation industry’s weak regulatory environment, which could jeopardize the safety of planes and airlines registered in the Philippines.
Among the lapses noted by the 2008 audit were the lack of qualified personnel and massive corruption at the now-defunct Air Transportation Office (ATO). The ATO was reorganized as the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), an agency given fiscal autonomy and independence to insulate it from changes in political winds.
Roxas, a former senator who was appointed to his current post by President Aquino last July, said that based on the findings of the technical assessment, the government would be able to decide on whether or not to invite the FAA back for the full audit. “It’s our decision to invite them back,” Roxas said.
The downgrade meant that all local carriers have been barred from expanding operations to the United States. Although flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) is the only local carrier with the capability to fly across the Pacific Ocean, other airlines have also felt the effects of the downgrade.
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