PAL denied Korean and Saudi Arabian flights

As RP Airlines struggles for operating permits abroad
Justify Full
By Jarius Bondoc

February 17, 2010

RP aviation’s poor international rating has begun to trouble Filipino airlines. This is the gist of Foreign Undersecretary Franklin Ebdalin’s recent letter to Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines chief Ruben Ciron.

On Feb. 8 Ebdalin wrote Ciron that Korean civil aviation officials had nixed Philippine Airlines’ bid for a Cebu-Seoul route. Saudi Arabia too may delay resumption of the flag carrier’s Manila-Riyadh flights. Authorities in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Australia have begun inquiring about RP’s aviation record and policies. Meaning, international operations Cebu Pacific and Zest Air too could be impaired. Revenues would be lost from the traditional high-profit routes.

The cause of all this is twofold. First, in Nov. 2007 the US Federal Aviation Administration downgraded RP to Category-II in security and safety. Facilities and personnel of the Air Transport Office were found wanting. Sadly it was the private sector that suffered from government’s poor grade. Filipino carriers to the US were barred from setting up new or expanding old services.

The CAAP hastily was formed to stop the decline. Hardly any improvements happened, though. So hit, second, the recent posting by the International Civil Aviation Organization of “significant safety concerns.” RP was lumped with backward or failing states like Angola, Bangladesh, Congo, Djibouti, Kazakhstan, Rwanda and Zambia.

The UN agency found that of 191 navigational facilities RP-wide, only 16 are reliable, eight are due for recalibration by end-Feb. 2010, and the rest are in disrepair. Again private carriers are the ones punished for the CAAP score, in terms of restrictions like the Korean action against PAL. Yet 90 percent of CAAP revenues come from navigational charges on airlines.

Ebdalin in his letter asked Ciron what CAAP is doing to address the US-FAA and ICAO concerns. The answer is yet unknown, as Ciron’s performance is being reviewed by Malacañang.

Meanwhile, Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza is claiming in press releases that airports RP-wide improved under President Arroyo. This was supposedly because of an 800-percent funding increase in 2001-2009.


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