CAAP Maintains RP Aviation Safe

Expedites compliance

March 31, 2010

Manila - The Philippines civil aviation authority admitted its oversight deficiency Tuesday but defended its position that the country's safety standards adopted by its airlines are at par with the rest of the world after the European Union imposed a ban of all local airlines against flying to European Union airspace.

"Even if the Philippines is listed by the EU, it does not mean that Philippine aircraft are unsafe," Alfonso Cusi, Director General of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAAP) said.

"Our aircraft meet the international standards in safety. It's a matter of adopting the internationally accepted audit procedures" says Cusi.

"We are complying their demands, but results cannot be achieved overnight. I have invited the EU Safety Aviation Commission to come here to the Philippines for a re-inspection this May to show that we have corrected the problem that they have raised," Cusi adds.

Cusi said steps have been taken to address those safety concerns and he was "disappointed" that EU authorities had not checked on those steps before announcing the ban.

The Philippines civil aviation authority said last week that it is hiring nearly 50 aviation safety experts to improve surveillance and inspection of air operators and threatens to ground small domestic air operations not certified by December 2010, if only to address the issues raised by international regulators, which concerns date back to 2007 when the FAA first issued warning to the government.

Other measures taken by the authority includes strict compliance with post-audit certification, immediate hiring of qualified technical personnel for the flight standards inspectorate service, and heightened surveillance inspection of air operators conducting international flights.

But an official from Philippine Airlines who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press, said there was more to the problems that meets the eye saying other concerns dealt with the training of aviation safety inspectors and a lack of an adequate number of aviation safety personnel.

The European Commission acknowledged recent efforts by Philippine regulators and by two carriers — Philippine Airlines and Cebu Airlines — to improve safety standards. But the commission said it would forbid those airlines and 45 others from flying into the 27-country bloc as a precaution until its remaining concerns could be addressed.

According to EU ambassador to the Philippines Alistair MacDonald, the real concern of the European Union is the quality of the certification process supervised by the country’s regulatory agency. The Commission considers that the supervisory authority is currently not able to implement and enforce the relevant safety standards, and decided therefore to ban from EU airspace all air carriers licensed in the Philippines until these deficiencies are corrected.

The Brussels based aviation counterpart was however prepared to send a delegation of safety experts to visit the country in May to examine any information demonstrating progress in the implementation of corrective actions and compliance with international safety standards in the hope of lifting the ban.

“We are ready to support countries that need to build up technical and administrative capacity to guarantee the necessary standards in civil aviation,” the European transport commissioner, Siim Kallas, said in a statement.

“But we cannot accept that airlines fly into the E.U. if they do not fully comply with international safety standards.”

The new measures go into effect Thursday, said Helen Kearns, a spokeswoman for the transport commission.

The Philippines does not currently have any airlines serving destinations in the European Union. Philippine Airlines ceased flying to Europe in 1998. But under the terms of the ban, all European travel agencies will be obliged to inform customers if they plan to travel on a blacklisted carrier.

"That is the reason why we objected to the ban because clearly the deficiency was with the government regulators, not us!" says official from PAL, who argued further that they (airlines) became the victim of the government's incompetency and political machinations to what is supposed to be an independent aviation body.

The ban would in effect require European travelers who have booked a seat earlier on a blacklisted carrier have the right to have their reservation changed to another airline or to have their airfare reimbursed.

The European ban on Philippine carriers followed a downgrading by the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) to category 2 from category 1 on safety concerns made in November 2007 and safety audit from Montreal-based world aviation governing body ICAO made in September 2009.

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