By Recto Mercene
November 24, 2010
EXPERTS from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) postponed their planned “validation mission” from December 7 to 10, fearing that the Aquino administration’s attempt to change some senior official of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAA) could derail the progress of an ongoing reforms.
The Icao Coordinated Validation Mission (ICVM) told CAA Director General Alfonso Cusi in a telephone conversation, that its December visit is being postponed indefinitely owing to “operational concerns.”
“These operational reasons relate to the insecurity of ICAO in the sustainability of the present reforms being undertaken by CAA. The present unclear political announcements of a change in senior management could create, in ICAO’s opinion, an indeterminable future of professional processes within CAA,” Cusi was told.
It has come to the Icao’s attention that the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) attempted to railroad the appointment of key officials when Secretary Jose “Ping” de Jesus submitted the names of seven persons to key management positions in the Caap.
“This is sad, we’ve been working hard for these [reforms], but in a letter dated November 9, Icao informed us of their decision to postpone the ICVM indefinitely,” Cusi said.
He added that prior to the Icao letter, the Caap conducted dialogs with some visiting aviation experts, who were made aware of the ongoing changes in the agency and the aviation experts expressed frustration that during their follow-up visit, they might be facing a different set of officials.
“We might be wasting our time, we might come here to validate your reforms but there is possibility that we would be dealing with a different set of officials,” the Icao officials were quoted by Cusi as saying.
The postponement of the visit came at a time when the Caap had complied with 87 out of the 89 “significant safety concerns” that the Icao discovered during its assessment in 2007, leading it to downgrade the Philippines from Category 1 to Category 2 status.
The coming visit by Icao this December is expected to remove the ban imposed on Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific to fly over European airspace. Although these airlines do not have scheduled flights to Europe, the blacklist prevented them from mounting additional flights and opening other destinations in the United States.
However, Cusi has not lost hope.
He is drafting another letter, trying to convince the Icao officials to proceed with the visit, or reset it to another date, and asking for more clarification.
Cusi said the Caap had told the Icao that the reforms are progressing and the appointments of the three new officials, so far, had not pushed through.
Cusi pointed out that when the DOTC submitted the names of key Caap officials, four of them were “organic” personnel already working under him, while the three others were outsiders of “doubtful” qualifications.
The Caap headman wrote the DOTC, complaining of the appointments as beng violative of Republic Act 9497, which created the Caap, whose head has the sole mandate of appointing key officials to the agency.
Cusi said that when the board of directors signed the appointment of the officials submitted by the DOTC, the act was “in contravention to the provisions of Republic Act 9497, its implementing rules, and civil service regulations on the selection and appointment of career personnel.”
De Jesus based his appointments on the alleged “desire letter” of the President, but it did not go through the regular procedure of the selection board, or by appointment of the director general as prescribed by the law.
Cusi said he was not “against the person” or even the “desire letter” of the President, but urged the DOTC to comply with the law as prescribed in the Caap charter.
“Our compliance to our own aviation law is of greater concern to the international community,” he said.
The Caap chief lamented the postponement of the Icao validation mission because, on November 18, Caap received clearance from the European Aviation Safety Agency (Easa) to publicly release the executive summary of the assessment visit done by Easa officers on Caap efforts from October 18 to 22.
The executive summary positively promoted the Caap’s ongoing overhaul of various branches, saying that “…the Civil Aviation Authority has undertaken a series of not only ambitious but also courageous reforms of the civil-aviation oversight in place in the Republic of the Philippines…to achieve this, it is essential that it continues to act independently of any political or economical influence, pursuant to the will of the legislator.”
The passage of RA 9497 and its implementation is being monitored by the Icao, the US Federal Aviation Adminisration (FAA) and the European Union.
“Without the Icao audit, the FAA and the EU will not act upon any request of the Philippines for reinstatement to Category 1 and removal from the blacklist,” Cusi added.