MANILA, Philippines – A Malacanang official expressed concern over the lingering issue on the ability of the Philippine aviation body to implement safety standards and how this will affect the Aquino government’s tourism targets.
In a news briefing on Wednesday, March 21, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said, “We are always concerned especially since we are promoting tourism as one of our growth sectors. Our status prevents us from promoting fully our tourism industry. And so therefore we are concerned about accelerating the efforts to remove us out of Category 2 status.”
In a forum with Chinese businessmen last week, the President said his administration is working double time to secure Category 1 status with the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as well as removing the country from the European aviation blacklist.
Once these stumbling blocks are removed, the President said he expects the number of foreign tourists to increase.
In 2011, tourist arrivals reached an all-time high of 3.9 million. The Aquino administration is aiming to increased this to 10 million by 2016.
This “downgrade” means the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has concerns over the ability of its counterpart to implement global aviation standards, which include security, safety, among others.
It affects Philippine carriers since they cannot mount new or additional flights to destinations in the US and Europe. This also means foreigners who would book Philippine travel packages are costlier since they have to pay higher insurance fees.
A technical review conducted by the FAA on its local counterpart, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), cited 23 “critical elements” (CEs) that have to be addressed before the country’s aviation status can be reverted back to the Category 1 level.
The remaining “critical elements” include fine-tuning of the Philippine Civil Air Regulations, changes to the CAAP’s safety and oversight structure, updating its database storing system, standardizing their certification of safety inspectors and the revalidation of airline carriers, among others.
The FAA downgraded the Philippines to Category 2 status in 2007 after finding 88 critical elements. The CAAP has so far addressed 65 of those issues.
In a press briefing on Tuesday, March 20, Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas said he will consult President Aquino what to do next since this problem was already outstanding when he assumed the post in July 2011. – Rappler.com