MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines may get a much-coveted aviation status upgrade from the US Federal Aviation Administration (US FAA) as early as next week, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) said Wednesday, November 20.
The upgrade to Category 1 status from Category 2 will allow local airlines to open new routes and mount additional flights to the US.
CAAP Deputy Director-General Capt. John Andrews said in a press conference Wednesday that a team from the US FAA will visit Manila for a “mini audit.”
The team will meet with Philippine aviation officials Monday, November 25 and an announcement on the country’s aviation status will likely be made, said Andrews.
“This Monday, John Barbagallo, who is the manager of the flight service department of the US FAA together with James Spillane, who is the area manager of Asia-Pacific Rim, are going to CAAP for the possible lifting of the Category 2 on Philippine aviation,” he stressed.
“Now this is significant because 5 years ago, when the Philippines was rated or given this Category 2 rating, it was also Barbagallo who headed the contingent that saw that we were deficient in safety aspects,” Andrews noted.
The US FAA downgraded the safety rating of CAAP in 2008 upon the recommendation of the United Nation’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
ICAO found during an audit “significant concerns” over the ability of CAAP to meet global aviation safety standards.
Under Category 2, Philippine carriers may continue existing flights to the US, but they can’t launch new routes or mount additional flights.
Also, while Category 2 allows Philippine carriers to continue existing US operations, they do so under heightened surveillance.
‘If there’s no upgrade, I’ll resign’
Andrews said several teams from US FAA visited the Philippines over the past 4 months to evaluate the country’s aviation safety standards.
If not on Monday, Andrews is confident the Philippines will finally get the upgrade within this year.
“We are still maintaining the position that we will be lifted before the end of the year. If that does not happen the buck stops at me. If this does not happen before the end of the year, I will no longer be here. That is my commitment,” he stressed.
The CAAP official also draws confidence from ICAO’s move last February to give the Philippines a passing mark in its audit.
ICAO’s decision, in turn, prompted the European Union to lift a ban imposed on the Philippines in 2010. EU announced last July that legacy carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) may fly to the 28-nation bloc again.
“I am confident that there are no more safety issues as far as we are concerned and this has been confirmed by no less than the EU and ICAO,” Andrews said.
PAL to open new US routes
Andrews said once the aviation safety status is upgraded, PAL will likely seek new routes to the US.
“PAL is the only one that operates in the US. They will be able to use their more efficient aircraft as replacement for the old aircraft they are using now which is no longer competitive as far as operations is concerned,” he said.
PAL is undergoing a major fleet modernization program involving the acquisition of 100 new aircraft and has placed a $10-billion order for 65 new Airbus aircraft. – Rappler.com
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