Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bid to regain Category 1 status pushed

MALAPASCUA, Cebu—President Arroyo has directed the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) to “resolve immediately” the hindrances to the restoration of the Philippines’ civil-aviation s2tatus to Category 1, according to Tourism Secretary Joseph “Ace” Durano.
Durano told reporters at a media night on Tuesday with Mrs. Arroyo at the Exotic Island Dive Resort, that the Chief Executive gave the directive at the Cabinet meeting in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, that day, after he recommended it.
“The instruction of Ma’am [Arroyo] is again the sooner we resolve this, the better for us so we can take advantage of the rebounding international economy,” Durano said.
Durano said he made the recommendation after the President asked “what else can be done in the next few months that will have an impact on tourism.”
He said, “My recommendation was if we could resolve this issue in the next few months, this will really [have a] big impact in terms of taking advantage of the increased demand now in the international  market. So right now we’re still seeing growth. Right now it’s still the opportunity lost because there are opportunities there that we cannot take advantage of,” he said.
In 2007 the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) of the United States downgraded the Philippines from Category 1 to Category 2, “for failure to provide safety oversight of its air carrier operators in accordance with the safety oversight standards” set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (Icao).
The President signed the law creating the CAAP in 2008 to help regain the country’s Category 1 rating from the FAA, but the CAAP has been found lacking in terms of technical capability, Durano said.
The CAAP was created as  an independent regulatory body with quasijudicial and quasilegislative powers with attributes of a private corporation, and has fiscal autonomy and the power to administratively adjudicate civil aviation-related cases.
Asked about her directive to the CAAP, Mrs. Arroyo told reporters in an informal chat at the dive resort, “They have to hire more experts.”
Durano said the CAAP continues to “lack the technical personnel for specific functions.”
CAAP Director General Ruben Ciron reported to the President and the Cabinet in Puerto Princesa that he would invite representatives from the FAA and Icao in two or three months for another inspection.
The tourism chief said that because of the Category 2 rating “we cannot maximize our opportunities coming from North America, especially now that Philippine Airlines has new 777s,” since such aircraft could not be used for the routes.
He added that Icao has classified the Philippines as having “significant security risks,” which have been cited by Japan and Korea in denying Philippine carriers’ request for additional frequencies.
Durano said executives of Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines have told him that increased demand for travel between the Philippines, and Korea and Japan, had prompted them to seek more flights to those destinations, but the requests were denied due to the Category 2 rating.

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