In an interview at the Exotic Island Dive and Beach Resort here where she hosted a media dinner with both local and Manila-based reporters on Tuesday night, Mrs. Arroyo said “we need more experts” to upgrade the technical capability of CAAP.
Tourism Secretary Joseph “Ace” Durano said the directive was issued to CAAP director general Ruben Ciron during the joint National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Cabinet Group and National Anti-Poverty Commission Group Meeting on Tuesday in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.
“As far as tourism is concerned, the President instructed the CAAP to resolve immediately the issue of the FAA and ICAO downgrading of the country's civil aviation status,” he said in a separate interview, shortly before the President’s media dinner.
In December 2007, the FAA downgraded the country’s aviation industry from Category 1 to Category 2 over its failure to implement safety standards set by ICAO.
Durano said the FAA downgrading and the ICAO’s stance to classify the Philippines as among the countries with significant security risks did not only prod the United States government to advise their nationals against using Manila carriers, but also governments of Asian countries, including Japan and South Korea to deny airlines from the Philippines.
“So the instruction of Ma'am is again the sooner we resolve this, the better for us so we can take advantage of the rebounding international economy. That was for me had the most bearing as far as the tourism sector is concerned,” he said.
Quoting Ciron, he said “in two-three months time,” CAAP is set to invite representatives from both FAA and ICAO “to reinspect us.”
Durano admitted that the lack of CAAP’s technical capability keeps FAA and ICAO from giving the Philippines a ratings upgrade.
Asked on how the downgrade has taken toll on the tourism industry, he said: “For me, it's the opportunity lost. I foresee that there' s a lot of opportunities for us right now. In other words, we can do more.”