Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) and Cebu Pacific (CEB), along with seven other major carriers were blacklisted by the European Union (EU) following a safety audit conducted by the Icao in October 2009, so that they were unable to service the route to Europe.
The Icao noted the Philippines “lacks a plan for certifying air operators in accordance with regulations, as well as the lack of inspectors in the whole aviation industry as a whole.”
Since PAL and CEB do not fly to Europe at the moment, Europeans were advised by their governments not to patronize the local carriers when visiting the country either as tourists or businessmen.
Addressing these concerns, Director General Alfonso Cusi of the Caap submitted a “corrective action plan” within two months of his appointment in March 2010, which was run through the Icao safety oversight audit “and was found to fully address most of the findings and recommendations contained in the report.”
“This is very positive development since this will pave the way for the lifting of significant safety concerns, hopefully the first step toward redeeming category 1 status,” said Cusi in a press conference. “What we’re asking is just a partial lifting because what we wanted is for PAL and CEB to be out of the blacklist and for the government to continue the effort in making the necessary reforms in our civil aviation.”
Asked when the country would be able to get back to category 1 status, Cusi said the process is lengthy because the aviation agency has to address three main concerns—the earlier downgrading by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Icao safety concerns and the EU blacklisting.
Cusi said the three agencies have common concerns. “So all of these have a commonality and they are all anchored on safety, on the ability of the government to carry out its functions. Once we get the Icao positively acting on our correction plan, then it will open the door for the FAA and the EU.”
He said that meantime, the Caap would adopt a three-pronged approach, such as persuading the EU to partly lift its ban, addressing the Icao safety concerns, and those of the FAA.
In fairness to the past administration, Cusi said Ruben Ciron had prepared a similar corrective action but that under his term they added some more requirements because there were questions about the integrity of the previous work.
To avoid complications, he said the Caap revised the whole plan and submitted a corrected one “together with the things we have done from time we assumed office in March until April 19.”
He said the Icao immediately noted the Caap suspension slapped on the Pacific East Asia Courier (Peac) and the recertification of 49 small air carriers, the ongoing investigation of bogus pilot’s licenses and fake certificates and others. “So all of those things were taken into account and now the Icao reply arrived, accepting positively the things that we have done and the plans that we have submitted.”
Cusi added that all other requirements would be submitted within next 30 days so that in a few weeks, Icao representatives could visit to inspect the Caap, while the EU representatives would follow shortly.
The EU representatives will audit PAL and CEB, the focus of their attention, and such could lead to their recertification as safe to be used by Europeans. After the EU visit, they will have a gathering in October and hopefully, the Philippine case would be taken up and a decision would follow.
“If the Philippine issue is taken up in October, then a decision will be issued by then; hopefully before the end of October we will know if we can have a partial lifting,” said Cusi.