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Gov’t confident ban on Phl carriers lifted this year

MANILA, Philippines - The Aquino administration is confident that the ban imposed by the US and Europe preventing local airlines from flying and mounting additional long haul flights would finally be lifted within the year.

(Ret) Gen. William Hotchkiss lll, director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), told reporters that the government is confident that the results of the audit to be conducted by the US Federal Aviation Authority (US FAA) and the European Union within the next two months would be positive.

Hotchkiss said US FAA manager for international programs and policy John Barbagallo is scheduled to conduct a check in visit starting May 2 to validate whether the Philippines has complied with the recommendations made in 2010.

He pointed out that the EU Commission directorate general for mobility and transport (DG MOVE) had accepted its invitation for the EU representative on Air Safety to conduct an on-site visit to the Philippines from June 3 to 7.

He said the on-site visit would coincide with the meeting of the EU Air Safety Committee on the last week of June in Belgium.

“This committee is the one tasked to determine whether a country can be removed from the EU blacklist,” he stressed.

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Hotchkiss said the Philippines was informed about the on-site visit during his recent trip to Brussels, Belgium where he met with EU Commission DG MOVE head director Matthew Baldwin last April 16.

“Hopefully within the year,” he replied when asked when the ban on local airlines would be lifted.

It would be recalled that the 27-member European Commission decided in April 2010 to impose a ban on Philippine carriers including national flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) and Cebu Air Inc. (Cebu Pacific) from European airspace for the failure of CAAP to reform the country’s civil aviation system.

The European Union used the findings of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) of the United Nations as basis to ban Philippine carriers from operating in the continent. Philippine airliners were also barred from entering its airspace

This after the US FAA downgraded the safety rating of CAAP in 2008 to category 2 from category 1 upon the recommendation of ICAO.

Category 2 indicates that the FAA had assessed that the Philippines’ civil aviation authority had failed to comply with ICAO safety standards for the oversight of air carrier operations. While in Category 2, Philippine air carriers are permitted to continue current operations to the US under heightened FAA surveillance.

Both decisions made by the European Commission and the FAA prevents airlines from the Philippines to mount additional flights to the US and Europe.

The ICAO has lifted the significant security concerns on the Philippines after an audit conducted from Feb. 18 to 22.

EU Ambassador Guy Ledoux earlier said the lifting would increase trade and tourism between the Philippines and the European Union, as well as boost the airline industry.

“I think we are on a very positive curve. The first major achievement is the lifting of the safety concern by ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) earlier this year and that has certainly triggered this meeting in Brussels,” he said.

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