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CAAP sees Category 1 upgrade next week

MANILA, Philippines - The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) is confident that the Philippines will finally get an upgrade of its safety rating from the US Federal Aviation Administration (US-FAA) as early as next week which would allow airlines from the country to expand and mount additional flights to the US.

Capt. John Andrews, deputy director general of CAAP, said in a hastily called press conference that a team from the US-FAA is due on Monday for a mini audit and a possible major announcement.

Andrews said the team is composed of US-FAA division manager for Flights Standards Service xxx xxx and area manager for Asia Pacific James Spillane, is scheduled to arrive on Monday and meet with aviation authorities.

“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 ban of the Category 2 on the Philippine aviation,” Andrews revealed.

The US FAA downgraded the safety rating of CAAP in 2008 to Category 2 from Category 1 upon the recommendation of the United Nation’s International Civil Aviation Organization (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.

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Barbagallo was the “bearer” of bad news when the Philippines’ aviation safety rating was downgraded five years ago.

“Now this is significant because five 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 said.

He pointed out that several teams from the US-FAA have visited the Philippines over the last four months as part of the evaluation process of the country’s aviation safety standards.

“He is coming back here after several FAA representatives he had sent over for the past several months made reports to him that we are ready for lifting,” the CAAP head added.

Andrews said the Philippines would get the much deserved aviation safety rating upgrade back to Category 1 from the US-FAA within the year, otherwise, he would quit his job.

“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 with 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 cited the decision of ICAO late last February to lift the remaining aviation safety concerns, paving the way for the lifting of the ban imposed by the European Union in 2010 wherein airlines from the Philippines were barred from entering European airspace.

“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 added.

Once the Category 2 rating is upgraded to Category 1, Andrews said, national flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) could use more fuel efficient aircraft to replace old aircraft being used to ply certain routes to the US.

He added that the Philippines would likely seek the opening of new routes to the US. – With Rudy Santos

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