Category 1 by Feb 2014
SPYBITS (The Philippine Star) - June 25, 2013 - 12:00am

US Ambassador Harry Thomas informed Spy Bits that an assessment team from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will come back on July 8 to check with the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) regarding the country’s bid to have the Category 2 status lifted. FAA monitoring teams will be coming back every two months to review and determine whether progress is being made and requirements are being complied with to finally restore the Philippines’ Category 1 status.

It’s been almost five years since we were slapped with a downgrade in 2008, and assuming that all goes well in the next eight months, the downgrade will be lifted and the Philippines will be back to Category 1 rating by February next year, the US Ambassador told us.

This will be due in large part to the work that CAAP and its director general William Hotchkiss have been doing. No less than President Noy himself has given CAAP and Hotchkiss their marching orders to make the Category 2 lifting the priority, making sure stumbling blocks (such as safety oversights and supposed lapses in the aviation regulatory framework) are addressed.

A Category 1 status will definitely open up a lot of opportunities for the country especially for the tourism sector and the airline industry. PAL, for one, is bearing the brunt of the downgrade because it could not use its new Boeing 777 jets for the US market, with each of the six aircraft costing $20 million a year for maintenance.

PAL, which is mulling the Brazil route by yearend, has had to put its US expansion plans on hold due to the downgrade and was in fact contemplating the possibility of leasing out the B-777s as a contingency measure. But if all goes well, the flag carrier might soon be flying to New York and use the new Boeing jets to Los Angeles and San Francisco. And by the way, Cebu Pacific and Air Asia may well benefit from the Category 1 status, too.

Armscor opens booking center at Fort Bonifacio

Armscor Shooting Center, a fully owned subsidiary of the country’s biggest firearms and ammunitions manufacturer Arms Corp. of the Philippines (Armscor), inaugurated its booking center at the Fort Bonifacio Commissary in Taguig. This followed an earlier launch at the Main Commissary and Exchange at the AFP Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, with plans to establish booking centers at all 33 major camps located all over the country, disclosed Armscor deputy CEO and ASC president Gina Angangco.

Army chief General Noel Coballes (in photo flanked by AFPCES commander Col. Alvin Francis Javier, Armscor chairman Severo “Conkoy” Tuason, Angangco and Southern Command chief General Jet Velarmino) welcomed the presence of the booking center as it will make Armscor-manufactured products more accessible and affordable considering the 15-percent discount extended to active and retired military personnel. 

Not even the torrential rains could dampen the interest of the army men and women who flocked to the display booth with sample firearms that include the Cal 45 GI pistol, the most popular model to gunsmith with shooters preferring to put their own personal touch on their piece. Gina informed us they have reserved 1,000 units of the Cal 45 GI series at a special price of P15,000 – which should make it really attractive to AFP personnel.

Putting up the booking centers certainly falls in with the AFP’s pursuit of the Self-Reliant Defense Posture (SRDP) program – something that Armscor has fully supported from its inception in the early ’70s and will continue to support now that it’s being pushed again. At the recent Philippine Air Force Power Symposium held at the SMX Convention Center at the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay, Gina noted that the local manufacturer had its first and only SRDP contract in 1974 to become the first in-country manufacturer for 75 million rounds of the Caliber 5.56 M193 ammunition. Unfortunately, no other contract came again after the successful completion of the project. Despite that, Armscor managed to thrive and become the biggest arms and ammunition manufacturer in Southeast Asia – unlike the many others that have had to close shop.

Today, an ISO 9001-certified Armscor exports to over 60 countries all over the world, employing about 1,500 personnel excluding subcontractors. It will soon open its third production facility in the US, where its popular Rock Island brands continue to be bestsellers. This is one example of a world-class Filipino company bringing the best of the Philippines to the rest of the world. 

Spy tidbit

A lot of people are welcoming President Aquino’s recent appointment of La Salle law professor and constitutional law expert Dennis Funa as deputy insurance commissioner at the Insurance Commission. If one can remember, Funa was the reason why several appointments were nullified by the Supreme Court because of the cases filed by Funa alleging that they violated the Constitution, among them Alberto Agra as justice secretary and solicitor general and Reynaldo Villar as COA chairman in a landmark decision that set the parameters for the term of office of those occupying positions in constitutional bodies.




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