CAAP’s woes continue

HIDDEN AGENDA (The Philippine Star) - January 8, 2014 - 12:00am

It seems that there is no stopping the restoration of the country’s Category 1 status by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The announcement for the lifting of the Category 2 sanction imposed on Philippine aviation by the United States was supposed to happen late last year. Unfortunately, a final audit by the US FAA team was moved to this month because there are two other countries that the team is supposed to visit first.

Officials of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) however are of the belief that all the issues raised against the country have already been resolved and that it is just a matter of time before the Category 2 sanction is lifted, and the Philippines is returned to Category 1 status.

The European Union (EU) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) have lifted their sanction on the CAAP recently, saying, “there are no more safety issues as far as we are concerned.”

Five years ago, the US FAA downgraded the then-Air Transportation Office (ATO) to Category 2 from Category 1 status, following a comprehensive review showing that there are many safety concerns that remain to be addressed by the country’s aviation regulator.

“Under the International Convention on Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention), each country has the sole power to conduct safety oversight of its own air carriers.  Thus, the FAA is not permitted to evaluate a foreign carrier within its own sovereign state.  Its power is restricted to assessing the civil aviation authority (CAA) of each country that has carriers operating to the US… On Jan. 8, 2008, the FAA issued the results of its IASA and it included the Philippines or particularly the CAAP, as one of the state CAAs listed under the Category 2 status.  With this status, the Philippine CAAP is considered as a CAA that does not meet the standards of the ICAO and air carriers regulated by the CAAP and operating to the US will not be permitted to initiate new service and limited to current levels of any existing service to the US while remedial measures are being performed.  No code sharing arrangements between Philippine carriers and US carriers will also be allowed while the Philippine carriers can also be subjected to additional inspection requirements while using US airports. Generally, the grounds for finding a CAA as deficient and therefore, warranting a Category 2 status are: (1) The country to which the CAA belongs lacks laws or regulations necessary to support the certification and oversight of air carriers in accordance with minimum international standards; (2) The CAA lacks the technical expertise, resources and organization to license of oversee air carrier operations; (3) The CAA does not have adequately trained and qualified technical personnel; (4) The CAA does not provide adequate inspector guidance to ensure enforcement of, and compliance with, minimum international standards; and/or (5) The CAA has insufficient documentation and records of certification and inadequate continuing oversight and surveillance of air carrier operations.”(

The downgrade to Category 2 status prevented Philippine Airlines (PAL) and other Philippine carriers from increasing their flights to the continental US.

Two years after the FAA ruling, the EU banned Philippine air carriers from flying into the EU, while discouraging their citizens from patronizing Philippine air carriers.

In 2012, the ICAO cleared the CAAP of sanctions, prompting the EU to lift the ban early last year, allowing PAL to resume flying to London last October and, eventually, other European destinations like France, Germany, and possibly Italy.

So what happens after the sanction is lifted by the FAA?

True, Philippine Airlines can increase the frequency of its flights to the West Coast and even mount new flights to the East Coast. It can upgrade its planes that fly to the US without any problem. Cebu Pacific can also finally join PAL in flying to the US, with the former eyeing routes that include Guam and Hawaii.

But have the problems of our CAAP been really resolved?

According to official sources, the issues raised against the CAAP all boil down to availability of funds. One official told this writer that if they are not able to improve their collections, then they will be forced to shut down some provincial airports that it operates, just to save on funds. CAAP manages all of the more than 80 airports in the country and many of these airports do not make money at all such that maintaining their current number of personnel no longer makes sense.

Take for instance one issue that was raised against the CAAP – that is it does not have adequately trained and qualified technical personnel. This would require huge funds on the part of CAAP to train and maintain qualified technical personnel.

A ranking official of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) said the low remuneration of pilot-inspectors is affecting the autonomy of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).

ICAO Asia Pacific Regional Office director Mokhtar Awan was quoted as saying that said the low remuneration package of pilot-inspectors is a “major factor” in the CAAP’s failure to recruit and retain qualified technical personnel who inspect public utility aircraft.

Although CAAP can generate its own funds, CAAP deputy director general Capt. John Andrews said it is not enough to make its compensation system at par with those being offered by commercial airline companies. As such, almost all of CAAP’s pilot-inspectors are already aged 65 years or more since these pilots are already retired from working in commercial operations.

Andrews said they are trying to convince government to take CAAP out of the coverage of the law governing GOCCs to attain fiscal autonomy because this will help sustain the progress that they have made in CAAP.

The recent spate of airport mishaps, the absence of a CCTV camera system at the NAIA 3 terminal, all point to the need for our government to seriously look into and act with decisiveness on the country’s aviation concerns. Our airports have become the laughing stock of the world, with NAIA Terminal 1 ranked as the worst airport worldwide last year.

Our airlines are world-class. Our tourism destinations are world-class. All that remains to be seen is a world-class airport terminal in the Philippines.

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