Monday, March 19, 2012

Revise law on domestic operations of US-registered commercial airplanes –Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines

THE Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (Caap) is asking Congress to revise Republic Act 9497, or the law that creates the aviation body in 2008, to accommodate the dictates of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that US -registered aircrafts be allowed to be operated by local carriers in the country.

A draft bill to revise RA 9497 is awaiting the Caap’s head signature before the same is transmitted to the House Committee on Transportation.

The country’s flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) used to fly US-and European-registered airplanes, which the airline rented, and which were allowed under the now-defunct Air Transportation Office (ATO), before the creation of Caap.

At present, Philippine-registered airplanes can operate out of the US, an imbalance the FAA wanted rectified.

On the other hand, no Philippine-registered airplanes fly out of the European Union (EU), which had blacklisted Philippine carriers from operating in EU skies. It has also warned their citizens not to patronize Philippine carriers, or risk invalidating their travel insurance, according to Capt. John R. Andrews, Caap deputy director general, also the counterpart head of the Technical Committee of the International Civil Aviation Organization, Federal Aviation Agency and European Union (Icao-FAA-EU).

Caap Director General Ramon S. Gutierrez pointed out that the imbalance is linked to some business concerns between the two countries because “if foreign aircraft cannot come to the Philippines, that also represents a reduction in aircraft they can lease to us.”

These and other issues were revealed during a press conference on Monday.

Gutierrez stressed that the Caap can only address “technical issues” and leave the political and diplomatic issues to other agencies of the government, such as Foreign Affairs or the Office of the President.

At present, PAL uses majority of Boeing airplanes and some Airbus, while Cebu Pacific utilizes the more fuel efficient Airbus A320 and have reportedly signed a lease for four A330.

The Caap head said the Philippines remains mired in Category 2, almost five years since the country was downgraded from Category 1 following a technical review by the FAA last January that found some 20 minor items that needed to be corrected.

Although the Caap had addressed the original 88 “significant safety concerns,” the FAA team, headed by Jacques Astre, had added 20 more items during the last visit from January 23 to January 27.

The Caap said that, unfortunately, the Philippines was downgraded by three foreign entities, which, aside from the FAA and the EU, includes the Icao.

“However, Capt. Andrews says that the EU follows the decision of the Icao.”

Gutierrez refused to say whether the new items were being made as leverage to speed up the revision of RA 9497 to accommodate US-registered airplanes in the Philippines.

However, he said a bill to revise RA 9497 is now awaiting his signature before the same is transmitted to the Committee on Transportation.

In this connection, Gutierrez said a Caap team would go to Washington in April this year to lobby for a “corrective action plan and clarification.”

“After the technical review, there were issues that were raised although we consider them minor issues so our team will be visiting FAA next month to present our action plan and then we will challenge issues that were raised.”


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