Monday, November 29, 2010

Audit of Phl aviation standards postponed

Audit of Phl aviation standards postponed

MANILA, Philippines - The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has postponed the much-awaited audit of Philippine aviation standards, a positive result of which could lead to the lifting of the ban imposed by Europe on Philippine carriers, due to “operational concerns.”

Last April, the European Commission banned Philippine carriers from flying to Europe due to safety concerns raised on local aviation standards, particularly those concerning the airports. While the Philippines does not fly to Europe, local carriers said this is affecting their relationship with other countries.

The ICAO Validation Mission (ICVM) was supposed to conduct its audit on Dec. 7-10, 2010 but postponed it due to operational concerns, it told the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).

The ICAO, a specialized agency of the United Nations, codifies the principles and techniques of international air navigation and fosters the planning and development of international air transport to ensure safe and orderly growth.

The ICAO Council adopts standards and recommended practices concerning air navigation, its infrastructure, flight inspection, prevention of unlawful interference, and facilitation of border-crossing procedures for international civil aviation, among others.

“This is sad, we’ve been working hard for this, but in a letter dated Nov. 9, 2010, ICAO has informed us of their decision to postpone the ICVM to an indefinite time,” CAAP director general Alfonso Cusi said.

In a Nov. 17 telephone conference, ICAO officers clarified to CAAP that “these operational reasons relate to the insecurity of ICAO in the sustainability of the present reforms being undertaken by CAAP.”

“The present unclear political announcements of a change in senior management could create, in ICAO’s opinion, an indeterminable future of professional processes within CAAP.”

Sources said this may relate to the Nov. 2, 2010 resolution passed by the CAAP board of directors, allegedly backed by Transportation Secretary Jose de Jesus, approving the appointments of seven persons to key management positions within the CAAP.

They said the resolution is questionable since it contravenes Republic Act 9497 and its implementing rules and regulations, and appropriate civil service regulations on the selection and appointment of career personnel.

“All appointees were based on the desire letter of the President and did not go through the regular procedure of the selection board, as prescribed by the law,” they added.

For his part, Cusi said that while he is not against the move, there is a law that created the CAAP and that it should be complied with. “Our compliance with our own aviation law is of greater concern to the international community,” he said.

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), in its recent assessment on CAAP’s efforts said the latter “has undertaken a series of not only ambitious but also courageous reforms of the civil aviation oversight in place in the Republic of the Philippines.... To achieve this, it is essential that it continues to act independently of any political or economical influence, pursuant to the will of the legislator.”

“Once again, we have been reminded by the world that we are a member of the international community in civil aviation. We are being told that our compliance to international safety standards is first anchored on our respect and adherence to our own civil aviation law,” Cu said.

The Philippines has been downgraded by US aviation authorities also due to safety concerns. While the downgrade still allows Philippine Airlines (PAL) to continue flying its existing routes and frequencies, it prevents local carriers from mounting additional flights and destinations to the US.

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