Sunday, November 21, 2010

Senators berate CAAP for failing to improve aviation status

MANILA, Philippines—Senators were dismayed over the failure of aviation authorities to bring the Philippines from Category 2 to Category 1 despite getting P50 billlion in seed money two years ago.

Senator Ramon Revilla Jr., co-chair of the Congressional Oversight Committee on the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), reprimanded officials for failing to do their job of convincing the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) to upgrade the Philippines from Category 2, which barred flights from the country to the United States, and prevented other carriers from increasing flights to the same country.

Revilla said this prompted Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile to berate the AAP officials and called them "stupid."

"We are suffering tremendous opportunity losses in tourism. Where did all the money go?
They have to shape up or ship out," said Revilla.

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Philippines seeks removal from aviation blacklists

MANILA — The Philippines hopes soon to be removed from blacklists of countries deemed to have unsafe aviation, paving the way for its flag carrier to add US flights and return to Europe, a regulator said Friday.
Philippine airlines were stopped from expanding services to the United States in 2008 and banned from Europe in March this year over concerns airline safety was not being overseen according to international standards.
An International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) inspection team will visit Manila next month and be told the government has complied substantially with 87 of 89 listed deficiencies, chief industry regulator Alfonso Cusi said.
The United States' Federal Aviation Authority and the European Union both take guidance from the ICAO.
"It's a matter of time before we are out of the blacklist," Cusi told reporters, adding that the government had addressed the most critical issues raised in the ICAO's last safety audit.
These included problems with the Philippines' aviation regulatory framework and the quality of staff.
Lax surveillance of schools that train pilots, some of them foreigners from the Middle East, India, Afghanistan and Sudan, was another problem.
The two outstanding items are completion of the training of the new civil aviation authority's inspectors, and computerisation of the agency, which has been held up as contracts are still under review.
Cusi did not say when the final two problems would be rectified.
But the next audit of the US agency, the FAA, will be in the first three months of 2011, and the Philippines is hoping it will be lifted from the US blacklist after that, according to Cusi.
After the US FAA downgraded the Philippines to "Category 2" from "Category 1", parliament passed a law creating the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines to regulate the industry.
Cusi, the new body's first director-general, said the ICAO, the FAA and the European Union air safety committee had acknowledged the progress made over the past two years.
He said removal from US and EU blacklists would allow Philippine Airlines to resume flights to Europe for the first time since the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s.
Cusi said PAL also wanted to add to its US service, now limited to the US west coast and Hawaii.

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Flight warning as residents flee Philippine volcano

MANILA — Scores of people fled their homes near a restive Philippine volcano Wednesday, while authorities advised pilots to avoid flying near clouds of fine ash shooting out from its crater.
Around 170 people fled several villages at the base of the 1,565-metre (5,135-foot) Mount Bulusan volcano, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said in Manila.
They are being temporarily housed and fed at the mayor's office in Irosin town and at a school in nearby Casiguran, it added.
Soldiers and police will also be posted to enforce a six kilometre (3.7 miles) exclusion zone around the crater and trucks are on standby to take evacuees to government-run shelters, the local Philippine Army command said.
Bulusan showered nearby communities with ash on Tuesday following explosions and loud booms, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said in an advisory, adding that it expects more activity to come.
"Civic aviation authorities must advise pilots to avoid flying close to the volcano's summit as ejected ash and volcanic fragments from sudden explosions may pose hazard to aircraft," it said.
Bulusan, 250 kilometres (160 miles) southeast of the capital Manila on the main island of Luzon, is one of the country's 23 active volcanoes.
People living near streams and valleys in the area were warned that mudflows of volcanic ash could be triggered by heavy rainfall.
The local government said a quarter million people live in six towns around the volcano, and many of them could be at risk if the mild eruption increases in intensity.
Bulusan has erupted 16 times in recorded history, the last time in 2006. It began emitting ash again from November 6.
The Philippines is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire where frequent volcanic eruptions and earthquakes take place.

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Gokongwei group eyes right to operate NAIA-3

MANILA, Philippines – The Gokongwei-led JG Summit Holdings Inc. is interested in expanding into airport infrastructure projects, specifically the NAIA Terminal 3 airport facility, the base of its airline unit Cebu Pacific's Manila operations.

“JG Summit Holdings Inc. would be interested in infrastructure business like airport operations,” Lance Gokongwei, a director of JG Summit, wrote in a reply to’s questions.

Gokongwei is also the CEO of JG Summit’s budget airline unit Cebu Pacific Air, which is one of the two local airlines operating at the sprawling Terminal 3 at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), the country's main gateway.

Cebu Pacific, which has clinched the top spot from Philippine Airlines (PAL) in the domestic airline market, consolidated its local and regional flight operations at NAIA 3 when the terminal facility partially opened in July 2008.

“NAIA Terminal 3 is the perfect home of Cebu Pacific Air in Manila. As the Philippines largest national flag carrier in terms of total passengers carried, NAIA-3 is the only airport terminal that will fit CEB’s large and rapidly expanding operations,” Gokongwei wrote.

Cebu Pacific has grown its passenger base exponentially since it transferred its Manila-based operations from two separate locations—the congested NAIA 1 and Domestic Terminal—to NAIA 3.

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