Finally, PH passes aviation safety audit

MANILA, Philippines - After 5 years, the Philippines passed the global safety audit of a United Nations aviation body, marking the first step in the process toward the lifting of restrictions against Philippine carriers.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has lifted the "significant safety concerns," or audit findings, on the ability of Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) to meet global aviation standards, CAAP said in a statement on Monday, March 4.

The audit results of ICAO -- a United Nations agency that oversees international civil aviation -- are the basis of the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in ruling to keep or lift the Category 2 status it imposed on its counterpart in the Philippines, the CAAP.

A favorable ICAO audit and a positive FAA review have long been awaited especially by local airlines and tourism officials that would like to bring more foreign visitors from the huge markets of the US and EU. 

The European Union may also follow the FAA's move after it blacklisted the Philippines in 2010.

Official notice  

The head office of ICAO in Montreal, Canada relayed to CAAP the official audit results and recommendation of the team based on their February visit, said CAAP director general William K. Hotchkiss III.

The official ICAO advice noted that the Philippines has made "corrective actions" that have "successfully addressed and resolved the 'significant safety concerns' identified by the ICAO," CAAP said.

CAAP cited Mohamed Elamiri, ICAO Deputy Director for safety management and monitoring, for "the active commitment by the Philippines towards resolving the deficiencies identified through the Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme."

Following the ICAO audit team's visit in February, Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya had expressed optimism that the Philippines has passed the aviation safety audit and that a recommendation to lift all safety issues is at hand.

The ICAO had raised concerns over the safety and oversight structure and the revalidation of airline carriers, among others, by Air Transportation Office (ATO), the CAAP predecessor.

The Philippine government has since spun off the regulatory function of the aviation body into CAAP and has set aside budget for the training of aviation inspectors and information technology assets.

Local players Philippine Airlines (PAL) and Cebu Pacific have been keen on the lifting of these bans, and have separately made orders for new planes they can deploy to profitable routes in the west. - Rappler.com