ICAO lifted ban for Philippines planes flying to European Airspace?

International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

After more than 5 years, local airlines may soon be allowed to fly again to Europe and to expand their operations in the United States after the government successfully passed a safety audit by the world's aviation regulatory body.

Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya on Saturday said the findings of the one-week audit by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) were "positive," contrary to earlier reports.

"The ICAO Coordinated Validation Mission (ICVM) team was satisfied with their observations/findings on the [Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines's] efforts to comply with international safety standards," Abaya said in a text message.

Passing the ICVM audit will likely pave the way for the lifting of ICAO's "significant safety concern (SSC)" tag on the Philippines issued in 2010. Other countries cited with deficiencies in the 2010 report were Angola, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Djibouti, Kazakhstan, Guinea-Bissau, Malawi, Rwanda and Zambia.

The ICAO had cited 89 points of concern in the country's aviation regulatory framework that jeopardized the safety of airline passengers. Among these were the registration of aviation companies and regulations covering the training of pilots and other industry personnel.

Findings sent to Canada

The ICAO audit was used by the European Union (EU) as a basis for the ban on local airlines from flying to any point in the economic bloc. The ban also meant that no Philippine carrier was allowed to even enter EU airspace.

Abaya said the ICVM's findings would be forwarded to the ICAO's headquarters in Canada. "They will recommend to ICAO headquarters the lifting of the significant safety concern issued on the Philippines," Abaya said.

Abaya said the official lifting of the EU's ban should come in two to three weeks.

In a statement, the Department of Transportation and Communications said the ICVM team focused on two "critical elements" during the audit. These were the certification of airlines in the Philippines and the registration of Philippine civil aviation aircraft.

Other areas covered were the legal, organization and licensing aspects which were "satisfactorily addressed" last October, the DOTC said.

"We are confident the ICAO will adopt/approve the recommendation," Abaya added.

The ICVM arrived in the Philippines last week on the invitation of CAAP, headed by retired Gen. William Hotchkiss, who assumed his post in July last year.

Hotchkiss dismissed reports that the ICAO team had given CAAP "failing marks" because it had only passed one of the five major issues looked into by the audit mission.

According to Hotchkiss, the CAAP team headed by Henry Gourdji called the validation mission a "success." The other members of the ICAO team were Amal Hewawasam, Vincent Lambotte, Christopher Dalton, Guseul Kim and Saulo Jose da Silva.

Encouraging, inspiring

"The exit briefing conducted by the ICAO audit team was on the whole very encouraging and inspiring for the CAAP team that had been tirelessly working for the lifting of the SSC tag that had been hounding CAAP for several years," he said.

"The team itself acknowledged during the closing of the review Friday that the present CAAP team was headed in the right direction. They were very satisfied with our efforts to comply with international safety standards," he said.

Hotchkiss said that CAAP was "very optimistic" that the recommendations would be approved and adopted by ICAO in an official announcement in two weeks.

He said that while the ICAO had yet to come out with a final report on the audit, officials who visited the country in the past months had expressed confidence that corrective measures on the remaining concerns shall be totally addressed by CAAP. (http://bit.ly/XwVMvY)

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