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SAFETY representatives from the United States Federal Aviation Authority (US FAA) will soon be in Manila to check if the country’s aviation industry adheres to international safety standards and warrants an upgrade back to Category I status.

It may be recalled that the US FAA downgraded the industry status to Category II more than two years ago, citing numerous safety concerns.

“We invited a group from the US FAA to conduct a rundown of tests before we subject our aviation industry to a final audit… we are optimistic of doing the (final audit) before the end of the current administration,” Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) chief Ruben Ciron said at the sidelines of the 28th Asean International Airport Association Conference last week.

The US FAA representatives are expected to arrive this month or next and stay for 30 to 45 days, right before President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo steps down from office in June.

“We are now only dealing with the Flight Safety Inspectorate Service (FSIS), but this is the biggest problem and the ball is not in our court but with the Civil Service Commission (CSC),” Ciron explained.

The CAAP is asking CSC to issue plantilla positions for the FSIS so technical staff can be hired. The CSC is, however, requiring at least two weeks to study the proposal. Until then, CAAP’s hands are tied.

The absence of an FSIS is the main reason for the industry downgrade. The latest audit in October 2009 again identified the lack of an FSIS as the Philippines’ main weakness.

CAAP data showed the agency needs about 200 personnel for the FSIS to boost the 60 absorbed from the defunct Air Transportation Office. A pool of personnel has already been identified for the positions.

In a Cabinet meeting last week, the Office of the President ordered the CSC to facilitate the process.

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