Home » Aviation » Shippers take US FAA downgrade in stride

THE US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) downgrade of the Philippine aviation industry has failed to rattle air shippers.

Aircargo Forwarders of the Philippines, Inc (AFPI) president Jaime Roxas told PortCalls the fallout will be limited to flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL).

Last Monday, the US FAA downgraded the country’s airports from Category 1 to Category 2, raising safety concerns.

Category 2 means a country’s civil aviation authorities (CAA) do not provide safety oversight of its air carriers in accordance with the minimum safety oversight standards of International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). All local airlines will be affected by the Category 2 rating.

Category 1 rating is given if the country’s CAA has been found to license and oversee air carriers in accordance with ICAO aviation safety standards.

The Philippines has complied with only one of the seven focused areas. The government flunked in the civil regulation, qualified technical personnel, technical guidance, certification and licensing, continuous oversight, and resolution of safety issues set by ICAO.

Roxas said while shippers are sup-portive of PAL, they have no choice but to ensure their operations are not disrupted. This means they will just have to turn to foreign-flag carriers for their needs.

“Government should address this problem immediately. Our flag carrier will carry the burden of such a downgrade. The tourist and trade businesses will simply transfer to foreign-flag carriers,” Roxas said.

“The government and stakeholders should work hand in hand for the country to comply immediately with the highest aviation standards and avoid the risk of being left out in the tourism and trade markets,” he noted.

“AFPI will continue to evaluate the situation to address this early any other possible effects of the downgrade in the movement of air cargo to and from the US,” Roxas added.

Foreign principals Manquist Holdings, Inc and Jang Holdings Inc, which recently entered into a joint venture with a top local logistics company, also expressed little concern over the downgrade.

“We are very confident that the Philippines will be able to remedy the situation immediately, probably in the next two to three months and there is nothing to worry about,” Manquist Holdings, Inc chief Ronald Siong Kiat said, a view seconded by Jang Holdings, Inc head Capt. Jae Jang.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has appointed Transport Secretary Leandro Mendoza as interim head of the Air Transportation Office (ATO). He was given three months to work on the country’s compliance with Category 1 aviation standards.

Malacañang also urged Congress to pass the Civil Aviation Bill.

In addition, an air safety audit was ordered to rectify issues raised by US FAA such as outdated aviation regulations, poor training programs for safety inspectors, and sub-standard licensing for air frame and engine inspectors.

PAL, meanwhile, has offered to help government fast track compliance, as the downgrade will affect its expansion plans.

PAL is the only Philippine carrier that flies to the US. It flies to Los Angeles 11 times a week, San Francisco, 9; Las Vegas via Vancouver, 5; Honolulu, 3; and Guam, 5. Its US operations account for 30% of its total revenues.

Company president Jaime Bautista assured clients that in spite of certain restrictions resulting from the downgrade, the carrier will continue to fly to the US.

Bautista is confident the deficiencies will be corrected within six months.

PAL was to have increased flights to the US but the rating now no longer allows such.

Also affected would be the delivery starting next year to 2011 of six brand-new Boeing 777-300 ER airplanes for deployment on trans-Pacific flights, as well as plans to open services to San Diego, Chicago, New York and Saipan.

The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) has assured the public that it’s business as usual at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

“NAIA as an airport terminal was not downgraded. What was re-categorized was the rating of the country’s international civil aviation safety standards which falls under the responsibility of the ATO,” MIAA general manager Alfonso Cusi said in a statement.

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