• Economy, aviation industry ‘ready for takeoff’ – Aquino

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    THE Philippines aviation industry is ready for takeoff, announced President Benigno Aquino 3rd in his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.

    During his speech, Aquino said that the US Federal Aviation
    Administration’s (FAA) restoration of the country’s aviation safety to Category 1 should pave the way for the country to attract more tourists and investors into the Philippines which would help boost the economy and create jobs.

    “Our economy and our country are indeed taking off, and we are already realizing even greater aspirations. We inherited a seemingly grounded aviation industry: significant safety concerns had been issued on the Philippines by the International Civil Aviation Organization, or ICAO; we were downgraded by the United States Federal Aviation Administration; and the European Union implemented restrictions against our local carriers,” Aquino said.

    But in 2013,” ICAO lifted the significant safety concerns it had previously issued for the Philippines,” he said. “This was followed, in the same year, by the European Union lifting the ban on Philippine Airlines, allowing it to fly once again to Europe—which means that Filipinos will be able to fly directly from Manila to London.”

    Most likely, Aquino said Cebu Pacific “will soon follow suit, since they have also received the go signal from the EU in 2014. In this year, as well, the United States Federal Aviation Administration upgraded the Philippines back to Category 1. Because of this upgrade, it is likely that there will also be an increase in routes going to the United States. “

    According to the president, “The increase in flights of our local airlines to the United States and participating countries in the EU is a big help to both tourism and business. Today, we continue to receive reports that, because of all the many tourists and businessmen who wish to visit the Philippines, there is actually a shortage of flights to our country.”

    In April this year, the US FAA restored the Philippines’ aviation safety back to Category 1, opening the door for the country’s airlines to expand services to the United States. The FAA decision came after the European Union in July 2013 lifted its own ban on Philippine carriers after it upgraded its aviation safety standards.

    Great strides
    Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya earlier said that the upgrade in aviation safety “cements a landmark era in the Philippine aviation sector. From one major achievement to another in a span of less than two years, the country has made great strides in enhancing its aviation industry to one that is at par with the best in the world.”

    Abaya said the upgrade is expected to have a significant impact on the country’s economy, boosting tourism, trade and business relations.

    The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) also said earlier that the upgrade affirms the resolve of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) to lift the country from Category 2, to which it had been demoted by the FAA in 2008.

    In July last year, the EU announced it was allowing flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) to resume flights to Europe after banning it for almost three years.

    The Department of Tourism (DOT) and Tourism Congress of the Philippines (TCP) also welcomed the upgrade, saying the flight expansion will boost the department’s promotion efforts in the United States, the Philippines’ second-largest source market.

    The DOT said the FAA Category 1 status will help the country operate in other cities in the United States and develop frequencies of existing routes.

    In 2013, a total of 674,564 Americans visited the Philippines, ranking them as the second-biggest tourist arrivals. From Europe, the United Kingdom was ranked eighth with 122,759 arrivals while Germany accounted for 70,949 arrivals.

    A Category 1 rating means that a country complies with safety standards set ICAO, which had worked with the FAA on reviewing the Philippine case.

    A Category 2 rating means that a country either lacks laws or regulations necessary to oversee air carriers in accordance with minimum international standards, or that its civil aviation authority is deficient in one or more areas, such as technical expertise, trained personnel, records-keeping or inspection procedures.

    ICAO assesses civil aviation authorities of all countries with air carriers that operate or have applied to fly to the United States and makes that information available to the public.

    CebuPac ban lifted
    Cebu Pacific has exited the list of airlines banned from operating in EU member-countries, the European Commission announced in a news conference at the CAAP.

    Lance Gokongwei, Cebu Pacific president and chief executive officer, earlier said: “We welcome this development, a testament to Cebu Pacific’s commitment to safety and full compliance with international aviation safety standards. This would not have been possible without the full support of the Philippine government, and especially the CAAP.”

    “The decision of the European Commission to lift the ban on Cebu Pacific shows the ability of Philippine authorities and business to work with the EU to raise standards and create economic opportunity,” said Dr. Julian Vassallo, Chargé d’ Affaires of the Delegation of the European Union.

    “Having demonstrated their commitment and capacity to adhere to international standards, we heartily welcome Cebu Pacific to European skies,” he added.

    In his SONA on Monday, Aquino said: “All of the upgrades we have received in aviation are indeed good news: The number of flights will rise, thus providing a solution to the problem. And, through the continued cooperation of the CAAP and our local carriers, we will certainly be able to attract more businessmen and tourists in the coming years.”

    Sought for comment, CAAP deputy director general Capt. John Andrews said in a text message: “Thank you for recognizing CAAP achievements.”

    For his part, Cebu Pacific vice president for corporate affairs Atty. Jorenz Tanada said in a text message: “We are grateful for the president’s confidence in our ability to contribute to the Philippine tourism efforts. We continue to support the government in all initiatives that promote the country’s trade and tourism agenda.”

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