US upgrades PHL aviation status

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

MANILA (Updated) -- The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it has upgraded the Philippine civil aviation status from Category 2 to Category 1 after the country complied with the international safety standards.

In a statement Thursday, the FAA said the Category 1 status was based on a March 2014 FAA review of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).

"A Category 1 rating means the country’s civil aviation authority complies with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards. With the International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) Category 1 rating, the Republic of the Philippines’ air carriers can add flights and service to the United States and carry the code of U.S. carriers," the US agency said.

Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said among the benefits that the Philippines could gain from the upgrade include the possibility of other country's airlines, apart from the flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL), to fly to the US; and PAL can now use more fuel-efficient planes, add new routes to and from the US, and increase flight frequencies between the two countries.

"The upgrade will have a significant impact on the country’s economic thrust as it will allow airline carriers to open more direct flights to and from the US, which will boost the country’s tourism industry, help airline companies expand their operations, and improve trade and business relations between the two countries," Abaya said.

“We congratulate the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) for a job well done in ensuring the lifting of the ICAO’s significant safety concerns, the lifting of the European ban on local airlines, and now, the FAA upgrade to Category 1. Truly, your accomplishments prove that good governance and competent leadership will be the legacy of President Aquino’s Daang Matuwid,” he added.

The FAA said in order for the Philippines to maintain a Category 1 rating, the country must adhere to the safety standards of ICAO, the United Nations’ technical agency for aviation that establishes international standards and recommended practices for aircraft operations and maintenance.

“This upgrade 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 Philippines was placed under Category 2 in January 2008 after the country fell short of ICAO standards covering its ability to ensure airline safety.

Shares of local airlines rose following the announcement.

The PAL is currently the only local carrier flying to the United States. Local carriers were restricted to maintaining existing flights to the US and were barred from establishing new services.

Presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte said the US decision signals "enhanced tourism and economic activity between the Philippines and the U.S."

Valte lauded Philippine transportation and civil aviation officials for rectifying lapses in the past and for ensuring that the country's aviation industry meets international standards.

"For us travel agents and tour operators, it's a welcome development in terms of creating more package tours," said JP Cabalza, president of the Philippine Travel Agencies Association.

Cabalza said tour operators are looking at the US to bring in more tourists to the Philippines, with Americans now comprising the second most number of tourists to the country next to South Koreans. (SDR/With AP/Sunnex)

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