PH in talks with 4 countries to expand air-service contracts

by Lorenz S. Marasigan, BusinessMirror

Posted at Mar 18 2014 09:11 AM | Updated as of Mar 18 2014 05:11 PM

MANILA - The government is beefing up efforts to expand air-service agreements with four countries this year, a senior official of the Philippines’s air-service regulator said.

The Philippine air panel is scheduled to hold talks with Canada this May, said Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) Executive Director Carmelo Arcilla.

Also in the pipeline are meetings with Taiwan, Russia and South Korea, he said.

“For Canada, the talks are set on May 26 and 27. The venue for that is in Manila,” Arcilla said.

He said the Canadian “market is not thick enough to sustain direct services, but there are opportunities to develop the route.”

“If the service is seamless, probably there will be more people travelling between the two countries, and when more people travel, maybe the time would come when direct services could already be sustainable,” the regulator said.

Arcilla said air-service talks with Russia are scheduled sometime in the third quarter of the year.

“Russia is a ‘designatory’ of the International Air Services Transport Agreement [IASTA], which is one of the protocols of the Icao, the International Civil Aviation Organization. If you are a signatory to that, you are obliged to allow over flights, for which you charge fees. But Russia is not a signatory to the IASTA so they require a certain agreement before an airline can be given over flight rights,” he said.

The official also said meetings with the South Korean air panel are being finalized, and that what remains to be hurdled is the Category 1 upgrade from the US-based Federal Aviation Authority (FAA).

“It is not really the traffic rights that is the problem. It’s the safety issues pertaining to our oversight capabilities. [South] Korea has a regulation that if the country is downgraded by the US FAA or listed by Icao with safety concern or banned by the EU [European Union], they will not allow new entrants to come in,” Arcilla said.

“The moment we pass the FAA audit, other airlines could enter the market,” he said.

On January 24 the US-based regulator conducted an air-safety audit of the regulator, which reports say flunked the review.

However, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (Caap) Deputy Director John Andrews denied the reports, saying the regulator is still confident that it passed the audit.

The announcement, he said, will come within 30 to 60 days of the January 24 exit review.

The FAA slapped the Category 2 rating to the country following a November 2007 audit, which found that the country was not compliant with Icao standards.

As a result, local airlines were barred from expanding operations in the US. The FAA move prompted the Icao to issue its safety warning in 2009.

Since 2009, the government has been eyeing a Category 1 upgrade.

A Category 1 rating would allow local airlines to fly and expand their operations in the US and South Korea.

Andrews is betting his position at the Caap as an assurance that the country will be upgraded a notch up.