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Nakakahiya, Nakakabahala, Nakakadismaya

English translation: Shameful, Shocking, Dismaying

It has been of concern that since 2008, the Philippines, a nation of 7,100 islands and my homeland, has been plagued with enormous problems, particularly on aviation ratings and standards. 

It came as a series of events: in October 2007, the United States Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) went to the Philippines to assess the current aviation safety standards made by the now-defunct Air Transportation Office (ATO), in which the agency determined that the ATO failed to meet the standards set by the international aviation community. Subsequently, in January 2008, the FAA downgraded the Philippines from Category 1 to Category 2. To explain what the two categories mean, I will briefly summarize them for you:

  • Category 1 means that a country’s civil aviation authority meets the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards.
  • Category 2 means that a country’s civil aviation authority  does not meet ICAO standards for any of the following reasons: (1) lacking laws or regulations necessary to oversee air carriers in accordance with international standards, or (2) its civil aviation authority — equivalent to the FAA for aviation safety matters — is deficient in one or more areas, such as technical expertise, trained personnel, record-keeping, or inspection procedures.

(Source: FAA [1], FAA [2])

Long description for Category 2, isn’t it? Sadly, that’s where the Philippines is… until now. It’s already April 2012, and we’ve gone through several Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, yet the country still struggles to find its wings back to Category 1?

Here’s another setback: with the FAA placing the Philippines under Category 2, the European Union (EU) followed suit in November 2009, banning effectively all Philippine-based carriers from operating to Europe and flying over European airspace for safety reasons. The ICAO also has placed the Philippines under its Serious Safety Concern (SSC) status that is the basis of the basis of the US FAA’s downgrade of the country.

(Source: European Commission)

The domino effect has caused the Philippine government to take adverse steps towards re-certifying the country back to Category 1 status under the FAA. The government has abolished the ATO and replaced it with the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP). The CAAP then had a new manager who vowed to sweep up needed reforms at the fastest-possible time as to regain the coveted status. Years have passed, reforms have been made, yet still, the FAA and the EU are not convinced of the changes made.

What has the Philippines done to be dragged in this mess for so long? Being under Category 2 for four years in a row and EU ban for three really sound alarm bells for many people, especially travelers who rely on airlines and airports to travel around the Philippines. 

It is really concerning — and angering — that the CAAP has done little significant reforms, if at all, that would truly impress the FAA, the EU, and the ICAO to change their minds and upgrade the country from its dreaded statuses. With that situation, our current aviation industry is like, what, Sudan? Ukraine? Even Indonesia? 

Why do we have to drag on with this problem for so long? What excuses have the government said to its people about aviation reforms and change? Why are incompetent people still working at the realms of the CAAP when they are there just for “benefits”, not for professional development?

Will the continued downgrade impact our tourism slogan, “It’s More Fun in the Philippines”? Definitely.

Will the continued downgrade put our critical infrastructure projects on hold for a long time? Absolutely.

Will the continued downgrade finally hit home to Malacanang and do something urgent about it? Hopefully.

Even the FAA has planned to expand bilateral partnership venues with key partners in the region, including the Philippines, which should give the country a wake-up call to finally improve its aviation standards so that the US will make deals to bring in more services to the country. (Source: FAA [3])

I think this Easter, we shall remind ourselves of two things: hope that we can evolve ourselves for the better through acceptance and change, and determination that we can overcome death by believing in the Lord who has done good things for us. 

We can improve the country’s lagging aviation and tourism sectors by pressuring the government to make the aviation industry finally work by reversing years of neglect done by the ATO and by the former presidency that caused havoc among the country’s airports, currently having poor infrastructure and connections. 

We can ensure that our tourism campaign shines forth by believing in ourselves and promoting our country as a great tourist destination by cooperating with others who have little to no faith in the government. For who else can change the image of a country that has gone through multiple colonizers, crooked presidents, and pitiful infrastructure that deserves better? Ourselves.

For those who believe that President Aquino is “Noynoying”, I will tell you this: 

Hindi pupuwedeng paura-urada ang pagbabago. May proseso yan, na kinakailangang tumulong ang mamamayan para maibangon ang antas ng bansa mula sa kahirapan patungong kaunlaran. Magtulungan po tayo para umangat ang ating pamumuhay, ngunit iwasan na natin ang ugaling “bahala na ang pamahalaan”; bagkus, magsimula rin tayo ng mga hakbang upang mabago ang takbo ng ating bayan. Sapagkat tayo-tayo rin ang makikinabang kapag naging mas-maunlad ang ating bansa. 

Iwasan na rin po ang “crab mentality” na nagiging dahilan ng napakaraming salot sa ating lipunan: kaguluhan, kahirapan, at kamangmangan. Mapag-asikaso naman tayong mga Pilipino, marunong mamaluktot kung kinakailangan, at namamangha ang maraming tao mula sa ibang bansa dahil tayo ay mapagmalikhain. May karunungan naman tayo: maging masipag, matiyaga, at maka-Diyos. Gamitin natin sa husto ang ating mga magagandang ugali upang makipagtulungan tayo sa ibang tao upang iahon ang Pilipinas mula sa kahirapan.

Ang pagbabago, nanggagaling sa sarili natin. Iniisip, pinagmamasdan, ginagawa. Tulungan natin ang pamahalaan para mabago na ang takbo ng ating bansa; ngunit, sa kabilang banda, magbago na rin tayong mga Pilipino. Ika nga ni Pangulong John F. Kennedy ng Amerika: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” (for a translation, it will be on a footnote below)

I’ve read from various news articles lately through Google about the Philippines’ progress towards gaining back the coveted Category 1 status from the FAA, as well as removing the ban from the European Union and removal from the Serious Safety Concerns list of the ICAO. However, in a visit of FAA representatives last January about the status of the Philippine civil aviation authority, it has seen an additional 23 concerns. Although minor, the FAA deems that those are “crucial” to bringing back Category 1 to the country.

(Sources: ABS-CBN, AFP, Bloomberg Businessweek, GMA News, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Philippine Star, Yahoo! Philippines) Note: search Google for “Philippine Aviation”, then click on news to view relevant sources.

And yet, in an editorial I read, Babe Romualdez of the Philippine Star, in his editorial called “Is it really more fun in the Philippines?”, mentions that the Category 2 rating “raises suspicions that the downgrade has more to do with international politics rather than safety concerns”. (Source: Philippine Star) That has put a large question mark in my mind: if the US allies with the Philippines in the global war against terrorism, then why does Washington not provide more than adequate resources to help Manila out, struggling from the depths of FAA placing the Philippines under Category 2 for four years in a row?

Does this mean the CAAP has done something unacceptable to the eyes of the FAA that deserves a continued downgrade? Maybe.

Does this mean the FAA has little faith in the Philippines to ever gain back its Category 1 rating? Possibly.

Does this mean the CAAP must act vigorously and fill all the missing holes to finally put our country’s aviation on par with international standards? Absolutely.

The Philippine government should stop churning more excuses to cover up its shortcomings and faults as to further delaying the needed FAA upgrade from Category 2 to Category 1. The CAAP should look for solid, structured solutions that will impress, not only the Aquino government, but also the international community as well, as tourists from all over t
he world rely on airlines to travel to anywhere in the world.

Air travel is very crucial for the Philippine economy, as it is used by almost all travelers (98%) coming to and from the country. We should help the government work out the many mistakes and faults previous administrations have committed and done to improve our struggling aviation industry. The government, in return, should keep the promises they make to improve Filipino lives by reducing corruption and bureaucracy, becoming more transparent, and opening up investments to crucial infrastructure that will bring in more investments to the country, and hopefully, reduce poverty.

In my next segment, I will describe, step by step, what I believe the Philippine government, and the Filipino people, should do to improve our country.

Translation from above Filipino text:

Change is never instant nor easy, like making instant three-minute Cup Noodles or Top Ramen. It takes a long time and a lot of processes to make it happen, and it requires our cooperation to rebuild our country out of poverty and turn it into a prosperous nation. Let us help one another in making the Philippines a better place and avoid the “bahala na” habit towards the government. We need to change our old ways and introduce change and reform to make our road to recovery better and long-lasting. Once our country has finally come out of its shambles, we will ultimately benefit the fruits of our labor from the sacrifices we make and endeavors we take.

Our “crab mentality” thinking, which causes family conflicts, political bickering, and an endless cycle of poverty, should also be erased from our minds forever as well. We are a loving, accommodating, hardworking, and creative people who want to bring out the best of every tourist’s visit to the country. We are also God-fearing, determined, and disciplined that makes us an envy of many country. We should use those valuable assets to our advantage to help the Philippines rise up from the ill-effects of poverty and hardship.

Change comes from ourselves. The government has already a lot of issues on its plate, yet, critical reforms are needed to make our country better in the eyes of the international community. It should eliminate corruption, waste, and greed that hampers economic growth and social development. However, we should not always rely on the government to change for us and to improve our lives; instead, remember what President John F. Kennedy has said during one of his speeches: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for the country.”

0 thoughts on “Nakakahiya, Nakakabahala, Nakakadismaya

  1. I am an Aviation Technician and have watched as the authorities at Clark struggle with the status quo here.
    How can you expect to gain international recognition when at a premiere “International” facility there is a number of civil aviation
    violations of ICAO basic safety laws on a daily basis.
    An uncontrolled “airport” and runway next to an international runway?
    Good luck getting an upgrade when the safety and peace of thousands of local residents is endangered for the enrichment of a few with no oversight….. day in and day out..
    Truly shameful.

    1. That’s the problem right there: why tolerate the same old rules that are now outdated or even banned by other countries? Is the CAAP having a really hard time looking at reality of aviation safety today? Do they really need a set of high-grade eyeglasses to look at the newer, stricter regulations regarding airline safety? I think it’s time for the agency to look in the mirror and ask what image does it show to the rest of the world: acceptable or scary. Maybe it’s time for the CAAP to redo its management strategy altogether, from top down and all things in between, don’t you think?

      1. I could get into specifics, but not right now.
        It isn’t a political thing.
        It’s a regulation thing.
        I deal with the FAA on a regular basis, and they make it abundantly clear what is required.
        But the arrogance of entrenched incompetents who think they can do things “their way” and be acceptable is laughable.
        These are not jeepneys that you can pull over to the side of the road in a breakdown.
        Although the street “Bahala Na” attitude pervades the industry, there is a solution.
        An education and an attitude of caring for the betterment of all.
        Both lacking in the culture of mutual fixing of protection for infractions by the old school.
        I had an FAA inspector over to my home recently and we watched as plane after plane (Civil Aviation Cessna 152’s) took off and consistently broke altitude and heading rules, not to mention dangerous manoeuvrings. All without the benefit of ATC in a busy IFR corridor.
        The guy just shook his head.
        Like I said.
        Good luck getting Cat 1 rating.
        And I’m in Aviation and promote it!

      2. This is a really Useful information, that many people wants to know.I heartily thnx to you !!!

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