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Aviation Reform in the Philippines: What Will It Take?

“Nasa Diyos ang awa; nasa tao ang gawa.”
Rough translation: God provides us wonders, we work to make them happen.

The Philippine aviation industry has been in the dark for several years due to safety concerns provided by the United States Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), the European Union (EU), and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). And since 2008, the country’s airlines are languishing the ill-effects of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) not fully resolving the issues laid out by the aforementioned agencies. 

See “Nakakahiya, Nakakabahala, Nakakadismaya” article

So what does it really take to reform the state of Philippine aviation so that the country will finally see the green light from international aviation regulators?

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The Philippines has been recently recognized as having the most number of believers in God, according to a US-based survey.

[Source: CathNews USA]

So it becomes a question of, with the number of believers in God, then how come people don’t do something so that He can bring miracles and wonders to their lives? It is true that even though we pray to God often to heal us, we still need to work things out to make it happen. In fact, God will intervene in different ways without us knowing it. It also applies to change in our government, wherein while corruption in the government is a cancer that destroys the Filipino society, reforming it and doing the right thing, with intervention from everyone in society, can bring massive changes and growth to the Philippines. In order for that to happen, changes from the bottom up must happen, with the most significant changes needed involves the fundamental Filipino culture of family: I know this sounds bad, but, I believe that minding the family solely does not contribute to the greater good of the rest of society. I believe that with a greater sense of self-discipline, along with the Bayanihan mindset that we Filipinos admire and do when natural calamities and tragedies strike, and understanding the fact that we live and breathe collectively as a society rather than just a family, we can establish values that can encourage us to become stewards of the country. What I mean by steward is that each one of us has his or her own part to play to make the society better: cooperating with our less-fortunate brothers and sisters, listening and understanding what others want and need to make them (and you) better, and communicating what we truly desire in an honest and straightforward manner. I’ve intentionally made this intro pretty long to make you, the reader, understand how Filipinos deal with reading such difficult articles as this: so many wavy turns, so many associations… you know what I mean.


Heading to my plan to reforming Philippine aviation, here are some of the ideas I’ve come up with, based on reading multiple articles from Inquirer, Philippine Star, Manila Standard Today, the Centre for Asia-Pacific Aviation, and the European Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines. Our country’s aviation system will still be under the doldrums from the United States (FAA), the European Union (EU), and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) unless we finally get our act together… and fast. My ideas include:

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  • Set your priorities straight and establish a feasible timeline to work out the needed reforms. Remember that reforms need time to start up and be implemented, as well as such reforms could be changed or modified over time. A suitable time frame for reforms could be one or two months’ worth of brainstorming ideas and guidelines, another month or two’s worth of crafting the rules, at least six months’ worth of implementing all the guidelines, and as needed, revising the rules and guidelines as necessary.
  • Stick to the established guidelines mandated by ICAO, the EU, and the FAA, and model rules and regulations according to them. Since one of the key components to having a secure and competitive aviation industry is regulation, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) should mandate guidelines that parallel those established by the world’s major governing bodies. If needed, the rules imposed by the CAAP should be more stringent than those imposed by the ICAO, if not also by the EU and the FAA, because our aviation industry is reliant on nearly all travelers entering the country. 
  • Improve airport and related infrastructure immediately. With the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) becoming severely overcrowded with departing and arriving flights, as well as President Aquino’s dream of bringing in ten million tourists to the country by 2016, airport infrastructure should be a key priority to show to the international community that the Philippines is serious in cultivating its tourism industry and therefore making it a serious competitor in Asia. Purchase all necessary airport navigation equipment through a competitive and transparent bidding process. Allow foreign intervention if necessary to review current laws, procedures, and guidelines in airport management and aviation security. Add more amenities and features, such as shops, restaurants, and working toilets. Improve lighting and space circulation around our airport terminals. Need I say more?
  • Streamline the departure and arrival procedures, thus reducing bureaucratic red tape. The government should be serious in improving its departure and arrival procedures to be on par with international standards: 60 minutes for departing passengers, 45 minutes for arriving passengers. I am thinking if with Clark International Airport, we can achieve departure procedures in just 16 minutes and arrival procedures in just 12 minutes, just like Seoul’s Incheon International Airport… if we can achieve such efficiency, then I can guarantee you that way more tourists will flock the country because we have cut the red tape down to what is truly necessary only: immigration, baggage check-in and reclaim, and customs. No more airport tax payment, no more “padulas” or “padrino” system. Just the basics.
  • Develop a long-term plan for developing airports and air services in the country. I think this should be the work of a new agency that will be run under the auspices of the Department of Transportation and Communication, and the CAAP, in which I believe that for tourism to blossom and reach its fullest potential, we need to build up momentum and prioritize airport infrastructure and development as one of the key components to our country’s economy. Being an archipelago, we need to device plans that will call for construction of new airports to reach even more far-flung communities, as well as expanding current airports with new navigational aids and terminals, and improving connectivity between islands with new air services. Along with that, what also needs to be considered would be the feasibility of longer and wider runways for our existing airports to handle even more aircraft, as well as paving more taxiways and runways, and introducing even more point-to-point services so that airlines can operate to even more destinations rather than transfer at large airports like Manila or Cebu.

The Philippines is blessed with having thousands of islands and islets, with thousands of kilometers of wonderful coastlines and varying landscapes that dot every island. And I think the government, and we, the people, should explore on ways to improve and expand our aviation industry that will eventually allow even more tourists, both local and foreign, to visit our diverse nation. We may have airports that bring us close to Mayon Volcano, Magellan’s Cross, Mount Apo, and Chocolate Hills, but with our current airport infrastructure and incomplete laws with little implementation, I think the Americans and Europeans will continue to cast doubts that our vision for “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” will just be a failed idea. Without immediate intervention and investment in infrastructure, policy-making, and long-term development, our country will just stay on the tarmac, agonizing with long delays to take off.

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