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Cablegate: Philippines Civair: Faa Meeting with Department Of

VZCZCXYZ0001
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHML #0202/01 0250502
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 250502Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9501
RHMFIUU/FAA NATIONAL HQ WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RULSDMK/DEPT OF TRANSPORTATION WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
INFO RUEHGP/AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE IMMEDIATE 7321
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO IMMEDIATE 3454

UNCLAS MANILA 000202

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

STATE FOR EAP/MTS AND EEB/TRA/AN
FAA FOR API-1/AFS-1/AVS-1
SINGAPORE FOR FAA REP
TOKYO FOR FAA CARL STROMBOM

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAIR ECON RP
SUBJECT: PHILIPPINES CIVAIR: FAA MEETING WITH DEPARTMENT OF
TRANSPORTATION AND COMMUNICATION SECRETARY MENDOZA

REF: STATE 149143

1. (SBU) Summary: Regional U.S. Federal Aviation Administration
(FAA) representatives met with Philippine Department of
Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza on January 23-24 to discuss
how to improve air safety in the Philippines and regain a Category 1
safety rating for Philippine civil aviation. Mendoza was ordered by
President Arroyo to take over the Air Transportation Office, after
Acting Assistant Secretary Daniel Dimagiba was dismissed on January
18th. In the meetings, Mendoza focused on the passage of a new
civil aviation bill (reftel) and did not seem to fully appreciate
the difficulty involved in rectifying the many problems the FAA
inspection report had identified. Separately, Air Transport Office
Legal Office Chief Deo Deocampo expressed dissatisfaction to the FAA
representatives with the foreign consultants now working there. End
Summary.

New CivAir Bill Rapidly Moving Forward
--------------------------------------

2. (SBU) The civil aviation bill (House Bill No. 3156) has now been
passed by both houses of the Philippines Congress and is undergoing
bicameral review before submission to the President for signature
(copies of the bill have been provided to Washington agencies).
Secretary Mendoza was hopeful that the bill would be signed into law

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by early February. Among other things, the bill will exempt civil
aviation bureau employees from government wage scales and allow
salaries high enough to retain highly skilled employees such as
pilots and air traffic controllers. Mendoza said the higher
salaries alone would address the majority of problems identified by
the FAA, since most of the problems were caused by the inability to
retain skilled personnel who could earn higher salaries elsewhere.


Mendoza Will Seek FAA Assistance
--------------------------------

3. (SBU) The Secretary acknowledged that time would be needed for
recruitment and training of new employees, but said several of the
other FAA identified problems had already been addressed, such as
the need for centralized record keeping. He indicated he had the
full support of Philippine President Arroyo, who had already
approved a 110 million peso request for supplemental funds for
staffing and personnel training at the new civil aviation bureau.
Initially, he seemed at a loss to answer say anything specific about
what technical assistance the Philippines needed from the FAA or
from elsewhere. However, in later conversations Mendoza said he
would make a formal request to the FAA to have an FAA safety advisor
work with Philippine officials to help them better understand the
technical measures that need to be undertaken to retain Category 1
status.

ICAO Advisors Criticized
------------------------

4. (SBU) In conjunction with the recent downgrade to Category 2
status under the FAA's International Aviation Safety Audit (IASA)
program, the Philippine Government is considering hiring a private
consulting firm to advise them on measures needed a Category 1
rating. Secretary Mendoza also asked for FAA's help in identifying
possible private sector aviation safely consultants. Secretary
Mendoza mentioned that they continue to rely on the services of five
aviation specialists from the International Civil Aviation
Organization (ICAO). In a separate meeting, Legal Chief Deo
Deocampo expressed to the FAA representatives strong dissatisfaction
with the performance of the ICAO team and indicated they were of
little use in addressing identified safety deficiencies.

Air Show in Singapore
---------------------

5. (SBU) DOTC Undersecretary for Civil Aviation Edward Pagunsan
plans to attend the Singapore Air Show scheduled during the week of
Feb. 18. He said that, if possible, he would like to meet with
senior FAA officials who will also be in attendance at the Air Show.
Secretary Mendoza mentioned he would consider flying to Singapore
if a high level meeting with U.S. officials there could be arranged
and wondered out loud if that would be an appropriate time to make a
formal request for assistance from FAA safety advisor.

Plans for Major Expansion of Air Infrastructure
--------------------------------------------- --

6. (SBU) Secretary Mendoza also briefly discussed his Department's
plans to accommodate an enormous increase in air traffic in the
Philippines, which involved the construction or upgrading of 35
Philippine airports. He mentioned new international airports in
Iloilo and Bacolod that were world class, and plans to turn the
former Clark Airfield (now called Diosdado Macapagal International
Airport or DMIA) into the major international gateway for the
Philippines. The Secretary said he would chair the ASEAN Transport
Ministers meeting to be held in the Philippines in December where
ASEAN members were expected to sign an open skies agreement between
their capital airports that would greatly increase regional travel.
(Note: Other Philippines officials have discussed the possibility of
designating DMIA as the Philippine national capital airport in order
to gain maximum advantage from this ASEAN agreement. A PRC-financed
feasibility study on upgrading DMIA was rejected on December 12,
2007 for being too simple, among other reasons, and a new
Korean-financed feasibility study has now begun. End note.)

7. (SBU) Secretary Mendoza said Japan, China, and Korea were
expected to join this ASEAN aviation arrangement in the future. The
Secretary described briefly the open transport arrangement already

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in effect between Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the
southern Philippines islands of Mindanao and Palawan, and noted the
new Korean-financed and constructed international airport being
built in Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao. Korea signed an air agreement
with the Philippines last year that gives it access to all
Philippine international airports.

8. (SBU) The FAA representatives indicated they thought that the
meetings were very productive. However, they were concerned that
the Philippines Government has not yet organized an effective
response and action plan to the IASA to regain Category 1 status.
The Senior FAA Representative offered to assist Secretary Mendoza
coordinate any future requests for FAA technical assistance or
possible meetings with appropriate senior FAA officials. The FAA
representatives stressed the need to ask for assistance if any
assistance was needed from various USG agencies. Despite the
intense media coverage of the FAA downgrade over the past week,
there was no media presence during or after the meetings with the
Secretary, and no questions asked by reporters at other meetings.

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9. (U) This cable was cleared by the Regional Senior FAA
Representative Carl Strombom before he departed Manila.

Kenney

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