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Cablegate: Civair Safety in the Philippines: Discussion with Icao

VZCZCXYZ0007
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHML #1496/01 1720845
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 200845Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1069
RHMFIUU/FAA NATIONAL HQ WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RULSDMK/DEPT OF TRANSPORTATION WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
INFO RUEHGP/AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE IMMEDIATE 7415
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO IMMEDIATE 3567

UNCLAS MANILA 001496

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

STATE FOR EAP/MTS AND EEB/TRA/AN
FAA FOR API-1/AFS-50/AGC-7
SINGAPORE FOR FAA REP
TOKYO FOR FAA CARL STROMBOM

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAIR ECON RP
SUBJECT: Civair Safety in the Philippines: Discussion with ICAO
consultant

REF: STATE 149143

1. (U) Please see paragraph 8 for an action request.

2. (SBU) Summary: Our meetings with Philippine government
officials, airline owners and managers, and other involved persons
suggest that little progress has been made on the return to Category
1. A June 20 meeting with a flight safety consultant employed by
the International Civil Agency Organization served to confirm our
concerns. We believe it is crucial for the FAA to deliver a very
serious message to the Chairman of the Transportation Committee of
the Philippine House of Representatives next week. End Summary.

3. (SBU) A flight safety consultant with the International Civil
Aviation Organization (please protect source) confided to us on June
20 his highly negative opinion of Philippine Air Transportation
Office and of the officials from that office soon to travel to
Washington for meetings with the Federal Aviation Administration.
As this consultant is working in the ATO on behalf of the ICAO
attempting to prepare for an ICAO inspection to take place in
November, he is well placed to assess progress in addressing the
deficiencies found by the FAA last year in the flight safety
regulation of the Philippines.

Key Steps
---------

4. (SBU) The flight safety consultant told us that the upcoming
meeting between Air Transport officials and the FAA to discuss an
FAA action plan would be "a complete waste of time and money" that
could delay implementation of needed measures. He said ICAO has
already provided ATO with an action plan designed to help address
issues that the November 2008 ICAO review would raise, but that the
key changes needed to overcome ICAO and FAA-identified deficiencies
cannot be implemented until 1) the Philippine President appoints a
Director General for the new Philippine Civil Aviation Authority, 2)
the Director General calls on the Civil Aviation Board to meet, and
3) the Board stands up the Civil Aviation Agency of the Philippines
(CAAP), allowing reform provisions contained in legislation passed
earlier this year to go into effect.

Corruption and Incompetence
---------------------------

5. (SBU) The consultant described the ATO to us as a corrupt
organization led by incompetent people, and suggested that the ATO
officials traveling to Washington may actually seek to delay
remediation of safety deficiencies to protect their own jobs. He
said that ATO inspectors continue to be focused on traveling, in
order to receive per diem, and have no real interest in
inspections.

6. (SBU) According to the consultant, the ATO has committed one
third of the funds provided on an extraordinary basis by the
government for the construction of a new building to house the CAAP.
That expenditure has left it with no funds to hire new inspectors.
And until the new agency is stood up, it will be impossible to hire
qualified personnel, as the new, competitive pay scale will not be
in effect. He said that current ATO personnel, from the top to the
bottom of the agency, have no interest in seeing the CAAP stood up
as they are rightly concerned that they will lose their jobs. From
the consultant's perspective, their concern is well founded, since
most of them are incompetent and should lose their jobs.

7. (SBU) Congressman Monico Puentevella, Chairman of the House
Committee on Transportation, will be in Washington with the
Philippine Presidential delegation next week. He has requested a
meeting with the FAA. Congressman Puentevella was the key to
passage of the legislation establishing the CAAP earlier this year.
He discusses the effort to return to Category 1 on civair safety
frequently with us, with the airlines, and with President Arroyo.
We strongly support Congressman Puentevella's request for an
appointment.

Comment and Action Request
--------------------------

8. (SBU) The ICAO consultant's comments parallel those of other
observers. We believe they are an accurate assessment of the
situation. We do disagree about the utility of an FAA action plan.
We believe that, even if the key actions are already listed in the
ICAO action plan, a plan with the explicit endorsement of the FAA
would be very influential in the Philippines and could make an

important contribution to the effort to reverse the downgrade.

9. (SBU) We believe it is crucial that the FAA deliver to
Congressman Puentevella a clear expression of USG concern over the
lack of progress which has been made so far on Civair Safety. We
recommend the following talking points:

-- We were impressed and pleased to see the seriousness with which
the Philippine Congress dealt with the issue of civil aviation
safety earlier this year. We understand that you played a key role
in the crafting and passage of this important legislation.

-- Unfortunately, we are hearing reports that little progress has
been made since passage of the legislation.

-- Given the serious and lasting deficiencies in the Philippine
civil aviation safety regime which our inspection brought to light
last year, we believe that serious and concerted action will be
necessary to bring the Philippines back to Category 1.

-- The Philippine Congress has given the executive branch the tools
with which to do that, but those tools are not being used. An
effective Director General needs to be appointed. He or she should
be a strong manager and will need the support of the government in
order to boldly "clean house."

-- The new agency needs to be stood up as soon as possible and new
inspectors hired and trained.

-- The ATO has asked that the FAA help with the creation of an
action plan for the return to Category 1. We are discussing how to
do that. We are happy to help. However, our assessment is that
much more decisive action will be necessary to put the Philippines
on track toward Category 1.

-- The ICAO inspection in November of this year is something we
will watch closely as an indication whether progress is being made.

Gibbons

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