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CAAP 10th anniversary: Excellence in the skies

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Today, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) celebrates 10 years of its commitment to ensuring a safe, secure and green Philippine sky. A decade ago, in 2008, Republic Act No. 9497 was enacted into law. And by its virtue, the CAAP was created.

Aviation had an early start in the Philippines, and the creation of CAAP in 2008 was not where it all began. Before it became the CAAP that we know today, the office governing Philippine aviation underwent numerous name changes; from the Office of Technical Assistant of Aviation Matters in 1931, it became the Aeronautics Division in 1933. In 1936, the passage of the Civil Aviation Law of the Philippines created the Bureau of Aeronautics. Only a bit more than a decade later, in 1947, the Bureau of Aeronautics was renamed Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA). After 32 years, the CAA was placed under the Ministry of Transportation and Communications and was once again renamed the Bureau of Transportation (BAT). Then in 1987, it was renamed the Air Transportation Office (ATO), headed by the Assistant Secretary for Air Transportation. And then only two decades later, in 2008, the ATO was abolished to make way for the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.

CAAP is now reaping the fruits of its years of hard work, but its journey has not always been smooth sailing. CAAP’s creation is the main component of an intensive civil aviation reform program launched by the government. Months before CAAP’s creation in March 2008, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) downgraded the Philippines to “Category 2” rating after finding out several deficiencies in the country’s air transport and aviation sector. Then in 2010, the European Union (EU) banned airlines from the Philippines from flying to Europe. Determined to get past these turbulent times and prove itself as a competent aviation regulator, CAAP has since worked toward improving its services and facilities. Its efforts showed to be paying off as just in April 2014, following a successful International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA), the FAA determined that the Philippines has met the criteria for a “Category 1” rating. And in June 2010, the EU lifted its ban on Philippine commercial flights, allowing all of the country’s airlines to once again fly around in Europe’s skies.

As it marks its 10th anniversary this year, CAAP finds more reasons to celebrate its remarkable accomplishments that continue to bring pride to the country and give reasons to hope for a brighter future for the aviation industry. Though beset by all the pressure from international aviation authorities and other challenges in the industry, under its present team of leaders — spearheaded by Capt. Jim C. Sydiongco as director-general, Capt. Donaldo Mendoza as deputy director-general for operations, MGEN. Ricardo Banayat (Ret.) as deputy director-general for administration, and Capt. Manuel Antonio Tamayo as undersecretary for airport and aviation — the CAAP has braved many tests and is continuously streamlining itself and the entire aviation industry in the country.

Mr. Sydiongco and his team have made significant progress in setting new benchmarks for performance and safety advancements in the local aviation industry.

Before becoming the head of the country’s aviation regulator, Mr. Sydiongco flew all over the world as commercial pilot for Philippine Airlines and Taiwan’s Eva Air. Upon retirement, he then used his flying experience as safety consultant of then Manila International Airport (MIA) General Manager Alfonso Cusi, and Cebu Pacific’s flight safety head, before becoming Cebu Pacific’s vice-president for flight operations.

As a veteran in the aviation industry, Mr. Sydiongco’s experience as pilot is crucial to his position as CAAP chief. With his goals of fully automating and digitalizing the services of CAAP, upgrading the standards of flying schools through regulations, and supporting young aviation professionals, Mr. Sydiongco is bringing the country’s aviation sector to greater heights.

En route to excellence in the skies, the CAAP is steadily performing its duties of providing safe and convenient air travel experience. Just last year, Philippine airports were named and given recognition for their facilities and services. In a survey conducted by Sleepinginairports.net, four Philippine airports, namely the Iloilo International Airport, Mactan-Cebu International Airport, Clark International Airport, and Davao International Airport, joined the 2017 list of the top 25 best airports in Asia. Meanwhile, eight airports in the country were awarded a one-star rating for On-Time Performance (OTP) based on the results of a 2016-2017 survey conducted by the United Kingdom-based air travel intelligence company Official Aviation Guide (OAG). On top of the regional airport’s achievements, the country’s main international gateway, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), is no longer included in the top 20 worst airports in the world, and even in the list of the top 5 worst airports in Asia for 2017 by travel Web site The Guide to Sleeping in Airports.

In 2017, CAAP became one of the country’s biggest dividend contributors by contributing P5.83 billion to the treasury. That same year, the CAAP also passed the Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) of the ICAO Coordinated Validation Mission, with an overall result of 69.68%, higher than the global average. And in May 2017, Puerto Princesa International Airport’s new terminal was opened.

The CAAP, meanwhile, opened 2018 with a milestone, the inauguration of the Communications Navigation Surveillance/Air Traffic Management or the CNS/ATM systems which will help minimize flight delays and enhance air traffic safety in the country.

With capacity expansion as one of its goals, CAAP has simultaneously commenced the expansion of Kalibo International Airport in Aklan and embarked on the processing of night rating regional airports which include the following: the Naga Airport in Naga City, Camarines Sur; Tuguegarao Airport in Tuguegarao, Cagayan; Cauayan Airport in Cauayan City, Isabela; Cotabato Airport in Awang, Maguindanao; Pagadian Airport in Pagadian, Zamboanga Del Sur; Ozamiz City Airport (Labo Airport) in Labo; Ozamis, Dipolog Airport in Dipolog, Zamboanga Del Norte; Dumaguete Airport (Dumaguete–Sibulan Airport, Sibulan Airport) in Sibulan, Negros Oriental; and Caticlan Airport (Godofredo P. Ramos Airport, Boracay Airport) in Malay, Aklan.

On top of these airport milestones, the CAAP is also working toward minimizing the negative effects of aviation and air transport on the environment. To this end, the CAAP is in the process of improving fuel efficiency by an average annual rate of at least 2%, reducing the total aviation CO2 emissions by an average of 2% per year until 2020, and enhancing awareness of and compliance to the program on carbon footprint reduction in the aviation sector.

To promote the green airport concept, all frequently used CAAP airports will now be installed with solar power systems to power up office lightings and small equipment as well as runways lights and lighted cones.

With the support of the CNS/ATM program implementation, the CAAP will soon establish the Performance-Based Navigation (PBN) System in all public aerodromes by the year 2020 to reach its goals of improving air traffic management and infrastructure and significantly reducing fuel burn and carbon emissions.

Engaging with our neighbors in aviation, the CAAP is now working toward fully adopting the Beijing Declaration’s visions in aviation safety, air navigation services, accident investigation, and human resource development that were discussed at the first Asia Pacific Ministerial Conference on Civil Aviation last Jan. 31 to Feb. 1.

Such projects as the opening of Bicol International Airport in 2022, completion and start of the commercial operations of New Bohol Airport’s (Panglao International Airport) by August 2018, Tacloban City’s Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport’s terminal extension soft opening on March 16, and the inaugural flight of Cagayan North International Airport in Lal-lo, Cagayan are just some of what the country can look forward to in terms of improvements in the country’s airports.

In line with these, the CAAP will commemorate its 10 years with a two-week-long celebration by its employees stakeholders, and friends. With the theme “Ten Years of Excellence in the Philippine Skies,” the agency is set to kick off celebrations with a thanksgiving mass on March 5 and launch its Gender Awareness Development (GAD) gender-neutral restrooms with a blessing ceremony. In the succeeding days, the aviation regulator is set to continue its celebrations with a clean-up drive, a bloodletting program, a sports fest, and a fun run. A fellowship night on March 16 will cap off the anniversary festivities.

As the Philippines’ aviation safety oversight mechanism, the CAAP is responsible for providing safe and efficient air transport and regulatory services in the country. Headed by Mr. Sydiongco as the director-general, CAAP is stationed at the Old MIA Road in Pasay City and in 12 area centers around the Philippines, and employs approximately 6,000 people.