“The implications of the international restrictions cut across the entire Philippine economy, and the problem will require significant investment and sustained decisive action to correct. For an island nation that is only connected to the rest of the world by air, to not already be doing that to solve a problem that it has known about in no uncertain terms for over two years (and counting) is simply baffling.”
Seems I didn’t have to wait long to be proven right; this piece of news popped up on the ABS-CBN website early this morning:
Gov’t alarmed by tour cancellations due to EU ban on carriers
abs-cbnNEWS.com | 04/09/2010 1:30 AM
MANILA, Philippines – The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines should promptly resolve the European Union’s (EU) ban on Philippine air carriers, since the move has already triggered “an alarming number of tour cancellations from Europe,” the Tourism department said in a statement yesterday.
Last March 31, the EU included the Philippines in its 13th updated list of countries with carriers banned from that region’s airspace, as a precautionary step based on the US Federal Aviation Administration’s downgrading of the country’s safety rating to Category 2 and the International Civil Aviation Organization’s concern on aviation safety regulators.
“Major European travel operators from Germany, UK and France have regretfully informed us their booking cancellations. The entire industry is affected, as European arrivals account for a significant percentage of our target in the first quarter. In January 2010, air arrivals from European countries already posted an 11% growth,” the statement quoted Tourism Secretary Joseph “Ace” H. Durano as saying….
…Tours which were cancelled were mainly for the April-August period, the department noted. “The longer we remain in the blacklist, the harder it would be for us to recover from these significant losses. If we resolve this matter by the second quarter, we can expect a recovery in the third and fourth quarters,” Mr. Durano said.
While Philippine carriers have not been flying to EU states since 1999 even before the ban, the EU’s prohibition has prompted travel insurance firms in Europe to advise travel operators that tour packages to the Philippines which include domestic air travel will not be covered. Hence, tour operators had to cancel bookings due to the difficulty of selling travel packages to the country which include inter-island travel by air.
“It’s a very sad day for us. All our blood, sweat and tears in building up the European market in your country are all down the drain,” an executive of a major French travel operator said in the same statement.
Hey, I can’t help it if I can see the future.
Secretary Durano’s hope of having the issue resolved by the second quarter is in all likelihood futile; the ban by the European Commission was announced shortly after a personal visit to Europe by recently-installed CAAP head Alfonso Cusi, who was apparently unaware that an audit by the ICAO last November (which the CAAP had postponed for at least a year in order to try to correct some of its deficiencies) actually found the problems had gotten worse, not better. The EC as much as told Cusi “don’t hold your breath,” saying that a review was unlikely in the “near” future. And there is no sign that the shortcomings are being corrected; the CAAP is still short on skilled personnel, air traffic controllers – who only make around P18,000 a month to begin with – are still waiting for overtime and extra pay from last year to be processed, and as of the third week of March, Jojo Robles was writing about a badly-needed, $270 million-dollar air traffic management project that is in serious jeopardy because “some quarters” (he doesn’t say who, but implies they’re connected to the DOTC) are questioning the provision in an eight-year old agreement between the RP and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) that permits the latter to raise objections about project bidders.
All of which has apparently now boomeranged on what is ordinarily the one bright spot in the Philippine economy, the tourist industry, shooting what was shaping to be a pretty good year right in the ass. The reason I’m bringing this up is that this is just one – ONE – example of a real life, practical issue that requires immediate attention on the part of the new president, and for that matter, the new legislators, when they put their lardy politicians’ butts in the seats come June 30. And so far, exactly nothing is being said by any of them about this or any other current crisis – such as Luzon and Mindanao both being several hundred megawatts short of electricity, or the inevitable rice shortage due to the drought (not to mention several thousand farmers who are going to be in bad shape if they don’t get some assistance). Instead, they’d rather discuss fake psychiatric reports, who was wealthier than whom when they were growing up, and back-office hissy fits, while the electorate does nothing to demand real answers to the problems staring them in the face.
Hey folks, I got news for you: Adam Carolla is not going to turn your lights back on, or take your country off the same list as the Sudan when it comes to air safety, or fill the rice bins in your markets. And neither are Kris Aquino’s kid, Anne Curtis’ (unimpressive) right breast, or the dethroned Miss Philippines Universe or Galaxy or Globular Cluster or whatever the hell it was. The only good question anyone’s asked this week was, naturally, benign0’s: So What? Since he’s stepped up to do everybody the public service of getting that out of the way, maybe it’s about time for everyone to get back to asking about some things that really matter.