Press Release
March 8, 2011

Says situation not helping tourism, investment and war against terror

Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada said he is eyeing a probe of the "messy" situation prevailing the country's aviation sector topped by reports of corruption at the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.

"I think the time has come for the Senate to look into the situation at the CAAP and whether the law creating it, RA 9497, needs further refinement or whether those mandated to implement it are just bungling their jobs," Jinggoy said.

Congress passed RA 9497 in 2008 over the country's repeated failure to comply with the international aviation industry's safety standards as certified by the Federal Aviation Authority of the United States and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

"Since 2007, the country remains pegged at 'Category 2,' meaning, we continue to fail to comply with worldwide best practices and safety regulations in our aviation sector. Almost two years after the passage of RA 9497 and the creation of the CAAP, our situation is basically the same," Jinggoy said.

Additionally, Sen. Estrada said reports on the proliferation of fake pilot licenses allegedly due to the existence of a syndicate within the CAAP and lax implementation of the law by its officials not only contribute to the country's negative image abroad but also to the perception that the country is also a 'haven' for international terrorist groups.

"What is also bothering me is the possibility that some foreign nationals, especially those from the Middle East and licensed by the CAAP as pilots, would later turn out to be members of terrorist groups as what happened before," Jinggoy added.

The senator has in mind, Mohamed Atta, who took flying lessons in the Philippines in 1999. Atta was among the terrorists who took part in the September 9, 2001 attack in the United States.

US federal investigators, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Philippine security agencies later established that two more 9/11 terrorists, Marwan Alshehhi and Hassan Banihammad, as well as a host of other international terrorists, have stayed in the country in the past for training and planning of terrorist attacks. In addition, of those who launched the 9/11 attack, majority of them were from Saudi Arabia, noted investigators.

Significantly, of the 11 foreign nationals who got their pilot licenses last year at the CAAP under questionable circumstances, five of them were Saudi nationals. Others include three Indians, two Nepalese and one Japanese national.

"Unless the mess that has become the CAAP is sorted out and its affairs put into order through the necessary legislative inquiry and remedial measures, we would continue to suffer from past stigma affecting our international credibility and standing," adding:

"This, in turn, hampers our efforts to get out of our Category 2 status and also in bringing in tourists and investments in the country," Jinggoy said.

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