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Philippines seeks quick removal from aviation blacklists

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(MANILA) - The Philippines hopes soon to be removed from blacklists of countries deemed to have unsafe aviation, paving the way for its flag carrier to add US flights and return to Europe, a regulator said Friday.

Philippine airlines were stopped from expanding services to the United States in 2008 and banned from Europe in March this year over concerns airline safety was not being overseen according to international standards.

An International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) inspection team will visit Manila next month and be told the government has complied substantially with 87 of 89 listed deficiencies, chief industry regulator Alfonso Cusi said.

The United States' Federal Aviation Authority and the European Union both take guidance from the ICAO.

"It's a matter of time before we are out of the blacklist," Cusi told reporters, adding that the government had addressed the most critical issues raised in the ICAO's last safety audit.

These included problems with the Philippines' aviation regulatory framework and the quality of staff.

Lax surveillance of schools that train pilots, some of them foreigners from the Middle East, India, Afghanistan and Sudan, was another problem.

The two outstanding items are completion of the training of the new civil aviation authority's inspectors, and computerisation of the agency, which has been held up as contracts are still under review.

Cusi did not say when the final two problems would be rectified.

But the next audit of the US agency, the FAA, will be in the first three months of 2011, and the Philippines is hoping it will be lifted from the US blacklist after that, according to Cusi.

After the US FAA downgraded the Philippines to "Category 2" from "Category 1", parliament passed a law creating the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines to regulate the industry.

Cusi, the new body's first director-general, said the ICAO, the FAA and the European Union air safety committee had acknowledged the progress made over the past two years.

He said removal from US and EU blacklists would allow Philippine Airlines to resume flights to Europe for the first time since the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s.

Cusi said PAL also wanted to add to its US service, now limited to the US west coast and Hawaii.

List of airlines banned within the EU

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