OTS – To Be Downgraded

The screening of passengers will be returned to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) and the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA). The powers of the Office for Transportation Security (OTS) will soon be watered down.

The OTS, which is tasked to screen all departing passengers at major airports would be scaled-back and reports said it will soon perform oversight functions only.

This is the news that spread at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) this week as all of the international airlines operating in the county held a series of meeting to prepared themselves for the coming transition.

Image Source: Manila Coconuts

The CAAP has jurisdiction over 84 airports in the country, including all major alternate airports. The Miaa, on the other hand, like the Mactan-Cebu International Airport, Clark International Airport Authority and Laoag International Airport, has its own mandate.

“We heard that the document demoting the OTS is now at the office of Secretary Joseph Emilio A. Abaya of the Department of Transportation and Communications [DOTC], said a member of the 40-strong Airline Operators Council, who asked not to be named because he is not in a position to speak on the matter.

OTS, the Frankenstein created by Executive Order (EO) 331, is apparently being defanged after a series of tanim and laglag bala incidents at the premier airport. This has raised a hue and cry here and abroad over the mulcting scheme that victimized local and foreign tourists, especially overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

The process of downgrading the OTS appears to have been hastened after presumptive President Rodrigo R. Duterte warned its personnel to stop the irregularity, or they will be relieved.

Kayong nasa Naia, ’pag may tanim pa diyan… lahat kayo alis [All of you at NAIA, if there’s still bullet planting there, all of you are out],” he warned in a televised interview in Davao City. “I do not care even if your chief of office or your CO there knows or has nothing to do with it.”

The BusinessMirror tried several times to talk to OTS Spokesman Miguel Oraa to confirm the rumor of the OTS downgrade but he did not return the calls.

Why did it take so long for the OTS to be castigated?

Because it believes it has the mandate, citing EO 331, signed in 2004 by then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, as the fountainhead of its vast powers.

Section 1 of EO 331 says: “The Office for Transportation Security [OTS] is hereby designated as the single authority responsible for the security of the transportation systems of the country, including, but not limited to: (a.) Civil Aviation, (b.) Sea Transport and Maritime Infrastructure; and (c.) Land Transportation, Rail System and Infrastructure.

Such sweeping powers over land, sea and air remained unchallenged. In return, the OTS receives a huge amount of funding that come from the fees collected at airports.

Last year, the office received P636 million, records indicate.

“Tucked into the airport terminal fee is the Aviation Security Fee [ASF]. Out of the P550 for international travel, P60 goes to the ASF, while of the P200 terminal fee for domestic travelers, P15 goes to the ASF,” MIAA Spokesman David de Castro said.

He said that there were roughly eight million international and nine million domestic passengers that flew out of the NAIA in 2015. On the other hand, the ASF is also collected from all flights departing from anywhere in the Philippines, de Castro added.

Data from the MIAA showed the domestic and international passengers reached more than 35 million last year.

Before the OTS, it was the CAAP that does the security checking at all airports in the country. This all changed following the September 11, 2001, (9/11) terrorist attacks on the New York Twin Towers.

Immediately following the 9/11 attacks, the US Congress enacted the Homeland Security Administration Act. Under it, the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) came about. It is chiefly concerned with air travel safety. The TSA employs screening agents in airports, armed federal air marshals on planes and mobile teams of dog handlers.

TSA representative Bert Williams came to the country and advised Philippine airport authorities to create a body similar TSA.

“You should have a department with a single authority otherwise we will degrade your airport,” he was quoted as saying by Onie Nakpil, chairman of the Airline Operators Council-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (AOC-ASEAN).

Thus, the OTS was born, tasked to safety-audit all departing passengers at the NAIA, not aware of the conflict it would soon create.

The CAAP, on the other hand, believes that it, having been created by Republic Act (RA) 2427, it stands superior to the OTS that was created by a mere EO.

Section 4 of RA 9497 said: “There is hereby created an independent regulatory body with quasi-judicial and quasi-legislative powers and possessing corporate attributes to be known as the Caap…attached to the DOTC for the purpose of policy coordination.

Under Section 75 on Police Authority, RA 9497 provides: “The Caap director general shall have the power to exercise such police authority as may be necessary within the premises of airports under its jurisdiction to carry out its functions and attain its purposes and objectives.”

Airline officials have questioned why the OTS, which is under the DOTC, should reign supreme over the Caap, which is an attached agency of the DOTC.

“The Caap is a quasi-judicial and quasilegislative body, created by Congress and existing under the mandate of the International Civil Aviation Organization,” said Caap Deputy Director General Rodante Joya to explain it’s pole position in the hierarchy of airport guardians.

He said he does not want to contest the claims of the OTS but leaves it to the DOTC to decide where to grant the power to screen passengers.

On the other hand, Nakpil, asked whether the money from the Asf that is now being enjoyed by the OTS, should also be given to the Caap and the Miaa if the subsequent transfer occurs. He said the money should be able to provide salaries to employees conducting the screening process.

Nakpil opined that the decision to downgrade the OTS should be left to the incoming administration of president-elect Duterte.

Nakpil said that the OTS should also be reduced to a bureau playing an oversight role, to audit of what is going on regarding the implementation of security at the airports.

He added that all X-ray screening should be put under one agency, so that the finger-pointing would cease.

However, Joya said that oversight function is only enjoyed by government bodies that have regulatory powers.

“OTS does not possess that regulatory power,” he said.

“The DOTC cannot give the OTS oversight powers, it can’t override the law because OTS was created through an EO, signed by the President,” Joya pointed out.

To solve this dilemma, other aviation experts have suggested that Congress should create another law for the OTS to supersede RA 9497.

It was under these conflicting circumstances that OTS had survived.

Whenever something controversial occurs at the screening process, such as the bullet-planting scheme, the OTS does not accept the blame but point to the other agencies around and spread the culpability.

Although criticisms were heaped on it during the height of the tanim-laglag bala controversy, it continues to exist apparently unscathed. The DOTC seems to have clothe the OTS with powers that exceeds or equal those of other agencies created by law.

Duterte probably has the Solomonic decision on what to do with the Ots when he assumes office in July, the airline operators said.

Airport scam

ELEVEN personnel assigned at the Kalibo International Airport (KIA) have been sacked by the Caap after the agency found that they have been involved in a money-milking scam.

Involved in a scam wherein they issued to passengers used terminal-fee tickets that enabled them to pocket cash are terminal fee inspectors Daniva Acosta and Shane Alejandro; as well as terminal fee collectors Shiela Oirada, Cherry Peralta, Jojean Conanan, Precious Fernandez, Gerry Revister, Maria Briones, Andy Mel Jones Concepcion and Jovert Alejandro; and Flight Data Encoder Shamar Glenn Mabasa.

Caap Director General William K. Hotchkiss III said the investigation was headed by Joya, who also heads the agency’s Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) Department.

The sacked employees, apparently, were “recycling terminal- fee tickets for several months or possibly years, taking away a substantial amount of earnings from the airport.”

In Kalibo the terminal fee for a domestic flight costs P200, while a passenger is charged P750 for international travel.

“A show-cause order has been issued to the regular employee who works as a terminal-fee collector at the airport,” Caap Deputy Director General for Administration Artemio Orozco said.

Orozco said the CSIS has, so far, only found proof that the members of the group, removed from the agency, were involved in the scam in January and February this year.

He noted that the CSIS is probing deeper to determine how long the modus operandi has been going on at the KIA.

“We cannot yet say how much of the airport’s earnings this group has taken through their scam of basically recycling terminal fee tickets until the CSIS concludes its investigation into how long the group has been involved in the modus,” Orozco said.

Source: Recto Mercene, http://www.businessmirror.com.ph

Satellite Data Could Help Reduce Flights Sidelined By Volcanic Eruptions

A volcano erupting and spewing ash into the sky can cover nearby areas under a thick coating of ash and can also have consequences for aviation safety. Airline traffic changes due to a recent volcanic eruption can rack up unanticipated expenses to flight cancellations, lengthy diversions and additional fuel costs from rerouting.

Airlines are prudently cautious, because volcanic ash is especially dangerous to airplanes, as ash can melt within an operating aircraft engine, resulting in possible engine failure. In the aftermath of a volcanic eruption, airlines typically consult with local weather agencies to determine flight safety, and those decisions today are largely based on manual estimates with information obtained from a worldwide network of Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers. These centers are finding timely and more accurate satellite data beneficial.

Researchers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, are using already available satellite measurements of sulfur dioxide (SO2), a main components of volcanic emissions, along with the more recent ability to map the location and vertical profiles of volcanic aerosols. Researchers are doing this in a number of ways.

A volcanic cloud contains two kinds of aerosols: sulfuric acid droplets converted from SO2 and silicate volcanic ash. Satellites can detect volcanic ash by observing the scattering of ultraviolet light from the sun. For aviation, volcanic ash is potentially the most deadly because of the danger to aircraft engines. While measurements of aerosol absorption in ultraviolet do not differentiate between the smoke, dust and ash aerosols, only volcanic clouds contain significant abundances of SO2, so satellite measurements of SO2 are especially valuable for unambiguous identification of volcanic clouds.

Knowing both the physical location and the altitude distribution of aerosols in the volcanic cloud allow more accurate forecasts in the days, weeks and months after an eruption. “The capability of mapping the full extent of a three-dimensional structure of a moving volcanic cloud has never been done before,” said Nickolay A. Krotkov, physical research scientist with the Atmospheric Chemistry and Dynamics Laboratory at NASA Goddard.

Researchers are currently making these measurements using the Limb Profiler instrument, part of Ozone Mapping Profiler Suite (OMPS) instrument, currently flying on the joint NASA/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA))/Department of Defense Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) satellite, launched in October 2011.

OMPS is a three-part instrument: a nadir mapper that maps ozone, SO2 and aerosols; a nadir profiler that measures the vertical distribution of ozone in the stratosphere; and a limb profiler that measures aerosols in the upper troposphere, stratosphere and mesosphere with high vertical resolution.

“With the OMPS instrument, the volcanic cloud is mapped as Suomi NPP flies directly overhead and then as it looks back, it observes three vertical slices of the cloud,” said Eric Hughes, a research assistant at the University of Maryland, who is working with Krotkov at NASA Goddard.

Knowing the timing and duration of an eruption, the altitude and amount of the volcanic emissions are critical for an accurate volcanic forecast model being developed at the Goddard Modeling and Assimilation Office. The height of the plume is particularly critical for forecasting the direction of the plume. Even several kilometers of height can make a significant difference in predicting plume movement. More accurate volcanic cloud forecasts could reduce airline cancellations and rerouting costs.

While aviation is a short-term immediate application for volcanic cloud modeling, there are also long-term climate applications. “Sulfate aerosols formed after large volcanic eruptions affect the radiation balance and can linger in the stratosphere for a couple of years,” said Krotkov.

There have been large volcanic eruptions that have contributed to short-term cooling of Earth from the SO2 that reaches the stratosphere, which is what happened following the Philippines Mount Pinatubo eruption in June 1991. During volcanic eruptions, SO2 converts to sulfuric acid aerosols. Now researchers are studying the impacts of deliberately injecting SO2 into the stratosphere to contract the effects of global warming, known as climate intervention.

“Nature gives us these volcanic perturbations and then we can see the impact on climate,” Krotkov said. “These are the short- and long-term consequences of volcanic eruptions that have both aviation and climate applications.”

Source: https://www.sciencedaily.com

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. “Satellite data could help reduce flights sidelined by volcanic eruptions.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 May 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/05/160513101012.htm>.

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More North American Tourists for Western Visayas

Iloilo City — As home to global beach destination Boracay Island, Western Visayas is eyeing more tourists from North America flocking into the region.

Iloilo City Provincial Capitol

Atty. Helen Catalbas, regional director of Department of Tourism (DOT-6), said there is a big possibility that tourism arrivals from North America would be boosted with the country’s flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) offering flights from Cebu to Los Angeles, California, United States and vice versa since March 15, 2016.

DOT-6 data shows that 59,793 tourists from the United States, Canada and Mexico visited Western Visayas from January to December last year. Filipino-Americans and business travelers, DOT-6 is expecting a tourism spillover effect in the future as there are domestic flights that connect Cebu to Iloilo and Bacolod-Silay Airports.

On the other hand, low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific has added to the frequency of its domestic flights flying in and out the region’s airports.

For DOT-6, an increase in airline connectivity can make travel easier to the region’s destinations.

Aside from Boracay Island in Aklan province, alternative beach destinations in Western Visayas region include Gigantes Island in Northern Iloilo province, Malalison Island in Antique province as well as the pristine beaches in the island province of Guimaras.

Negros Occidental province is also known for its heritage tourism attractions while Capiz province could very well be promoted as the country’s “Seafood Capital.”

Source: Tara Yap, http://www.mb.com.ph

Philippines AirAsia Flies to Shanghai

Philippines AirAsia announces the resumption of its 3x/weekly flights from MNL (NAIA Terminal 3) to Shanghai (Shanghai Pudong International Airport) starting on June 10.

Flights depart Manila at 11:20 p.m. every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, arriving in Shanghai at 2:40 a.m. Return flights depart 3:40 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday and arriving in Manila at 7:05 a.m.

All-in promo fares for a one-way Manila-Shanghai flight starts at P888, for travel from June 10 to Oct. 29, 2016.

Allegiant Air Buys 4 More A319s From Cebu Pacific

Allegiant Travel Company  signed a sale agreement with Cebu Pacific for four Airbus A319 aircraft. Allegiant is the parent company of Las Vegas-based low-cost airline, Allegiant Air. Deliveries are scheduled from 2017 to 2018.

“As we aim to expand our operations both in the Philippines and abroad, we remain invested in upgrading our fleet with fuel efficient, versatile aircraft. Between 2016 and 2021, we are anticipating the delivery of 30 Airbus A321neos, for long-range capability, and 16 ATR 72-600 turboprop planes, for better inter-island connectivity,” says CEB President and CEO Lance Gokongwei.

CEB currently operates one of the youngest fleets in the world, with an average age of 4.82 years. Its 57-strong fleet is comprised of 7 Airbus A319, 36 Airbus A320, 6 Airbus A330, and 8 ATR 72-500 aircraft.

As part of its conservative fleet renewal program, CEB will be taking delivery of 30 brand-new Airbus A321neo aircraft, the largest model in the A320neo series. The A321neo incorporates new engines and wing-tip devices called Sharklets, which could deliver fuel savings of 20 percent and additional payload or range capability. The aircraft has a flying radius of over 6 hours and can be configured to have up to 240 seats, allowing CEB to access new markets in the Indian subcontinent and Australia.

CEB also ordered 16 ATR 72-600 turboprop aircraft, to meet increasing demand in the Philippines for inter-island services. The ATR planes enjoy a high reputation not only for versatility but also for their ability to operate on short runways. These planes will enable CEB to expand its operations on several smaller airports in its home country, and to contribute to the development of regional transport, trade, and tourism.

Speaking on the agreement, Jude Bricker, Allegiant Travel Company Chief Operating Officer, remarks: “By the end of 2016, Allegiant will be a majority Airbus carrier, as measured by available seat miles. This agreement to purchase additional aircraft from Cebu Pacific is an important step in our long-term transition to a single fleet type.”

Allegiant previously agreed to purchase six Airbus A319 aircraft from CEB, with three remaining deliveries scheduled to occur later this year. The younger A320 family aircraft will help Allegiant to increase operational efficiency in the coming years. The enhanced operating economics of the aircraft will also open up new growth opportunities for the company by making longer routes and off-peak flying profitable.

Foreign Operators Battle for Asian Airports

TOKYO — As privatization offers new opportunities, competition for Asian airports is heating up  with experienced European airport operators seeking a bigger slice of an $80 billion market.

Last April 1, the operation of Kansai International Airport and Osaka International Airport (Itami) have been taken over by a consortium led by a Japanese rental company Orix and Vinci Airports of France. This marks the first time a foreign company has been directly involved in operating a Japanese airport.

 From Portugal to Chile to Cambodia, Vinci operates more than 30 airports worldwide. According to Nicolas Notebaert, Chairman, the company is eyeing the Philippines and Indonesia.

Global air traffic is seen doubling to 7 billion passengers from 2015 to 2034, amid the rise of budget carriers. The Asia-Pacific region, expected to account for 40% of this volume, urgently needs to add air travel capacity to accommodate this growth.

But many airports in developing Asian countries are owned and operated by central or local governments or by state-owned companies. They often lack the ingenuity to improve efficiency and struggle to fund expansion. Governments are increasingly turning to the private sector for assistance, selling long-term management rights in exchange for know-how and money.

The Philippines opened bidding last year on development and operating rights for five regional airports, worth $2.3 billion. Vinci is among the bidders. Indonesia, Mongolia and Nepal are planning to open up airport operation to the private sector as well, including foreign players. The Nomura Research Institute sees an $80.8 billion market for airport management in Asia.

Notebaert expressed confidence in Vinci’s expertise in running airports in developing countries. The company spent about $100 million to expand airport terminals and commercial areas at Cambodian airports. Vinci has lured such global brands as Starbucks, which made its Cambodian debut at Phnom Penh International Airport.

Phnom Penh International Airport

Vinci also shoulders some of the cost of ground handling services for airlines opening new routes or running many flights. It has boosted annual traffic at the Phnom Penh airport by 250% over two decades to 3.08 million passengers.

Aeroports de Paris is also hungry for Asian business. It plans to buy into a Vietnamese airport operator and has joined hands with TAV Airports Holding, Turkey’s largest airport operator, to tender a bid for the Philippine project.

The French company — in partnership with TAV, in which it holds a substantial stake — is involved in running 34 airports worldwide in addition to its domestic business. It has a reputation for boosting profits through such measures as attracting large commercial facilities, and plans to follow this playbook in Asia as well.

Airport management can be risky. Germany’s Fraport plans to sell its 10% stake in the company operating Indira Gandhi International Airport in India, according to media reports in February. It is apparently not earning enough from the venture to justify its investment. Fraport has not commented on the matter.

The airports up for privatization in developing Asian countries include small regional facilities with few routes. Bringing some of these facilities into the black will take time. A long-term strategy and sufficient financial resources for sustained investment to boost the airports’ appeal will be key to the fight for this market.

Source: Nikkei Asian Review, http://asia.nikkei.com