THE members of the Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC) of the Philippines are calling on the Senate to start its deliberations on Senate Bill 1121, the law creating the Philippine Transportation Safety Board (PTSB), at the soonest possible time, noting the urgent need to institute “structural” reforms in the air transport sector.
In a statement on Monday, the JFC said, “The incident at the [Ninoy Aquino International Airport] NAIA, and the disruption it caused to air transportation throughout the country, is a strong reminder of the need to pass laws to institute structural reforms in the air transport sector.”
On New Year’s Day, the air traffic shutdown stranded tens of thousands of passengers and disrupted nearly 300 flights. In line with this, Senator Grace Poe recently renewed her pitch to enact PTSB, saying this will pave the way toward “safer and more effective journeys for all Filipinos.”
Poe also noted that such should “prompt the creation of the PTSB to expedite investigations, exact accountability and prevent the occurrence of similar tragedies.”
In her sponsorship of SB 1121, Poe stressed: “We need an independent agency that shall conduct independent, thorough, and truthful investigations, and provide corresponding and critical recommendations.”
While the senator acknowledged last week that the Department of Transportation (DOTr), Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) and other concerned agencies can also look into accidents within their jurisdiction, Poe believes “an independent and dedicated agency can more efficiently and expeditiously address such incidents.”
“Much like what we saw during the New Year fiasco at the airport, CAAP will never say that they were remiss with their maintenance. When a ship sinks, MARINA will never say that they failed to conduct the proper inspection. And when a fatal train accident occurs, DOTr will never admit that they bought a malfunctioning train or that corners were cut during construction,” Poe said.
Addressing the Jan. 1 air traffic management system glitch, however, is only the tip of the iceberg of the recommendations contained in Senate Committee Report (CR) No. 39 supported by the foreign business groups.
Other recommendations embodied in the Senate’s CR are the amendment of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) charter to strengthen CAAP as an agency and to decouple its “conflicting” functions as regulator, operator, and investigator.
According to the JFC, the passage of bills creating the PTSB and the Philippine Airports Authority are also contained in the recommendations of the Senate committee report. These recommendations, JFC said, will allow for more “efficiency and transparency” in the sector.
“We urge relevant Committees in both chambers to conduct public hearings on the bills pending at the committee level and for the Senate to commence deliberation on SB No. 1121 at the soonest possible time,” JFC stressed.
The members of the JFC, alongside other industry associations such as the Safe Travel Alliance, Air Carriers Association of the Philippines, and the International Air Transport Association said they have long “advocated” for these reforms.
“We are optimistic that with congressional, executive, and private sector support, we will finally see their enactment in the 19th Congress,” the business and industry groups said.