October 02, 2023
Makati City, Philippines – Industry leaders and government officials earlier this week expressed optimism towards the current outlook of the country’s aviation sector, highlighting concerted private sector efforts of airline companies to optimize airline processes through digitalization, as well as key legislative updates and government priorities for the air transport sector.
Staged by the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) and the Asian Business Aviation Association (AsBAA) together with the Department of Transportation (DOTr), the inaugural two-day 2023 Aviation Summit brought together key government officials, foreign diplomats, as well as thought leaders and prime movers of the aviation industry to dissect issues and challenges faced by the sector, and discuss collaborations and solutions for both the private and public sector to undertake.
Empowering the Growth of the Aviation Industry
The Philippines and the rest of the Asia Pacific region’s aviation market is swiftly recovering and seeing a consistent rise in terms of growth in international and domestic travel. According to Yuli Thompson, Area Manager for Southeast Asia International Air Transport Association (IATA), passenger traffic trends for international flights in the Philippines were logged at 75% of 2019 levels as of June 2023. As for Asia Pacific passenger forecast, Yuli adds that domestic travel will fully recover in 2023, while international travel will occur sometime in 2026. Further, Asia Pacific will be seen to lead in traffic growth in the next 20 years.
However, overcoming current challenges and riding on the current momentum and meeting full recovery will require strong interventions from all players in the aviation sector.
From the airline industry, Cebu Pacific Air Vice President for Customer Service Operations Lei Apostol is looking to encourage travel by ensuring positive customer experience, which they aim to optimize across their operations.
“Overcoming industry complexities and challenges while maximizing growth opportunities is achievable by looking at existing technology, keeping the passenger at the heart of what we do, and communicating to our passengers at every step of their journey,” said Apostol.
Moreover, Cebu Pacific Air Chief Executive Officer Michael Szucs also emphasized the need to invest in infrastructure, citing that “Philippine carriers will need to quadruple in size to cater to growing demand”.
In her keynote speech, Secretary Grace Poe urged stakeholders to support necessary infrastructure investments, especially following the air system glitch incident earlier this year. The senator called for the acquisition of a new Communication, Navigation, and Surveillance/Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM). The senator also recommended the hiring of a third-party maintenance provider for the CNS/ATM system.
"It is my hope that the government, the private sector, and other stakeholders can work together and collaborate on air transport projects which will not only generate economic growth, but also provide our people with excellent and affordable public services that can improve the quality of life for all,” said Poe.
Senator Poe also filed Senate Bill 1121 for the creation of a Philippine Transportation Safety Board. This is also a top-priority advocacy of the ECCP and the AsBAA.
A spotlight on aviation workforce and safety
Under the directive of the administration of President Marcos, Department of Transportation Undersecretary for Aviation and Airports Roberto Lim highlighted the government’s key priorities, including aviation safety and strengthening of learning institutions. Usec. Lim further noted the agency’s priority of strengthening the Civil Aviation Training Center and engaging with the private sector as close partners for Air Transport Skills Training and Development.
“If we are able to train our air traffic controllers, we would not only meet our own requirements, but the requirements of other countries. We can develop this on an institutional basis,” said Lim.
Kurt Edwards, Director General of the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC) also raised that much is to gain by ”opening the industry and making it more known to people”.
In terms of managing safety risks, Captain Manuel Antonio Tamayo, Director General of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), shared initiatives to advance safety capabilities in the aviation sector through the State Safety Program (SSP). The program employs a risk-based approach to regulations, capacity building, and integration of a new organizational structure for monitoring and evaluation.
Additionally, he also cited recent gains of the agency, namely its Head Office being in the process of being certified for ISO 9001:2015, the Iloilo International Airport receiving its ISO 14001 Certification on Environmental Management System (EMS), and with Panglao International Airport next in line for ISO Certification on 14001.
More Robust and Sustainable Aviation Sector
In his closing remarks, DOTr Secretary Jaime Bautista stressed the agency’s goal to rehabilitate the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) through a public-private partnership agreement, which will present a “landmark opportunity for economic growth, improved infrastructure, and a world-class travel experience.”
“We are also developing regional airports, such as the unsolicited proposals for the operations and maintenance of the Bicol International Airport, Bohol-Panglao International Airport, and Laguindingan Airport,” said Bautista.
The agency also highlighted the support of various aviation stakeholders, and the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) on the use of Sustainable Aviation Fuel or SAF by 2025.
“While the use of biofuels for flights is seriously studied, SAF use on ground equipment gets equal attention. We look forward to creating a plan on how best to proceed,” said Bautista.
From the perspective of the Civil Aeronautics Board, the present status of Philippine Aviation according to the Secretary is ripe for strategic investments in airport development and operation; maintenance, repair and overhaul or MRO, and public-private partnerships (PPP) in airport development.
Further, he also emphasized the existing efforts of the agency to privatize NAIA and the search for investors to develop regional airports and support tourism promotions.
“Airport networks provide a never-ending challenge to adapt and upscale our standards. We should respond with precision and efficiency to sustain passenger safety and comfort,” said Bautista. “We have so far succeeded due to the cooperation of various stakeholders. We have also demonstrated that private sector collaboration has high success rates.”
The Aviation Summit is one of the Chamber’s biggest flagship advocacy events organized with its Aviation Committee, and currently stands as the largest gathering of the aviation industry in the country.
The inaugural event featured many distinguished speakers, including Senator Grace Poe, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Public Services; Hon. Jaime Bautista, Secretary of the Department of Transportation; Hon. Christina Garcia Frasco, Secretary of the Department of Tourism; Hon. Roberto Lim, Undersecretary of the Department of Transportation; Capt. Manuel Antonio Tamayo, Director General of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines; Hon. Julius G. Neri, Jr., General Manager of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA); Hon. Bryan Andersen Co, Senior Assistant General Manager and Officer-in-Charge of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA); Capt. Edgardo Diaz, CAAP Deputy Director General for Operations; and Hon. Richard Gordon, Chairman and CEO of the Philippine Red Cross, among others.
The Summit was organized in partnership with the Department of Transportation; Co-Presenter Cebu Pacific Air; Advocacy Partner Secure Connections; Platinum Partner Philippine Airlines; Gold Partners Metrojet Limited, SITA, and World Fuel Services; Bronze Partners dnata, Wingbox Aviation, Aviation Concepts Technical Services Inc.; Networking Partners Qatar Airways and Ocampo & Manalo Law Firm; Session Partner Pacific Cross Insurance, Inc.; Conference Bag, ID, and Lanyard Partner FedEx; Media Partners Aviation Updates Philippines, AVGeekPH, Business World, OneWorld Media, PortCalls, and Globaltronics; and Beverage Partners Boozeonline, Charles & James, and Le Cellier Quality Store Corp.
More than 400 participants, including representatives from government officials as well as experts and leaders hailing from European and Asian aviation industry businesses and organizations, took part in the event.