US removes Philippines from air safety blacklist

MANILA (AFP) - The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has removed the Philippines from its air safety blacklist, Manila said on Thursday, opening the door for its airlines to expand services to the United States.

The FAA decision comes after the European Union in July 2013 lifted its own ban on Philippine carriers after they upgraded their aviation safety standards.

"From one major achievement to another in a span of less than two years, the country has made great strides in enhancing its aviation industry to one that is at par with the best in the world," Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya said in a statement.

The upgrade will have a significant impact on the country's economy, boosting tourism, trade and business relations, he added.

The FAA put the Philippines on its Category 2 blacklist in 2008, saying it had failed to comply with international safety standards.

This resulted in Philippine carriers being banned from expanding services to the United States. The European Union U in 2010 banned all Philippine carriers from flying to Europe for similar reasons.

Philippine aviation agencies have been raising their standards to get off the US and EU blacklists, reforming the aviation administration and increasing the monitoring of airlines and aircraft.

A letter from the FAA, released by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, praised "the hard work completed by your government on the safety oversight system".

The FAA website said it had raised the Philippines from a "Category 2" rating back to "Category 1" following a March 2014 review that found that the government now complies with International Civil Aviation Organization standards.

Philippine Airlines, the only Philippine carrier with flights to the US, had been allowed to continue services but under heightened FAA surveillance.

As a result of the safety upgrade, other Philippine carriers can now fly to the United States while PAL can add routes and increase flight frequencies.

The United States is seen as a key market for Philippine airlines which have long sought to expand operations to that country.

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