MANILA, Philippines—The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) will continue to cleanse its ranks of corrupt personnel to make air travel safer for all Filipinos, the agency’s chief said.
Speaking at CAAP’s fifth anniversary on Monday, CAAP Director General William Hotchkiss III said he believed the agency would achieve this goal.
“If CAAP were an airplane, I would like to imagine that we were all there in the cockpit going through the checklist to ensure that we had done all that was necessary for a safe and smooth takeoff. If CAAP’s achievements of the past nine months are the yardstick, CAAP has indeed successfully taken off,” Hotchkiss said.
A retired Philippine Air Force (PAF) general, Hotchkiss admitted being elated but at the same time feeling anxious when he was appointed to the CAAP’s top post in June last year.
Most top CAAP officials are retired PAF officers or airline executives who are pilots. One of them, Capt. Francisco Juliano of the CAAP flight operations department, died of a heart attack last month while the agency was about to undergo a final audit by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
“[Thanks] most specially to you, Mr. President, for giving me the opportunity to once again serve our country and people and for believing in a team of ‘retirables’ to lead and manage CAAP,” the 70-year-old Hotchkiss said, nodding to President Benigno Aquino III who was the main guest at the anniversary.
Hotckiss compared the CAAP and its departments to fighter jets flying in V-formation, saying, “There is safety, support and discipline in this kind of movement, characteristics that also apply in managing an organization like CAAP.”
The CAAP chief said reforms had to be implemented to eliminate graft and cut costs at the agency. He said the crash of the plane carrying Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo off Masbate in August 2012 “galvanized” the CAAP leadership into undertaking more reforms to establish “an efficient, competent, moral and professional organization.”
“[T]he untimely death of Secretary Robredo in that plane crash was a glaring indictment that corruption in CAAP kills,” Hotchkiss said, recounting how the crash investigation revealed falsified flight inspections and safety certifications conducted on the plane, resulting in two CAAP employees being charged.
On March 1, the CAAP received the official letter from ICAO communicating that the country had successfully addressed “significant safety concerns” and was now compliant with its international safety standards.”
ICAO’s clearance will allow the Philippines to regain its category 1 rating with the US Federal Aviation Administration and be deleted from the black list of the European Aviation Safety Agency.