Safety in our skies

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    THE security of air spaces above the land and water territories of the Philippines is a shared responsibility of the military, particularly the Philippine Air Force (PAF), and civilian aviation authorities, among them the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP). As more and more people are allowed to use air transportation and tourism girds for a comeback, the safety of civilian aviation and its insurance from attacks from its two big threats — COVID-19 pandemic and international terrorism — has become an imperative concern.

    To ensure that the air territory is safe, the Air Force has beefed up its air assets with six new turboprop warplanes, strengthening the fighting capability of the 15th Strike Wing. The Air Force will no longer have to rely on the aging fixed-wing aircraft in the fleet — the North American Rockwell OV-10 Bronco, Aermacchi SF-260TP and the FA-50 which they used in liberating Marawi City.

    ‘…it seems the national security adviser of President Duterte will have to wait for a few days more for a response.’

    Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana asserted: “The Super Tucanos are crucial because the OV-10s are for decommissioning. It will complement the FA-50 which we used in Marawi City. Meaning, we can have support planes in different parts of the country at any one time.”

    The CAAP, meanwhile, is holding a four-day webinar on drones or Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS), which started on Monday. The webinar, hosted by CAAP’s Regulatory Standards Development Division, features lectures from regulation officers and industry practitioners who will give an overview of the rules, regulations, and certification processes as established by CAAP as well as the latest trends in the industry. The popularity of this activity and its subject is evidenced by the enthusiasm of its 845 participants. They will discuss RPAS registration for commercial purposes as well as how it should operate in order to safely co-exist with other aircraft and seamlessly integrate into the airspace.

    All these technological intervention measures to maintain security of Filipino lives in relation to air travel seemed compromised by the series of incidents that Defense Secretary Lorenzana and Secretary Hermogenes Esperon Jr., national security adviser, are concerned about.

    There were reports that US surveillance aircraft flying over the Yellow Sea between China and South-North Korea allegedly used codes belonging to Philippine and Malaysian civilian airliners. The information emanated from the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative which identified the aircraft as US RC-1355 and it used a code assigned to the Philippines. Chinese authorities were suspicious because the Philippines does not do patrol operations there, which is clearly beyond PH territory.

    Mindful of the adverse effects on the Philippines of such a situation, Esperon officially wrote the US Embassy in Manila for an explanation about the report, and it seems the national security adviser of President Duterte will have to wait for a few days more for a response.

    Lorenzana and Esperon should clear this matter with the people, considering that the lives of Filipino travelers will be in put in harm’s way if a Ukraine-like mis-encounter occurs high up in the air or a Malaysian Airline tragedy is repeated.