Philippines insists airlines are safe despite EU ban

MANILA: The Philippines on Wednesday insisted its airlines were safe after the Southeast Asian nation's carriers were banned from flying into the European Union.

"Our aircraft meet the international standards in safety," Civil Aviation Authority head Alfonso Cusi said.

He was reacting to a notice from the European Commission made public Tuesday that said authorities in Manila had failed to address safety deficiencies raised by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

It placed all Philippine airlines, as well as those from Sudan, on a "watchlist" of countries banned from flying to the 27-nation bloc.

"In both countries, it's because of serious and persistent non-compliance of the civil aviation authorities in terms of overseeing and checks on aircraft," European Commission transport spokeswoman Helen Kearns said.

The ICAO raised significant safety concerns after it carried out an audit on Philippine carriers in November last year.

But Cusi said improvements had been taken since the November audit, including the hiring of 47 technical personnel to oversee inspections.

"I have invited the EU safety aviation commission ... to come to the Philippines for re-inspection this May to show that we have corrected the problem they have raised," he said.

Flag carrier Philippine Airlines is the only local airline registered to fly to the EU, but its last commercial flight there was in 1999, according to Cusi.