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Congress urged to reconsider bill on transport safety board

PASSENGERS queue before the check-in counters at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 after flights were canceled due to technical issues on Jan. 1. — PHILIPPINE STAR/EDD GUMBAN

CONGRESS is being urged to approve a bill creating the Philippine Transportation Safety Board (PTSB), especially after technical glitches in the country’s air traffic system led to the shutdown of Philippine airspace earlier this month.

In a joint statement, seven members of the Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC), as well as the Safe Travel Alliance (STA) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said the 19th Congress should reconsider the PTSB bill.

“The recent incident involving the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and the alleged faulty air traffic management system has brought air transportation safety — and transportation safety, in general — in the spotlight. It was a strong reminder of the need to pass legislation creating the PTSB,” they said.

The JFC members, STA and IATA recently sent a letter expressing support for the PTSB bill to the Senate Public Services and House Transportation committees. The committees are currently holding hearings on the NAIA incident which led to the cancellation and delays of hundreds of flights on Jan. 1.

The bill seeks to create an independent and impartial transport safety body that will address the regulatory gaps in the transport safety bureaucracy. The proposed PTSB will facilitate the enhancement of transportation safety measures and standards.

“Currently, all investigations on transportation accidents are undertaken by the government agencies that have regulatory powers over the respective sector of the transportation industry. Because most of these agencies are also tasked to regulate and/or operate the sector, there is an inherent conflict of interest in the performance of their duties as investigating bodies,” the JFC members said.

While the 18th Congress approved the bill creating the PTSB, this was vetoed by President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. last year.

In his veto message, Mr. Marcos had said the creation of the PTSB “is likely to create functional duplication, confusion as to authority, ineffectiveness, and deficiency in the performance of the responsibilities.” He noted the board will have the same functions as existing agencies under the Department of Transportation, Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation.

“The stakeholders expressed optimism that the current Congress can refine the bill so that the reasons cited for the veto can be addressed,” the foreign chambers, STA and IATA said.

If enacted into law, they said the PTSB can implement programs to prevent major transportation accidents.

The statement was signed by IATA, STA and seven JFC members — the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Australian-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Canadian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Philippines, Inc., Korean Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc., and the Philippine Association of Multinational Companies Regional Headquarters, Inc. — JIDT

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