Filipino airlines suffering from poor aviation rating

February 17, 2010 at 6:48 pm 1 comment

GOTCHA By Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) Updated February 17, 2010

RP aviation’s poor international rating has begun to trouble Filipino airlines. This is the gist of Foreign Undersecretary Franklin Ebdalin’s recent letter to Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines chief Ruben Ciron.

On Feb. 8 Ebdalin wrote Ciron that Korean civil aviation officials had nixed Philippine Airlines’ bid for a Cebu-Seoul route. Saudi Arabia too may delay resumption of the flag carrier’s Manila-Riyadh flights. Authorities in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Australia have begun inquiring about RP’s aviation record and policies. Meaning, international operations Cebu Pacific and Zest Air too could be impaired. Revenues would be lost from the traditional high-profit routes.

The cause of all this is twofold. First, in Nov. 2007 the US Federal Aviation Administration downgraded RP to Category-II in security and safety. Facilities and personnel of the Air Transport Office were found wanting. Sadly it was the private sector that suffered from government’s poor grade. Filipino carriers to the US were barred from setting up new or expanding old services. The CAAP hastily was formed to stop the decline. Hardly any improvements happened, though. So hit, second, the recent posting by the International Civil Aviation Organization of “significant safety concerns.” RP was lumped with backward or failing states like Angola, Bangladesh, Congo, Djibouti, Kazakhstan, Rwanda and Zambia. The UN agency found that of 191 navigational facilities RP-wide, only 16 are reliable, eight are due for recalibration by end-Feb. 2010, and the rest are in disrepair. Again private carriers are the ones punished for the CAAP score, in terms of restrictions like the Korean action against PAL. Yet 90 percent of CAAP revenues come from navigational charges on airlines.

Ebdalin in his letter asked Ciron what CAAP is doing to address the US-FAA and ICAO concerns. The answer is yet unknown, as Ciron’s performance is being reviewed by Malacañang. Meanwhile, Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza is claiming in press releases that airports RP-wide improved under President Arroyo. This was supposedly because of an 800-percent funding increase in 2001-2009.

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Surveys consistently show political tyro Joey de Venecia to be ahead. He’s in the Magic 12 circle of candidates likely to make it to the Senate. If he does, Joey would be the first OCW (overseas contract worker) to reach the Upper Chamber. He was assigned in Kuwait City and Baghdad before the Iraq-Iran War broke out. He moved to New York as full-time MBA scholar and a part-time professor at Fordham University, then signed up with SGV and Arthur Andersen in Washington, DC.

Joey is better known as the whistleblower who fought the ZTE scam and saved the people P17 billion in bad debt (first exposed in this column). Before that, he was already in info-tech, the introducer of broadband to RP and founder of the first call center, an industry that today employs 650,000 and grosses P270 billion a year. As early as 2000 he was named to the World Who’s Who for achievements in the field. Joey’s platform is for a mobile for every Filipino and a computer with Internet for every family as the way out of poverty.

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Rep. Baham Mitra is racing against time to save his gubernatorial bid in Palawan. He is asking the Comelec en banc to overturn its 1st division’s disqualification of him for non-residency. Any decision should come before month’s end. For, by then, the Comelec will start printing the official ballots and Mitra needs his name to be included.

Mitra’s disqualification is by technicality and what he calls patent abuse of discretion. He has always resided in Puerto Princesa, Palawan’s capital where his father Speaker Ramon Mitra Jr. too had lived. In Aug. 2007, three months after winning his third three-year term as congressman, Puerto Princesa became a “highly urbanized city.” As such, it would no longer vote for governor of the province starting 2010 elections.

Mitra scouted around for a suitable new home. He found a site in Aborlan town and started building. Meantime, he rented a shack and set into motion the official transfer of his voter registration. Meantime, too, his main contender Pepito Alvarez, a businessman from Mindanao with office in the Visayas, registered for the first time as a Palawan voter in Dec. 2008. Then came the shocker. Two supporters of a political foe questioned before the Comelec his lack of legal Palawan residency one year before running for office. Allegedly the house he is erecting and hut he is leasing are unlivable by a congressman’s standards. And the Comelec believed them.

Now Alvarez is virtually unopposed. Everyone knows the Mitras are from Palawan and that Baham has served as its rep for nine years. But the province is about to have a first-time Palawan voter for governor.

The disqualification revives the old debate on residency as domicile. And people are asking if the Comelec would rule Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ineligible to run for congresswoman of Pampanga, having resided in Malacañang the past nine years.

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“A dream encompassing others can become a vision; dreaming wholly for yourself can become an illusion.” Shafts of Light, Fr. Guido Arguelles, SJ

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Entry filed under: GOTCHA by Jarius Bondoc.

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