Saturday, February 27, 2010

Four more airlines may set up shop at Naia 3

THE MANILA INTERNATIONAL Airport Authority (Miaa) is confident that four new international carriers will start flying out of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) Terminal 3 by the end of the year.

According to Miaa Assistant General Manager Tirso G. Serrano, Terminal 3 is currently being used at half capacity and it will be necessary to utilize more of the facility to address the continuing growth in the number of people using Manila’s airports.

About 24.5 million people used Manila’s four airports in 2009. This is an increase of about 11 percent over the 22 million people the previous year. Manila’s airport system is comprised of the three Naia terminals and the Manila Domestic Passenger terminal.

Naia 3 was opened in July 2008. Last year, about 7.5 million people used it—just half of the airport’s capacity of 13 million people a year.

At that time, only three carriers—Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines (PAL) Express and its sister company Air Philippines—started operations at the new terminal.

Also, work still needs to be done in parts of Naia 3.

“Completion works are being stepped up. It should be ready to accommodate new international airlines,” Serrano said in a recent interview. “Within the year, we are confident that we can get two to four international airlines in Naia 3.”

This year, Serrano said, the number of passengers passing through Manila’s four airports would continue to grow at a double-digit rate, due to the tourism-driven increase in domestic air travel.

With the opening of Naia 3, the airport authority succeeded in decongesting Manila’s airport system, which used to serve 20 million passengers a year—well above its capacity of 18 million passengers a year at the time.

But legal issues over Naia 3’s ownership are still unresolved.

A build-operate-transfer contract for the terminal was granted to Philippine International Air Terminals Co. Inc. (Piatco) and German partner Fraport AG. But the Supreme Court later nullified the contract because of anomalies.

The government then took over the terminal from the original contractor in exchange for an initial compensation of P3 billion, which the government paid Piatco in 2006.

Piatco has sued the government before international arbitration courts for illegally scrapping the contract.

Friday, February 26, 2010

No widowmaker tag on our planes, please—PAF

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) on Thursday appealed to the media and the public to refrain from using the terms “widowmaker" and “flying coffins" in describing its mostly secondhand aircraft.

Ako ay nagre-request sa ating kasamahan na siguro, kung pwede, ma-delete ang branding na widowmaker at saka flying coffin sapagkat ito ay nakakaapekto sa morale ng ating air crew," said PAF spokesman Lt. Col. Gerardo Zamudio in an interview on dwIZ radio.

(I'm making a request that maybe, if possible, please delete the branding [of our planes] as widowmakers and flying coffins because it affects the morale of our air crew.)

Zamudio said their families have been traumatized by such branding. “Every time na lilipad kami, kung ‘yan ay palaging nakatatak sa isipan, magiging trauma sa parte nila," he said.

(Even our families are traumatized if such terms are always imprinted in their minds, especially whenever we go on flying missions.)

Zamudio made the appeal a day after an OV-10 Bronco plane crashed in Tarlac province, killing its two pilots. Last month, eight soldiers, including a general, died when a military Nomad plane crashed in a residential area in Cotabato City.

PAF investigators are now determining the cause of the OV-10 crash, the seventh involving such aircraft. Zamudio said the remaining two OV-10 aircraft would be grounded pending the result of the investigation.

Despite the crash, Zamudio insisted that all their aircraft are well-maintained. “Kung ano ang bigay sa atin ng gobyerno, papangalagaan natin ito para ma-perform ang ating mission."

(Whatever the government provides us, we do our best to maintain them just so we can perform our mission.)

The OV-10 that crashed last Wednesday was a secondhand unit from the Royal Thai Air Force manufactured on June 16, 1971.

Zamudio said the investigation into Wednesday’s crash would be “very tedious" that would require checking the instruments of the crash plane and interviewing the range officer to determine the circumstances that could have led to the accident.

Bacolod eyeing airport terminal fee discounts for seniors

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Bacolod City is planning to give a 20 percent terminal fee discount to senior citizens flying from its airport.

Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia made the request on Wednesday through a letter addressed to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).

Leonardia cited complaints from senior citizens who are disallowed from enjoying the 20 percent discount when they fly out of the Bacolod-Silay Airport Terminal, a report on news site Visayan Daily Star on Thursday said.

Since senior citizens get this discount when they buy their airfare, they should also be given the same benefit on their airport fees, he said.

The mayor argued the terminal fees also form part of their traveling expenses.

He also cited reports that the Mactan International Airport in Cebu grants a 20-percent discount on terminal fees for domestic senior citizen passengers flying out of its terminal.

Leonardia said he will follow up the matter with the office of the CAAP Director General.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Philippines - PGMA orders CAAP to resolve US-FAA downgrade of RP’s aviation ratings

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has directed the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) to immediately resolve the civil aviation ratings downgrade of the Philippines by the US Federal Aviation Authority (US-FAA) so that the country can capitalize on the rebound of international travel and the corresponding global tourism boom.

Talking to reporters covering President Arroyo’s inspection of the tourism-related projects in the Central Philippines Super Region, Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano said the President wants the FAA ratings downgrade issue to be resolved at once.

“Her guidance to the CAAP is that the sooner the issue is resolved, the better for us so we can take advantage of the rebounding international routes,” Durano added.

Durano said the President wanted CAAP (headed by Ruben Ciron) to infuse more technical experts in the agency to overcome the concerns on aviation safety standards in the country

FAA, the US aviation watchdog, downgraded in 2007 the Philippine aviation ratings from Category I to Category 2 along with countries like Bangladesh, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Indonesia due to concerns about air safety operations which, it said, were not compliant with International Civil Aviation Organization standards.

Durano said the President took note of the rebounding global economies, which means more travel by citizens of countries whose economic conditions are improving.

He added that national carrier Philippine Air Lines’ planned expansion of flights to and from North America through its Boeing-777 jumbo jet, the world’s largest twin jet; fleet has been stunted due to the downgrade.

“The FAA downgraded us to Category 2 and because of that, we cannot maximize our opportunities coming from North America, especially now that Philippine Air Lines has new 777 and we cannot use it for this route,” Durano said.

Durano stressed that a contributing factor to the FAA downgrade was the lack of the technical personnel for specific CAAP functions.

Manila’s air safety rating seen raised by end-June

THE Philippines expects the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to upgrade Manila’s aviation safety standards in the second quarter of the year.
Ruben Ciron, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) director general, told reporters that the FAA would upgrade the country’s rating from Category 1 to Category 2.
The Philippine rating was downgraded in December 2007.

Category 2 means the country’s civil aviation authorities do not provide safety oversight of its air carriers in accordance with the minimum safety oversight standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a specialized agency of the United Nations created in 1944 to promote the safe and orderly development of international civil aviation throughout the world.

Among the FAA’s concerns were outdated aviation regulations, poor training programs for safety inspectors, and sub-standard licensing for airframe and engine inspectors.

“We are going to invite them by March or April for initial technical review then we will invite the group for the inspection proper,” Ciron said.

He said other requirements such as the Air Traffic Services, Air Navigation Services and Air Development Management Services had passed the FAA standard.

“But, the problem when the audit was held in October [last year] was that we do not have yet the qualified technical personnel,” he said.

The CAAP head said the agency expects the Civil Service Commission (CSC) to approve the hiring standards for the Flight Standard Inspectorate Service by March or April.

Flag-carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) had said the downgrade put off its plan to open services to San Diego, Chicago, New York and Saipan.

Under Category 2, PAL is prohibited from increasing its 33 flights a week to the US and its territories, as well as from changing the type or increasing the number of aircraft used on these routes.

PAL’s operations to the US mainland account for 30 percent of its total revenue. The airline flies to Los Angeles 11 times a week, to San Francisco nine times, to Las Vegas via Vancouver five, to Honolulu three and to Guam five.

Bid to regain Category 1 status pushed

MALAPASCUA, Cebu—President Arroyo has directed the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) to “resolve immediately” the hindrances to the restoration of the Philippines’ civil-aviation s2tatus to Category 1, according to Tourism Secretary Joseph “Ace” Durano.
Durano told reporters at a media night on Tuesday with Mrs. Arroyo at the Exotic Island Dive Resort, that the Chief Executive gave the directive at the Cabinet meeting in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, that day, after he recommended it.
“The instruction of Ma’am [Arroyo] is again the sooner we resolve this, the better for us so we can take advantage of the rebounding international economy,” Durano said.
Durano said he made the recommendation after the President asked “what else can be done in the next few months that will have an impact on tourism.”
He said, “My recommendation was if we could resolve this issue in the next few months, this will really [have a] big impact in terms of taking advantage of the increased demand now in the international  market. So right now we’re still seeing growth. Right now it’s still the opportunity lost because there are opportunities there that we cannot take advantage of,” he said.
In 2007 the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) of the United States downgraded the Philippines from Category 1 to Category 2, “for failure to provide safety oversight of its air carrier operators in accordance with the safety oversight standards” set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (Icao).
The President signed the law creating the CAAP in 2008 to help regain the country’s Category 1 rating from the FAA, but the CAAP has been found lacking in terms of technical capability, Durano said.
The CAAP was created as  an independent regulatory body with quasijudicial and quasilegislative powers with attributes of a private corporation, and has fiscal autonomy and the power to administratively adjudicate civil aviation-related cases.
Asked about her directive to the CAAP, Mrs. Arroyo told reporters in an informal chat at the dive resort, “They have to hire more experts.”
Durano said the CAAP continues to “lack the technical personnel for specific functions.”
CAAP Director General Ruben Ciron reported to the President and the Cabinet in Puerto Princesa that he would invite representatives from the FAA and Icao in two or three months for another inspection.
The tourism chief said that because of the Category 2 rating “we cannot maximize our opportunities coming from North America, especially now that Philippine Airlines has new 777s,” since such aircraft could not be used for the routes.
He added that Icao has classified the Philippines as having “significant security risks,” which have been cited by Japan and Korea in denying Philippine carriers’ request for additional frequencies.
Durano said executives of Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines have told him that increased demand for travel between the Philippines, and Korea and Japan, had prompted them to seek more flights to those destinations, but the requests were denied due to the Category 2 rating.

All 3 Naia airports near full capacity

LAST year 25 million passengers were registered at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, just 5 million short of the rated capacity of the three terminals of 30 million passengers.
The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) now says, however, that there is no need for all international air carriers to transfer to the controversial Terminal 3 (T3), which the government earlier said must host all the international airlines.
Because of the continuing increase in passenger volume, the three passenger terminals have almost reached full capacity. “So we’re now 25 million, and we have growth space of 5 million, but since T3 is only 50-percent operational, we’ve almost reached the maximum capacity. My point is that even if we open T3 to the fullest, we will not be able to transfer all air carriers at T1 to T3, so T1 will continue to operate,” explained MIAA general manager Alfonso Cusi.
He spoke to journalists at the opening of the four-day 28th Asean International Airports Association (AAA) meeting at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza attended by 20 foreign delegates.
On the other hand, he said that about three international carriers have expressed their intention to transfer to T3, while some are still waiting for the MIAA to settle all legal and other issues before deciding whether to spend millions to construct new facilities for their respective airlines at the new terminal.
“Let’s not be too concerned with what airlines are going to transfer. What is important is that we were able to disperse them so that the passenger volume at T1 was greatly reduced,” he added.
Cusi said having T3 “fully operational” would mean having an extensive parking area, a mall area, and a public area capable of holding a great number of visitors, which are now all absent because of certain unfulfilled work contracts that are under arbitration, negotiation or court hearings.
The MIAA is thus not forcing the issue of having all the 30 company-members on the Airline Operators Council to relocate to T3. “In other words, the airlines would make the decision that is best suited for them. That is our view.”
Cusi said the current trend is for airline companies to engage in low-cost operations because of the high cost of fuel and the drop in passengers as a result of the global financial crisis and this has led the Miaa to plan facilities for such operations.
“We have to anticipate growth, but also be in harmony with the trend, the changing times and this trend is the growth of low-cost operations,” said Cusi.
However, the planned low-cost terminal, which would have no airbridges and no VIP lounges, has been deferred until the next administration, because the authority believes the time is not yet ripe and it must conserve its resources.
The would-be users of this terminal would have been Cebu Pacific, Tiger Air of Singapore and Asian Express.

CAAP told to address FAA, ICAO concerns

MALAPASCUA ISLAND, Cebu — President Arroyo has ordered the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) to promptly address the pressing concerns of the US Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) over the country’s civil aviation status to maximize the opportunities brought by the rebounding international economy, particularly in the tourism sector.
In an interview at the Exotic Island Dive and Beach Resort here where she hosted a media dinner with both local and Manila-based reporters on Tuesday night, Mrs. Arroyo said “we need more experts” to upgrade the technical capability of CAAP.
Tourism Secretary Joseph “Ace” Durano said the directive was issued to CAAP director general Ruben Ciron during the joint National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Cabinet Group and National Anti-Poverty Commission Group Meeting on Tuesday in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.
“As far as tourism is concerned, the President instructed the CAAP to resolve immediately the issue of the FAA and ICAO downgrading of the country's civil aviation status,” he said in a separate interview, shortly before the President’s media dinner.
In December 2007, the FAA downgraded the country’s aviation industry from Category 1 to Category 2 over its failure to implement safety standards set by ICAO.
Durano said the FAA downgrading and the ICAO’s stance to classify the Philippines as among the countries with significant security risks did not only prod the United States government to advise their nationals against using Manila carriers, but also governments of Asian countries, including Japan and South Korea to deny airlines from the Philippines.
“So the instruction of Ma'am is again the sooner we resolve this, the better for us so we can take advantage of the rebounding international economy. That was for me had the most bearing as far as the tourism sector is concerned,” he said.
Quoting Ciron, he said “in two-three months time,” CAAP is set to invite representatives from both FAA and ICAO “to reinspect us.”
Durano admitted that the lack of CAAP’s technical capability keeps FAA and ICAO from giving the Philippines a ratings upgrade.
Asked on how the downgrade has taken toll on the tourism industry, he said: “For me, it's the opportunity lost. I foresee that there' s a lot of opportunities for us right now. In other words, we can do more.”

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

OV-10 Bronco Crashes in Crow Valley, Philippines

MANILA, Philippines - A Philippine Air Force OV-10 Bronco attack aircraft crashed while on aerial gunnery training in Crow Valley, Tarlac Wednesday afternoon, killing its 2 pilots.
The incident occurred less than a month after another PAF aircraft, a Nomad bush plane, crashed in Cotabato City, killing 9 people.,
Initial reports from Armed Forces spokesman Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner said the turbo-prop plane crashed at 2:55 p.m. A UH-1H helicopter with 5 search and rescue personnel later arrived at the crash site and retrieved the bodies.
Brawner said the PAF regularly conducts aerial gunnery training in Crow Valley. "Dyan talaga nagtetraining sila e. Aerial gunnery training so...may targets yan tapos titirahin nila," he told reporters.
He added that it was too early to determine the cause of the crash "but the Air Force will investigate right away."

Reinstated CAAP exec stays barred

DISMISSED Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) deputy director Daniel A. Dimagiba has asked the Civil Service Commission to intervene after he was barred from reassuming his post despite the CSC resolution last February that he be reinstated.
In a two-page letter to CSC-NCR director Myrna V. Macatangay, Dimagiba said he is unable to discharge the functions of his office.
His lawyer, Paris Real, said that contrary to the claim of CAAP director general Ruben F. Giron, Dimagiba did not forcibly enter the CAAP premises last Feb. 15 as he was accompanied by CSC Field Office supervising personnel Margarita Reyes.
Dimagiba was accompanied by officials of Barangay 195 and policemen sent by Senior Inspector Lerpon D. Platon, Pasay City Police Community Precinct 9 chief, upon his request for the smooth implementation of the reinstatement directive.
Dimagiba was dismissed in May 2009 on allegations of misconduct for his approval of the issuance of operating permit to One Sky Aviation Services, Inc.
The CSC overturned the dismissal noting that the Special Hearing and Adjudication Board created by Giron had no authority to suspend or dismiss a deputy director general of CAAP since such power was vested solely on the Board of Directors of CAAP.


His request approved, the CNN News photographer quickly used a cell phone to call the local airport to charter a flight.

He was told a twin-engine plane would be waiting for him at the airport.?

Arriving at the airfield, he spotted a plane warming up outside a hanger.

He jumped in with his bag, slammed the door shut, and shouted, 'Let's go'.

The pilot taxied out, swung the plane into the wind and took off.

Once in the air, the photographer instructed the pilot, 'Fly over the valley and make low passes so I can take pictures of the fires on the hillsides.'

'Why?' asked the pilot.

'Because I'm a photographer for CNN' , he responded, 'and I need to get some close up shots.'

The pilot was strangely silent for a moment, finally he stammered, 'So, what you're telling me, is . . . You're
NOT my flight instructor?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lucky Lady II, a U.S. Air Force B-50 bomber flown by Capt. James Gallagher

Feb. 26, 1949:  Lucky Lady II, a U.S. Air Force B-50 bomber flown by Capt. James Gallagher and his 13-man crew, begins the first leg of the first-ever nonstop flight around the world. The flight, requiring nearly four days and four in-flight refuelings, will be successful, and it will prove to the world that U.S. aircraft are capable of flying from their North American bases and striking any city on earth. But the flight will not be without loss. One of the refueling tankers will crash upon returning to the Philippines, killing the entire crew.

Aviation exec can’t reclaim post just yet

MANILA, Philippines—The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (Caap) on Monday said Deputy Director General Daniel Dimagiba remains officially dismissed until the Civil Service Commission (CSC) decision reversing his dismissal becomes final and executory.
Caap Director General Ruben Ciron said the agency would file a motion for reconsideration of the CSC resolution.
He said Dimagiba forcibly entered the agency premises in Pasay City Monday and installed himself in the training room during the lunch break.
He said Dimagiba and eight companions disrupted an ongoing session and forced those training for the licensing and airmen exams out.
Dimagiba denied Ciron’s accusation, saying that while he welcomed the CSC decision, he would wait for Ciron’s next legal move.
“Ciron does not want me to report and there are 30 guards watching for my entry,” Dimagiba said in a text message to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Aviation safety rate: One accident for every 1.4 million flights

Air travel has been getting increasingly frustrating, with fees, crowds and other hassles, but passengers may be glad to know that 2009 was a banner year for aviation safety.
The year's accident rate for Western-built jet aircraft was the second lowest in modern aviation history -- just behind 2006, according to a new report by the International Air Transport Association. The group started keeping records in 1964.
"It's the airlines continuing to invest in training and technology on the aircraft," said Steve Lott, the group's head of communications for North America.
"We like to remind passengers that they are still in very safe hands. Aviation is still the safest form of transportation, and looking at the statistics, it's still very rare and growing increasingly rare that we see any accidents."
In 2009, the global accident rate for Western-built jet aircraft equaled to one accident for every 1.4 million flights, the air transport group found.
To put it another way, if you were to take a flight every day, odds are you could go 3,859 years without an accident, according to the group's report.
When accidents did happen last year, pilot handling was a contributing factor in 30 percent of the cases, showing how important the human element is to aviation safety, Lott said.
"How do we improve that? It really comes down to training," he said.
Runway excursions, such as the December incident when an American Airlines jet overran a runway in Kingston, Jamaica, accounted for 26 percent of accidents in 2009.
Ground damage accounted for a 10th of accidents last year. How do those happen? One example is when a catering or fuel truck runs into a plane parked at the gate, causing damage and flight cancellations, Lott said.
The 2009 accident rate was significantly higher on Eastern-built aircraft, or those made in Russia and China, but flights on those planes represent about 2 percent of all flights around the world, Lott said.
The International Air Transport Association represents 230 airlines around the globe, including major U.S. carriers such as American, Continental, Delta and United.

The story of Clara Adams one of the Pioneering Women in Aviation, not as a pilot, but as a passenger .

This is a power point Presentation covering the story of Clara Adams one of the Pioneering Women in Aviation, not as a pilot, but as a passenger. Some Fantastic Photos of Flying Boats and The Zepplins, inside and outside.

Spend some time looking at this, a great insight to a world of aviation that is long gone ..

Nice Story regarding a Filipino living in the USA with an Aviation perspective ..

When he saw the video online, state police Lt. Robert D. Smith thought someone had filmed a helicopter from the state police Air Wing, framed by blue sky, flying on a mission.

Then he saw an enormous house take shape in the background and realized the chopper was a working replica of the Eurocopter AS-355N Twinstar his unit flies.

“It looked like ours, kind of off in the distance,” Lt. Smith said.

The video caught the attention of state Trooper and Air Wing pilot Matthew Domnarski, who posted a link to it on his Facebook page. A few more clicks of the mouse led to Vicente K. Vigilancia, 37, of Holden, a pilot in his own right, albeit of a much smaller aircraft than the one Trooper Domnarski flies.

Mr. Vigilancia builds the small helicopters — sometimes spending as much as $1,000 — and often flies them at his home. He videotapes some of the flights and posts them on YouTube.

“People say the Internet pushes people apart. This is an example of how the Internet brought people with similar interests together,” Trooper Domnarski said.

Mr. Vigilancia recently had the chance to meet some of the pilots and show off his work to the very people who fly for the state police.

“I want to fly,” Mr. Vigilancia said of why he builds the small-scale helicopters. “I just want to fly. It is still a goal of mine.”

An immigrant from the Philippines, Mr. Vigilancia moved to Massachusetts five years ago. His wife is a nurse at the UMass Memorial Medical Center — University Campus in Worcester.

But his credentials in airport security, as a national police officer and as an aircraft mechanic, didn't transfer here and instead he took a job at The Boston Lawnmower Co. in Westboro.

Still, the desire to fly seemed to be in his blood, and in his free time he began building small-scale aircraft. He orders parts and assembles some sections while others come preassembled. He makes a maiden flight to adjust the blade pitch, transmitter and other elements before assembling and closing the fuselage.

“You have to do that before you close it,” he said. “Once you close it, you can never do that again.”

While the first flights are cautiously made, they aren't without problems.

“You get a lot of crash,” Mr. Vigilancia said, his accent punctuating his words.

Troopers from the Air Wing section who gathered to watch a demonstration of the helicopter at Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee recently were amazed as Mr. Vigilancia's small helicopter circled around near the much larger craft. They snapped pictures and shot video.

They gasped when he reached under the running helicopter to adjust the throttle as the blades spun close to his arm. A few laughed when the small chopper wouldn't start and Mr. Vigilancia needed to borrow a battery.

“It is just like ours,” they joked.

For the state police model, he studied pictures online and copied the French and electric-blue paint scheme of the chopper — an aircraft he had never seen in person.

He also built a replica of Life Flight, the medical helicopter that flies from the hospital where his wife works.

The Air Wing staff were gracious hosts, allowing Mr. Vigilancia a chance to see their helicopters up close and to compare his work with the real thing.

The small helicopter had similar lights but wasn't equipped with the forward-looking infrared imager the state police use. Still, in a slow motion video with nothing to compare the size to, it's hard to tell the difference.

As Mr. Vigilancia sat in the helicopter, his eyes were bright. He was surprised by the small space, the amount of instrumentation and the feel of the “joy stick” in his hand.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime dream come true,” he said of getting inside the chopper. “It is awesome.”

And it might not be once in a lifetime.

So driven by his desire to fly, the 37-year-old father of two has enlisted in the Army. He leaves in March to spend nine months training at Fort Benning, Ga., before heading to school to be an aircraft mechanic and, he hopes, to his dream.

“Someday, maybe there is an opening and I can apply and fly the helicopters,” he said. “Maybe I can.”

Mr. Vigilancia's YouTube videos of his model helicopters can be seen at

Monday, February 22, 2010

Aviation exec gets job back

MANILA, Philippines—The civil service Commission (CSC) has ordered the reinstatement of the deputy head of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) after voiding the administrative proceedings that led to his dismissal.

In a 20-page resolution dated Feb. 8, the CSC ruled that the investigating body which found CAAP Deputy Director General Daniel Dimagiba guilty of five counts of misconduct was invalidly constituted by CAAP Director General Ruben Ciron.

“The Commission orders the immediate reinstatement of appellant Dimagiba with payment of back salaries and other benefits from the time of dismissal until his actual reinstatement...without prejudice to the commencement of an administrative case against [him] if warranted,” the CSC ruled.

The CSC said Ciron erred in forming the investigative body, pointing to a Supreme Court ruling that only the appointing authority had disciplinary jurisdiction over a public official.

In Dimagiba’s case, the CSC said, he was appointed in July 2008 by the CAAP board and not by Ciron.

“After careful scrutiny of records, the Commission finds no evidence showing that the board delegated to Ciron the authority to initiate the administrative proceedings against appellant Dimagiba,” the CSC said.

5 arrested for pilfering jet fuel

CEBU CITY, Philippines—Airport police arrested five persons, including an airport security guard, for allegedly stealing aviation fuel at the Mactan Cebu International Airport.

The five were arrested between late Thursday and early Friday and were believed to have been repeatedly engaged in pilfering jet-A1 fuel from a fuel supplier that keeps its stock inside the airport.

Senior Supt. Joselito Salido, chief of Aviation Security Group said they had been conducting surveillance since October last year and finally made an arrest Thursday after three persons were caught carrying out from the airport drums of aviation fuel.

The three persons were aboard a white Hyundai pick-up truck (YGZ-303) and had just gone out of Gate 2 when they were intercepted by the airport police at around 10:45 p.m., Salido said.

They were later identified as Patrick Santillana, an aeronautics student and a resident of Barangay Casili, Mandaue City; Lowell Guitguit, of Tuburan town in Cebu; and John Mar Caray, of barangay Casili, Mandaue City.

Santillana was the truck driver and the two were his helpers. Ten drums were found on the truck, seven of which were filled with fuel.

The three upon questioning admitted that their accomplices included an employee of the fuel company and a security guard assigned to the airport’s Gate 2.

By early Friday, police arrested Dennis Quistoy, a blue guard from the Mustang Security detailed at the airport’s Gate 2 and a resident of Soong II, Lapu-lapu City; and Shajid Niez Hafeel, an employee of Safe Air Corp. and a resident of Basak Cabreros, Cebu City.

Salido said it was Hafeel who allegedly facilitate access to the fuel while Quistoy supposedly made sure they got in and out of the airport’s premises undetected.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tests show bomb scanner ineffective, Thailand says

Bangkok, Thailand (CNN) -- A bomb scanner sold to dozens of countries around the world has been shown to be useless at detecting explosives, the Thai government said, raising the possibility that thousands of lives have been lost to bomb attacks because of ineffective screenings.
The Thai government announced Tuesday that the GT200 failed rigorous tests carried out by scientists and the army in Thailand, after concerns were raised that the device was an elaborate hoax.

"We've done a double-blind test where the equipment was only successful in discovering in 20 percent of the cases, when just a random choice would give you 25 percent -- so there's no statistical significance to having the equipment," Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva told CNN.

The device's manufacturer, Britain-based Global Technical, disputed the tests' results.

Thailand has spent more than $20 million for about 700 of the devices, which are supposed to indicate the presence of explosives. Thailand also has paid for the manufacturer's eight days of training for device operators.

After the test results, the Thai government said it was looking into the possibility of legal action against Global Technical.

The Thai army has been using GT200 for six years in the country's troubled south, where insurgents have been waging a years-long secessionist movement, and where bomb attacks occur weekly.

The device also has been sold to Thailand's forensic scientists, navy, air force, narcotics control board and police.

Global Technical said in an e-mail it was "surprised and disappointed by the reported outcome of tests carried out by the Thai government."

It said the results were "completely at odds with other tests carried out by independent bodies" and with "the experience of the large number of users of this product all over the world.

"We shall not be commenting further until we have seen the report and have had the opportunity to study it and, in particular, to understand the testing methodology employed."

Global Technical and its Thai distributor, Avia Satcom, both declined CNN's request for an interview.

The company's Web site says the device has been sold to 30 countries around the world. Some of the countries thought to have purchased the units are the Philippines, Mexico and Kenya.

The British government has banned a similar device, the AED651, made by British firm ATSC, from being exported.

The managing director of ATSC, Jim McCormick, has been arrested and questioned by police, who alleged "suspicion of fraud." The company declined to comment, citing ongoing legal action.

The AED651 has been sold in Iraq and Afghanistan, although the Iraqi army has stopped using it.

Both the AED651 and the GT200 use technology that some scientists dismiss as little more than a car antenna mounted on a plastic box that is designed to act much the way a dowsing rod is used to find water.

"I can see no mechanism of a detecting nature whatsoever, except for the brain of the person who is holding it," said Sidney Alford, an explosives engineer.

"There is no electronic [component]," he said. "I would expect there to be some sort of electronic device if a person had told me this works. I would expect to see electronic components here."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

New heights for Asia's budget carriers

SINGAPORE - It is a sign of the changing aviation times that as once high-flying premium carrier Japan Airlines (JAL) was filing for bankruptcy last month, Singapore's budget flier Tiger Airways was selling its shares to the public to such demand that its stock was oversubscribed by 21 times on the city's stock exchange.

Escalating fuel costs, plunging travel demand amid the global economic downturn, and last year's H1N1 flu crisis, all conspired against the region's full-service carriers (FSCs), causing many to cut routes and trim staff - or, in the case of JAL, to crash and burn under the weight of heavy debts.

JAL, although an extreme case, was not alone among Asia's premium carriers in struggling amid the global financial downturn. Singapore Airlines (SIA), the world’s largest airline by market value, last year reduced its capacity by 11%, delayed the delivery of eight new Airbus planes, slashed staff salaries and working hours - and still incurred losses of S$428 million (US$304 million) in the first six months of the fiscal year, representing the first back-to-back quarterly loss incurred by the top carrier in more than seven years.

Thai Airways also incurred heavy losses on lower passenger loads and top-level mismanagement, raising concerns that the once-proud national carrier could go the way of bankrupt JAL without a major overhaul of its operations. Indonesia's Garuda was forced to defer its plans last year to list on the stock exchange due to a declining financial performance.

Against that grim background, Asia's no-frills, low-cost carriers (LCCs) have used the global economic crisis as a golden opportunity to gain market share and consolidate their positions vis-a-vis premium airlines. That upbeat outlook was evident at an industry conference this month in Singapore, where several LCC senior executives spoke of record profits, ambitious expansion plans and potential stock market listings.

LCCs accounted for 15.7% of Asia's aviation market last year, or just under one in every six seats sold in the region, according to the Center for Asia Pacific Aviation. That was up from just over 14% in 2008 and continues the upward trend from the mere 1.1% LCC's accounted for in 2001. Those market gains, analysts say, have come at the direct expense of the region's premium airlines.

LCCs have done more than change the industry's underlying economics; they've reacted more quickly to changing consumer preferences and trends. When the global downturn hit in 2008, Asian travelers scaled back significantly on luxury seats and increasingly sought out the lowest fares.

Premium airlines, many burdened with rigid fixed-cost structures and high debts, were slow to respond to the shift and as a result lost out to nimbler LCC competitors. In part, that's because LCCs operate on a different set of economic and financial assumptions.

Tony Davies, chief executive officer of Singapore's recently listed Tiger Airways, says his airline has followed in the strategic footsteps of US hyper-market retailer Walmart: "[LCCs] are essentially retailers," he said. "Our business is to sell seats."

Like many regional LCCs, Tiger Airways has beaten down costs by eliminating frills, including on-board meals and on-the-ground ticketing counters. LCCs have traditionally flown routes of four or fewer hours, enabling them to use the same flight crew for return flights on the same day. That has allowed LCCs to hire fewer staff and avoid the significant expense of overnight accommodation for crew members.

Most LCCs also maintain comparatively streamlined fleets, with most deploying a single, fuel-efficient jet type, such as the Airbus 320 or Boeing 787. That's allowed them to save on maintenance, spare parts and training expenses. With such costs driven down, LCCs can charge substantially lower fares than premium airlines without incurring losses, especially in a crisis environment.

LCCs have also found creative ways to raise non-ticket-related income. Known on their balance sheets as "ancillary" revenues, certain LCCs have profited by unbundling products and services that allow passengers to pick and pay for what they want. Lim Kim Hai, executive chairman of Australia's Regional Express budget airline, refers to the unbundling process as "profits without the pain".

They can be collected simply by charging five times the cost for an optional on-board meal, or through more sophisticated tie-ups with the likes of insurance companies that allow LCCs to collect each time a passenger purchases travel insurance with their ticket.

LCC pioneer AirAsia recently established a special financial service and loyalty department to tap into the potential of tying up with banks and hotels to offer jointly issued credit cards, special hotel room rates and other travel-related services. "This way we earn our revenues and also nurture loyalty from our flyers," said AirAsia's department head Johan Aris Ibrahim.

New air frontiers
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), an industry body, said at the recent aviation conference in Singapore that the Asia-Pacific region had overtaken North America as the world's largest air travel market, with 647 million passengers in 2009. That was just slightly more than the 638 million people who flew on commercial flights last year in North America.

Asia's biggest market is China, but the Southeast Asian region also has great potential with its combined market of 600 million-plus people. Industry analysts note that a large percentage of the region's population has yet to travel on an aircraft and at current prices will probably never be able to afford a seat on a full-service airline.

This is the same underserved market segment that LCC executives claim has massive growth potential, especially if the region's per capita income rises as projected. When Malaysia's AirAsia pioneered regional budget travel in 2001, only 6% of Malaysians had flown on a plane. Under a "Now everyone can fly" marketing slogan, the budget carrier has frequently offered ticket prices lower than some bus fares.

"The LCCs have certainly changed the way people travel," said Kris Lim, associate director of the Pacific Asia Travel Association's strategic intelligence center in Bangkok. "They empower travel for more young people with limited travel budgets or simply less-affluent people who cannot afford to pay for full-service carriers."

The recent deregulation of Southeast Asia's skies has opened the industry to genuine price competition after decades of monopolistic collusion among national flag carriers. The Malaysia-Singapore route, for example, was only recently opened to competition after SIA and Malaysia Airlines dominated the route for over 35 years.

Duopolistic behavior resulted in one of the most expensive routes in the world for a 55-minute flight, with ticket prices routinely over US$400. LCCs now offer fares for a quarter that amount and with much higher frequency. AirAsia travels between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore around nine times per day.

Further market liberalization is on the way through Southeast Asia's so-called Open Sky Agreement, which will come into full effect by 2015 and is expected to benefit the region's LCCs. The agreement will allow regional air carriers to make unlimited flights to all 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members and promises to boost intra-regional tourism, trade and investment among member countries - Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

While the implementation of the agreement will no doubt encounter protectionist grumbles, industry analysts believe the trend towards deregulation is well on track. Singapore Transport Minister Raymond Lim this month called for a more level competitive playing field for the region's airlines. "A liberalized regime would also result in greater prospects for economic growth all round," he said.

Whether greater openness will lead to more aviation market entrants is still unclear, given the flagging fortunes of many premium airlines. A recent report from the Sydney-based Center for Asia Pacific Aviation predicts future industry consolidation among smaller players, many of which it predicts will be forced to merge or close as competition heats up.

"Aviation is a highly competitive industry and, not unlike in the banking sector, mergers or consolidations between LCCs are always a possibility due to the cutthroat competition," said Ng Sem Guan, an aviation analyst at the Kuala Lumpur-based OSK research.

For now, many LCCs are aggressively bidding to lure consumers, including higher-paying business travelers, away from their financially troubled premium peers. In that direction, Chong Pit Lian, chief executive officer of Jetstar Asia, ventures that LCCs' cheaper fares mean corporate travelers can fly more frequently to meet their global partners and send junior staff for more training and other exposure purposes.

Still others are bidding to break into premium fliers' once-exclusive domain of long-haul travel, including flights from Asia to Europe at unprecedented low fares. Last year, Malaysia’s AirAsia X introduced long-haul routes from the region to London for a fraction of what premium airlines charge.

If, as expected, other LCCs follow AirAsia X's long-haul lead, the increased competition will make it even more difficult for the region's indebted and loss-making premium carriers to make up lost ground, industry analysts say.

"There will always be a market for premium carriers for travelers who are willing to fork out more for better goods and services," said analyst Ng. "But at the end of the day the survival of airlines will ultimately depend on the management of their balance sheets."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Teen runaway felt ‘guilty’ over airport misadventure

THE 12-YEAR-OLD runaway, who was caught boarding a Manila-bound plane at the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA), was so traumatized by the incident that he would literally jump in fright whenever he sees someone entering a room.

“It looked like he felt guilty for what he did. When he sees someone entering a room, he would run away and hide,” said his social worker Romulo Velasquez in Cebuano.

Airport personnel are under investigtion over Richard's (not his real name) ease in bypassing security in order to board the plane.

But Richard has bigger concerns in mind: how his father would feel about his misadventure.

When Richard learned that airport personnel would be penalized for his little misadventure, he got worried.

He told Velasquez that his father may scold him and won't take him back.

His father would come to Cebu City within a month to bring him home, Velasquez said.

While authorities are working an arrangement to bring Richard home, social workers said there were signs the boy wanted to escape from their education center.

Richard wanted to look for his mother in Manila after she left his family a few years back.

He decided to make his break after he learned that his father, who promised to bring him back home to Eastern Samar, broke his arm in a construction accident.

The decision was firmed up after the discovery that he stole P1,000 from a staffer.

Richard headed to Cebu City with his 13-year-old brother last June in hopes that they would go to Manila to look for their mother.

Instead they ended up in the Pari-an Drop-in Center. His father took his brother home last November.

Richard initially avoided his father and returned to the center a few days earlier.

He studied under the center's alternative education program of the Department of Education (DepEd) but dropped out a few weeks later, citing lack of interest.

Last December, his father vowed to bring Richard back home for Christmas.

But he failed to do so after breaking his arm at the construction site. Social worker Romulo Velasquez said they then noticed Richard's behavior.

“We were surprised because he behaved well. Before, we would always scold him since he wouldn't listen. After his father's accident, he behaved well,” Velasquez said.

Due to his good behavior, Velasquez toured him nearly everywhere including a trip to the MCIA. Richard's father later told the center that he would fetch his son on Feb. 1.

“His father sold coconuts so he could buy fare to fetch his son. But his father wasn't paid for his coconuts, which depressed the kid further,” Velasquez said.

It was at 10 p.m that Richard left the center for the airport.

He later told Velasquez that he asked for directions, toting a knapsack filled with clothes.

“He knew that entering the airport one needs to be clean that's why he was clean-looking and the airport personnel didn't mistake him for being a runaway,”

IATA urges Asia to speed up liberalization of aviation

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has warned that Asian aviation will not reach its potential if the airlines are constrained to old ways of doing business.

IATA noted that the aviation industry is preparing for regional liberalization of market access with the ASEAN target date of 2015. It is important that the target date is met.

"This is already well-behind the industry leading developments in the US-EU Open Skies agreement. Second stage talks will conclude this year with ownership being the most important issue,” said IATA.

“To move liberalization forward, IATA took the extra-ordinary step of calling governments together with IATA’s Agenda for Freedom.

After a year of talks, in November 2009, seven governments, including the US, the European Commission, Singapore and Malaysia signed a multilateral statement of policy principles," said IATA Secretary-General and CEO Giovanni Bisignani.

"These principles preserve a level playing field while addressing liberalization of market access, pricing and ownership. The challenge for Asia is to implement these principles in the region’s bilateral arrangement,” said Bisignani.

“Asia-Pacific’s diversity, dynamism and potential are a great opportunity. Rapidly developing markets are defining aviation’s future. Is Asia-Pacific prepared for the challenges that this will bring?”

Asia-Pacific is home to two of the world’s top five airlines in terms of profitability. At the same time, the region’s governments provided over US$10 billion in government bailouts to airlines in the first quarter of the year.

The region’s two biggest growth markets “India and China” face completely different circumstances. India’s challenge is to reduce costs and improve infrastructure, while China is adjusting to new global trade patterns.

Over the last decade China replaced Japan as Asia-Pacific’s largest player. Today, China’s fleet is 1,400 aircraft compared to Japan’s 540.

Its domestic market of 5.7 million weekly seats is more than double Japan’s 2.6 million and China’s 1.4 million weekly international seat market is now slightly larger than Japan’s 1.3 million.

Transport sector boosts tourist arrivals

CEBU, Philippines - Arrivals to the Philippines is expected to substantially improve this year following the positive performance reported by the transport industry recently.

“We are expecting a substantial boost in tourist arrivals this year given the efforts of the airline industry to cope with the competitive market. Also, initial reports of our partner stakeholders in the transport sector indicate a rising shift in focus from the OFW market to mainstream holiday travelers, which would translate to higher seat allocation for tourists,” said Ace Durano, Secretary of Tourism.

Durano noted in particular the growing Middle East traffic to the Philippines, specifically from the traditional large source markets such as Saudi Arabia and United Emirates, as well as emerging markets such as Kuwait, Qatar, and Bahrain.

“The deployment of modern fleet and facilities has allowed airlines to expand their network, increase flight capacity and service more international points, including the Middle East and destinations around the Asia-Pacific,” Durano added.

The Tourism chief expressed approval over Philippine Airlines’ (PAL) move to resume its direct flights to Riyadh next month, to take advantage of the growing number of Filipinos in the Middle East. He also hailed the 5.35 million passengers or 38.2 percent increase in passenger volume at end-September last year of Cebu Pacific, whose request to fly to Beijing thrice a week this year has recently been approved by the Civil Aviation Board (CAB).

China’s national carrier, Air China, has earlier informed the Department that it would service direct flights to Manila next month, on regular scheduled flights three times a week. Clark-based budget carrier Spirit of Manila, on the other hand, would be flying to Macau, China and Taiwan, and is also expected to start flights to Kuwait, Bahrain, and Dubai this month.

Durano also mentioned the expected increase in number of travelers from Korea as Jin Air, Korean Air’s low cost subsidiary, launches services from Korea to Clark this February.

DOT said that greater air access, coupled with competitive fares and improved accommodations, allows travelers to all the more enjoy and appreciate the country’s diverse attractions in convenience.

With summer close at hand, the Department expects more tourists, along with more attractive fares and promos from the airline industry.

Top markets

Cebu’s hot and emerging market now-a-days for instance are the middle-eastern tourists from Kuwait, Iran, and other countries, mostly who come to Cebu for “educational” tourism.

China, is also one of the top growing markets for Cebu, including Russia for leisure travel, said DOT-7 regional director Patria Aurora Roa.

Last year, DOT announced that additional flights will be opened between mainland China and Taiwan to Cebu and Kalibo.

“Direct flights to their chosen destinations are a growing demand from the Chinese market which continues to be a stable source despite the crisis,” Durano said.

“With help from the Civil Aeronautics Board, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, the Bureau of Immigration, the Bureau of Customs, and our partners in the industry, we have been aggressively pushing for these additional seats, to accommodate the inbound Chinese tourists,” Durano said.

Clark airport raises capacity to 2.5m

Clark-based Diosdado Macapagal International Airport will raise its passenger capacity by 500,000 to 2.5 million annually starting this April, officials said.

The P300-million second phase expansion of the airport is on schedule with its March completion target, officials said.

President Arroyo will inspect today the airport, one of several infrastructure projects she has vowed to complete before her term ends in June.

The airport, which is named after her late father, will feature two aero bridges, flight information display, close-circuit television, background music, public address system, X-ray machines, escalators and elevators, among other modern amenities.

The airport is host to foreign and local carriers flying out of Clark to such routes as Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu, Hongkong, Macau, Bangkok and South Korea with connecting flights to the US, China and Japan.

The Macapagal airport and other major ports throughout the country have been developed or upgraded through an 800 percent increase in fund support given by the Arroyo administration, Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza said. From 2001-2009, around P831 million was allocated for airport projects compared to the P99.84 million allocation from 1994 to 2000, he said.

Night-flying choppers a PNP dream come true

500-watt Xenon search light and infrared image system is mounted on the 
side of the Robinson R44 Raven II helicopter which has night-flying 
capability to bolster the crime fighting efforts of the Philippine 
National Police (PNP). (Photo by ALI VICOY)
A 500-watt Xenon search light and infrared image system is mounted on the side of the Robinson R44 Raven II helicopter which has night-flying capability to bolster the crime fighting efforts of the Philippine National Police (PNP). (Photo by ALI VICOY)

A gang of robbers was desperately trying to get rid of police cars tailing them in a midnight high-speed car chase, but it was impossible to hide: searchlight from a helicopter hovering above was glued to them. They were arrested later, thanks to the chopper personnel who effectively guided ground forces in cornering them.

It is a scene straight out of Hollywood films and television programs, but Filipino lawmen can now do the same type of crime-busting with the acquisition of three night-flying choppers by the Philippine National Police.

"The tactical capability of these aircraft translates to greater operational advantage in our anti-criminality, public safety and law enforcement missions," said PNP Director General Jesus Verzosa during Wednesday night's blessing of the three new Robinson R44 Raven II police helicopters at the Camp Crame parade grounds in Quezon City.

"These new police choppers will see action in our election security campaign against partisan armed groups, threat groups, and election law violators," he added.

He said the helicopters would be prepositioned in areas where criminality is highly likely during the May 10 elections.

The P104.9-million Raven police helicopters, acquired through the PNP Capability Enhancement Program, are capable of flying for three hours on a standard fuel load at a cruising speed of 130 miles per hour and a range of 300 miles.

The new helicopters, one bought in the Unites States and the two others in Europe, have standard equipment like infrared imaging system and monitor which make them capable of being used at night time, and dual audio controller for police radios for contact with ground troops.

All of the four-seater choppers are equipped with a 500-watt Xenon searchlight which is useful in illuminating dark areas and in focusing any target of the police operation during nighttime. But only one of them, with tail number RP 4025, has loudspeakers which are used to play the pre-recorded voice "Huwag kikilos, pulis ito!" (Police, don't move!).

It has also rotating video camera below its head which is used in recording images of the operation. The images are seen in the large monitor located at the front seat.

"It (RP 4025) is similar to the one being used by the Los Angeles Police District ( LAPD)," said Director Leocadio

Santiago, whom the three newly-acquired choppers would be given command to, being the commander of the Special Action Force (SAF) which is designated as the custodian of PNP air assets – a total of six, including the three brand new ones.

Santiago could not hide his happiness, like a child who just obtained new toys, over the new air asset acquisition admitting that he has long dreamed of the PNP owning choppers similar to the ones he watches on American crime-busting television program.

"We only see them in American movies and television programs; we already own one now. It was just a dream before, it is a dream that came true now," Santiago told reporters.

He explained that the chopper equipped with searchlight will provide effective strategic command and control functions to coordinate ground units in police operations particularly during mobile pursuit situations.

The other two, he said, can provide tactical support for fire suppression, aerial reconnaissance, supply and airlift for ground troops in field operations, troop insertion, and medical evacuation.

Santiago said all three choppers are highly maneuverable and could easily be dispatched since they do not need much time to warm up the engine unlike ordinary helicopters.

This specification, the official said is very useful in immediate response and in the conduct of surgical strikes on ground targets such as fortified enemy encampments and bases of operations.

"We will be in constant communication with the NOC (National Operations Center), and these will immediately be flown, if needed," he said.

With the newly-acquired air assets, Santiago said they would be compelled to have more personnel trained as pilots, revealing that they would be sending at least four of his officers to the US for helicopter-flying training. The SAF has currently six pilots.

But it would take another round of long-time waiting before additional choppers woukld be added to the PNP fleet of rotary-wing aircrafts as there is no scheduled purchase of additional helicopters at least for this year.

NIGHT-FLYING CHOPPERS INFORMATION (Robinson R44 Raven II Police Helicopter)




PGMA inspects DMIA expansion project

CLARK FREEPORT ZONE, Jan. 11 — President Gloria Macapgal-Arroyo inspected today the on-going passenger expansion project of Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) passenger terminal.

The project, which is being done in two phases, is expected to improve the terminal’s ability to accommodate the expected influx of passengers using DMIA as gateway to other parts of the country. It is also meant to give the already attractive complex a touch of sophistication and entice investors and locators to set up shop there.

Phase I is composed of building a two-storey terminal facility with two passenger boarding bridges equipped with flight information monitor, closed circuit public television, public address system, x-ray machines, and elevators and escalators.

At a cost of P308.88-million, this phase will allow large aircraft to load and unload passengers through tubes at door level. This enhances comfort and convenience since passengers will no longer use stairs.

On the other hand, Phase II calls for the expansion of the pre-departure and arrival areas and the construction of a domestic flight terminal, airline offices, check-in counters, and passenger baggage conveyor belt.

An outlay of P200-million is required for this phase.

Nestor Mangio, chairman of Clark International Airport Corporation, said DMIA will be able to accommodate 400,000 passengers a year once construction of the two phases is completed this year. Nine carriers use DMIA: Jet Air, Asiana, Air Asia, Spirit of Manila, Tiger Airways, Cebu Pacific, Sea Air, Singapore Airlines, and the Philippine Air Force

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hike in budget modernized RP airports

THE transportation department on Monday said a number of airports throughout the country would not have been modernized, developed and upgraded if not for an increase in budget.

For the period 2001-09, a total of P831.016 million was allocated for airport projects compared with P99.84 million allocated from the years 1994 to 2000, or an increase of 832.35 percent.

This, said Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza in a statement, helped finance the modernization of the Laoag Airport in Ilocos Norte, Vigan Airport in Ilocos Sur, San Fernando Airport in La Union, and the Lingayen, Rosales and Alaminos airports in Pangasinan.

During the same period, 10 municipal port projects were completed by the department with the support of the local government units. Completed at the cost of about P17.2 million for years 2001 to 2009 were the San Vicente, San Esteban and Santiago Ports in Ilocos Sur, and the Picocoboan Port in Pangasinan.

On the other hand, the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) spent a total of P331.38 million for the completion of port projects in the Ilocos and Cagayan Valley regions, which include the improvement, modernization and rehabilitation of Curimao Port, Ilocos Norte; Port of Aparri, Cagayan; Port of San Fernando, La Union; Port of Basco, Batanes;  and Port of Baloganon, Masinloc, Zambales (Central Luzon).

Also, the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) in Ilocos and Cagayan Valley Regions reported that in 2001 to 2009, it had collected a total revenue of P7,358,188. This posted a ratio of revenue collected against the revenue target percentage of 174 percent.

In the last eight years, Marina offices in the Ilocos and Cagayan Valley regions regularly conducted mobile registrations along coastal areas and inland waterways. Regional director Bienvenido Ortiz Jr. of Marina in the two regions said that among the regions in the country, the two regions have the least number of maritime accidents.

Meanwhile, the various Land Transportation Offices (LTO) in the region also reported an improvement in the registration of vehicles and apprehension of colorum and smoke-belching vehicles.

The LTO in Ilocos region reported a revenue collection of P3.56 billion from 2001 to 2009. It also reported that there are now several ISO 9001-2000-certified LTO Drivers License Processing offices in this region. They are its offices in San Fernando District Office, Dagupan, Lingayen and Urdaneta.

Seven additional LTO District and Extension Offices have applied for ISO certification. These are in Agoo, Rosales, Alaminos, Batac, Candon, Laoag and Vigan Extension Offices.

Further, LTO Ilocos Norte implemented aggressively the Roadside Inspection for Mobile Air Conditioning System and the Antismoke Belching Campaign to ensure compliance to smoke-emission standards on motor vehicles under the Clean Air Act.

SBMA: No rush to close Subic airport

SUBIC BAY FREE PORT—While the Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA) is losing money ever since Federal Express transferred its Asia One logistics hub from here to China in February last year, Subic authorities are still reluctant to close it down.

Armand Arreza, administrator and chief executive officer of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), said they are still evaluating its viability and exploring alternatives for the SBIA, which serves as a secondary airport and a main diversion terminal for the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila.

“There is no rush to close the airport,” Arreza told Subic locators in a recent meeting. “Actually, we are still marketing the airport and looking for other alternatives to make it useful.”

Arreza said among the options under consideration is turning part of the 200-hectare airport into a logistics area.

“If we convert 40 hectares of the airport’s 200-hectare area, then we can raise about $80 million,” Arreza said.

“This 40-hectare portion could serve as a logistics area, while the rest could be used for commercial development,” he added.

The SBIA grew from what was the Naval Air Station when Subic was still an American military base.

Built in the early years of the SBMA in the hope of servicing both passenger and cargo planes, the SBIA is equipped with a 2,728-meter runway, modern navigational systems, and a 10,000-square meter passenger terminal that could handle 700 passengers at any given time.

The airport can also take in 41 commercial aircraft, a capacity proven in the past few years when Taiwanese passenger planes were diverted to Subic after the island-nation was buffeted by typhoons.

Since 1996 until February last year, the Subic airport served as the Asia-Pacific hub of courier giant FedEx. But when FedEx planes flew out to China for good in 2009, the SBIA was largely relegated to serving as the base for training schools.

Meanwhile, the dream of having passenger airlines making connecting flights to Subic never really took off after some attempts by several firms.

According to SBMA records, aircraft movement in the Subic free port significantly dropped from 108,686 in 2008 when FedEx still operated out of Subic, to just 57,246 in 2009.

Similarly, passenger movement plummeted from 10,682 in 2008 to only 7,059 in 2009.

Arreza said that due to slow business, the airport has been missing out on its $20-million loan payments.

“Economically, it doesn’t make sense anymore to continue its operations,” Arreza said in a recent media briefing. “It doesn’t even break even anymore, as it did when FedEx was still here.”

Arreza said the planned conversion of part of the Subic airport is consistent with the SBMA expansion program, which was meant to address the limited commercial and industrial space in Subic’s controlled area.

“The trend now in Subic is to move out of the central business district, and even outside the traditional boundaries, the fenced-in portion,” Arreza said.

“We will now focus on developing significant infrastructure facilities in those areas in order to generate more investments outside the traditional boundaries of the free port,” he added.