Wednesday, March 31, 2010

EU Bans Airlines From Philippines, Sudan on Safety

The European Union prohibited all airlines based in the Philippines and Sudan from flying in the bloc under the latest changes to a list of unsafe carriers. The EU said “serious safety deficiencies” in the Philippines’ regulation of carriers and a “poor safety performance” by aviation authorities in Sudan justify the operating bans.

The European Commission, the 27-nation EU’s executive arm, cited assessments by the International Civil Aviation Organization. “We cannot accept that airlines fly into the EU if they do not fully comply with international safety standards,” EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas said in a statement today in Brussels.

The EU also restricted the operations of Iran Air, eased curbs on TAAG Angola Airlines by letting it fly to all EU destinations under “strict conditions” rather than only to Lisbon, and permitted North Korea’s Air Koryo -- on the list since 2006 -- to operate in the bloc with two approved aircraft.

This is the 13th update of a blacklist first drawn up by the commission in March 2006 with more than 90 airlines mainly from Africa. The ban already covers carriers from nations including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Indonesia, Liberia and Rwanda. Airline crashes in 2004 and 2005 that killed hundreds of European travelers prompted EU governments to seek a uniform approach to airline safety through a common blacklist.

The list, updated at least four times a year, is based on deficiencies found during checks at European airports, the use of antiquated aircraft by companies and shortcomings by non-EU airline regulators. Poor Safety Records In addition to imposing an operational ban in Europe, the blacklist can act as a guide for travelers worldwide and influence safety policies in non-EU countries.

Nations that are home to carriers with poor safety records can ground them to avoid being put on the EU list, while countries keen to keep out unsafe foreign airlines can use the European list as a guide for their own bans.

The new measures affect about 40 carriers in the Philippines including Philippine Airlines Inc. and Cebu Air Inc. and 12 in Sudan, Helen Kearns, transport spokeswoman at the commission, told reporters. None of those carriers currently operates services to the EU, she said later by telephone.

Friday, March 19, 2010

CAAP to invite EU committee to conduct RP safety inspection

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) hopes to demonstrate the country’s commitment to improved air safety oversight by inviting the European Union Air Safety Committee (EU-ASC) to conduct its own Safety Inspection of the national aviation system, according to Director General Alfonso Cusi.

The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) downgraded the Philippines from Category 1 to Category 2 in November 2007 after the then Air Transportation Office (ATO) received unfavorable review under FAA’s International Aviation Safety Assessment.

Despite the passage of a new law that created CAAP and replaced the former ATO in 2007, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) still raised a Significant Safety Concern (SSC) on the Philippines last year.

This led to the invitation by the EU-ASC to a conference in Brussels this week which many observers deemed as notice that the Philippines would likely be blacklisted by the European Commission (EC).

“We are actually on a mission here. We hope that we can convince them that the Philippine aviation system is safe and that it is not necessary for them to blacklist us,” Cusi declared.

“It will be detrimental to the Philippine economy if we are disconnected from this very important trade and commercial route because of a blacklist.” The new CAAP chief has also ordered heightened surveillance inspection of air operators conducting international flights and other measures to address air safety concerns barely a week since his appointment.

“There is urgency in our current position to demonstrate that we have strong oversight of the air carriers active in the Philippines and that our regulations and practices are aligned with international civil aviation standards,” he stressed. He called for the immediate hiring of 47 qualified technical personnel for the Flight Standards Inspectorate Service and the issuance of an order that will ground air operators who are not certified by December 1, 2010.

He also sought the assistance of the Civil Service Commission for the immediate approval of the Minimum Quality Standards for the needed technical staff.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Funding for TPLEX assured

IN case bank financing becomes a problem due to the slow right-of-way (ROW) acquisitions, the consortium led by DMCI Holdings and San Miguel Corp. (SMC) will be ready to draw more funds from its equity just to make sure it will be able to finish the 50-kilometer initial stretch of the $312.5-million Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX) in less than three years.

“If financing is still not available, we will put the additional capital. That is also what San Miguel said. We need to keep to the spirit of this public-private partnership,” Jorge Consunji, DMCI president and COO, told reporters on Tuesday.

Already, Consunji said TPLEX proponent Private Infrastructure Development Corp., which is 70 percent owned by SMC and DMCI, has already made available P1.5 billion from its funds. The amount, he said, can be used by the consortium to run the construction operations for 12 to 18 months.

He said under the project terms of reference, Banco de Oro and other partner-banks will only release financing after the ROW for the entire 50-km stretch from La Paz, Tarlac, to Carmen, Pangasinan, has been acquired by the government.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the team of Presidential Management Staff chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr. have so far secured only 30 km of ROW.

To be able to acquire the ROW for the properties to be affected along the 50-km stretch, Consunji said about P4 billion is needed.

The consortium is shouldering some of the advanced payments for the ROW. It is awaiting the P3-billion financing from the National Development Co. (NDC). It also has a bank credit line of P10 billion. Consunji said they are ready to finish the La Paz to Carmen section in two-and-a-half to three years, “depending on the delivery of the ROW.”

He said they are ready to begin construction in La Paz going to Carmen after the Holy Week. Construction already started in Carmen going south, so the road buildup will be simultaneous in both ends, and will meet somewhere in between.

“We can proceed without financing for up to 18 months,” he said.

TPLEX is the next major road project in the area after the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway. With these two expressways connected, travel time from Balintawak to the foot of Baguio City in La Union will be cut to about three hours.

Philippines gets 10 Doppler radars

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine government on Wednesday said it has acquired 10 new Doppler radars, 5 of which are expected to be fully operational in the next two years.

President Arroyo announced the acquisition in her speech at the 28th anniversary of the Department of Science and Technology's Philippine Council for Industry and Energy Research and Development.

In an interview, DOST Undersecretary Graciano Yumul said Doppler radars are useful in providing detailed weather information including intensity and volume of rainfall in the country.

He said the radars still need to undergo debugging to make sure it reaches the standards and picks up signals properly. "Kung baga sa bagong kotse, it has to reach its first 5,000 kilometers to 'break-in,'" he told reporters.

He added that he hopes three Doppler radars in Subic, Baguio and Baler will be operation in time for typhoon season this year.

Officials of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) earlier blamed lack of Doppler radars for its failure to accurately predict the amount of rainfall brought by Typhoons Ondoy (Ketsana) and Pepeng (Parma) last September and October.

The twin storms claimed the lives of over a thousand people and destroyed property worth about P38 billion.

PAGASA officials earlier said a Doppler radar costs around P100 million.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

NAIA steps up preparations for Holy Week exodus

With the Holy Week exodus due to peak next week, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) has intensified preparations to ensure safe air travel.

New Manila International Airport Authority General Manager Melvin Matibag has ordered the fine tuning of preparations on a day-to-day basis, radio dzBB's Denver Trinidad reported Wednesday.

Matibag said he expects the volume of passengers to double or even triple during this period.

He ordered check on safety preparations particularly at the NAIA's Terminals 2 and 3, which handle domestic flights.

Also, he ordered regular meetings with managers of Terminals 1 and 2, and the airport's domestic terminals.

For their part, the Philippine Coast Guard and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency have teamed up to keep watch against attempts to smuggle drugs during the Holy Week.

Radio dzBB's Carlo Mateo reported that Coast Guard spokesman Cmdr. Armand Balilo had ordered tight watch particularly over tourist destinations such as Boracay, Palawan, and Bohol.

Balilo said they will monitor closely possible smuggling of methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) and ecstacy pills.

For its part, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board started on Monday the review applications for special permits.

The special permits allow bus operators to operate outside their regular routes as provided for by their franchises

Caticlan proponent says ‘no deal’ yet

THE PROPONENT of the P2.5-billion Boracay airport modernization project has yet to forge deals with any party, including conglomerate San Miguel Corp., an executive said yesterday.

“No agreement with anyone,” George T. Yang, chairman of Caticlan International Airport Development Corp., said in a mobile “text” message.

In a disclosure, San Miguel said it was “in talks with the consortium led by Mr. George T. Yang for the acquisition of up to 51% equity interest.”

The government signed a 25-year concession agreement with Mr. Yang’s conglomerate last year.

Mactan int’l airport terminal project expansion underway

The expansion of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport terminal has finally begun.

The P178.6 million project aims to accommodate more travelers and improve the quality of available services, said MCIAA general manager Danilo Augusto Francia at a press conference yesterday.

It includes the construction of two more passenger waiting lounges, two boarding bridges, and two passageways to the bridges.

The project is slated for completion on September 2011.

Funding will come from the airport's revenues, which has reached P76.03 million,

When the Mactan airport was opened in the 1960s to replace the old Lahug airport in Cebu City, the facility was built to accommodate 4.5 million passengers during peak hours: 4 million domestic passengers and 500,000 international passengers.

Last year alone, one million international passengers used the Mactan airport, where daily traffic has exceeded its capacity.

The airport welcomes an average of 14,000 passengers daily, mostly from domestic flights, said Francia.

“This was not prepared to be an airport hub when this was constructed. We noticed that the lounges were not enough to accommodate the existing passengers,” Francia explained.

“All the counters are enough except for the lounges. That is why all the expansion is for additional lounges. That is the concentration for this construction.”

The expansion “will add comfort and quality for the passengers.”

He assured that construction, which will go on for 18months, will not disrupt airport operations.

Security will also be tightened with the installation of more closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras .

Last week, a woman, who had just sent off her daughter on a dawn flight, lost her bag to a taxi-riding robber who stopped her as she was walking on the road over a block away from the terminal.

About 200 construction workers will be on duty in different shifts at the airport, said Francia.

Their movements will be monitored and all gates will be fitted with CCTV cameras to record any untoward incidents, he said.

Full-court press for category 1 for Naia

THE new head of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (Caap) on Tuesday said he has appointed 23 technical people—check pilots, cabin crew, accident investigators, aircraft inspectors, other related positions—with 23 more later to meet the pre-requisites of international aviation-safety rules to ensure that the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) regains its Category 1 rating.

The Category 1 rating means an airport meets all security and safety standards and is safe for any aircraft to use. The Naia has been downgraded to Category 2 after an International Civil Aviation Organization (Icao) inspection found it deficient in many technical requirements.

Caap Director General Alfonso Cusi said new personnel will man the Flight Standard Inspectorate Service to meet the Icao flight-safety requirements and especially that of the European Union, which earlier threatened to boycott the Naia if the Philippines does not quickly raise the airport standard. “My first day in office at the Caap was spent looking at the ‘serious safety concern’ that the Icao had raised last October which I will present at the European Union in Brussels this week,” said Cusi. “I am now confident that the country would no longer be blacklisted by that aviation body.”   

He is scheduled to brief Daniel Calleja, the European Union director general for transportation and energy, on what had been achieved by the agency in compliance with their safety concerns aired by the Icao audit team last October 2009. Cusi flew to Brussels on Tuesday for the crucial meeting.

Air-safety certification review

IN this connection, Cusi said his office had issued an advisory to all airline companies that all who had not been certified by the aviation body in compliance with the Civil Air Regulations would no longer be allowed to fly starting December 2010. “Republic Act 9497 creating the Caap had ruled that all airlines must comply.”  

Among the rules these air carriers must follow in order to continue flying is to have airworthiness certifications of all their airliners. Furthermore, all of their pilots must be qualified, and they must have the proper facilities such as repair shops, training program and servicing facilities.

Deputy Director Eduardo Kapunan said that every year, all air carriers undergo this certification; at present the country has some 1,400 registered aircraft.

He added that due to the sad experience of an air carrier being involved in several accidents, the Caap has now added a stipulation that the airline companies must also have a “Safety Management System,” meaning, they must have operation manuals, written flight-safety standards and other safety-related systems.

On top of that, the Icao has required that, in order to pass certification, an aircraft must also have the approval of the Joint Aviation Regulation, which is the Caap’s counterpart in the European Union. Their aircraft must also have been certified by the United States and Canada.

This means that European, Canadian or American-made aircraft have a greater chance of getting through the certification, rather than those made elsewhere, such as the Chinese-made MA-60 and the LET 410 made by the Czech Republic.

Aviation rating key to recovery -- PAL

FLAG CARRIER Philippine Airlines (PAL) is banking on the country’s return to the US Category 1 aviation safety rating to hike revenues in the coming years.

PAL President Jaime J. Bautista told reporters at the sidelines of the airline’s 69th anniversary that the company is expecting to break even in the coming 2010-2011 fiscal year but said aviation safety issues plaguing the country can be resolved soon.

“It’s only on the condition that we should be able to fly to the United States as soon as possible with our new [Boeing] 777 that we will not get a third year of loss. But for the coming year income is not contingent on the category,” said Mr. Bautista.

The United States Federal Aviation Administration downgraded the Philippine aviation from Category 1 to Category 2 in 2007 due to noncompliance with International Civil Aviation Organization safety standards, preventing PAL from expanding operations in the United States. A second review in 2008 yielded the same result.

Mr. Bautista said the government should be able to get the Category 2 classification lifted in six to 12 months.

The airline wants to fly to Chicago, San Diego and New York and may also mount additional flights to San Francisco. It is also planning flights to India through Bangkok, Thailand

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Videos of the Fire at Omni

The professionalism of the CDC fire Department, CIAC Fire response team
and the Air Force Fire Department is impressive. All three teams responded
rapidly and efficiently ..

The Fire burnt quite fiercely, flames 30-40 feet in the air
The two guys in white are from the CDC Public Safety Department
They did a fantastic job for just two of them.

The CIAC Fire Truck wetting down the remaining grass
to prevent re-light. The pressure from this pump is awesome.
Nice to know how good it is if there was a need to use it on a plane

The aftermath, not much Grass left. Lots of roasted
Cobras and homeless Swallows

Just had a massive Grass Fire at Omni. Photos Below ..

A brave Omni Pilot taxis by the flames ..

CIAC Fire Department on the job, way to go boys ..

Flames leap 30-40 feet into the air, the grass was DRY ...

CIAC Fire Truck in action, that is a LOT of High Pressure Water ..

The Omni Fire Team did their part ..

RP, Australia partnership defines strategic nat’l transport network

The Philippines-Australia Partnership for Economic Governance Reforms (PEGR) has defined a strategic national transport network under the proposed national transport plan for the country.

The strategic national transport network will serve to create a unified, well-integrated economy where people and goods can move and trade swiftly and efficiently both domestically and internationally, according to assistant team leader George Esguerra.

The network would expand capacities and level of service in the inter-regional and inter-provincial transport links based on the emerging concentrations of demand generated by industries and services.

Esguerra stressed that the country’s roads, seaports, airports, and railways have been spotty and many of them are operating beyond asset capacities.

As specified in the plan, the strategic national road network consists of north-south road backbone, east-west laterals, and other roads of strategic national importance which inter-link regional and provincial capitals, growth centers, and defined principal ports and airports of the country.

The plan aims to increase the paved ratio from 21% to 90% of the entire road network by end-2016.

As regards the national port network, it covers the base ports and terminal ports under the jurisdiction of the Philippine Port Authority (PPA) and the Cebu Port Authority (CPA), and ports directly managed by the special economic zones, particularly the Subic Port (SP) and the Mindanao International Container Port (MICP).

The plan targets to improve or construct 15 RORO terminal ports and nine ports for international transport and strengthen port security systems and procedures of all national ports by end-2016.

The national airport network, on the other hand, consists of the international ports under the special airport authorities and the national airports in the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) airport classifications, except the 40 community airports while the road RORO terminal system includes the identified Western, Central and Eastern Nautical Highways.

Under the plan, four international airports (Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA), Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), Mactan, Cebu and Laoag) will be developed and four intermodal and tourism airports such as Panglao, Caticlan, Puerto Princesa, Butuan and Cotabato – are to be expanded.

The strategic national transport network translates to a seamless, intermodal transport logistics network connecting production hubs, distribution centers and markets to establish high-quality, efficient logistics chains.

Part of the plan is to establish a single transport document for customs, immigration, quarantine and security purposes that can be used in all transport modes and a single access point for administrative processes and procedures to promote the simplification and decentralization of exchanges of freight-related information and to substantially reduce the cost of regulatory requirements.

The proposed NTP is estimated to cost P748 billion or about 1.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), about 69% of which are for road and road transport.

The investment cost is slightly higher than the average actual investment in transport infrastructure during period 1999-2008, which is less than 1% of GDP, but is significantly lower compared to about 4% for other Asian countries.

San Miguel eyes Caticlan airport project

Firm to buy 51% stake of George Yang’s group

MANILA, Philippines--San Miguel Corp. has gained a foothold into a pioneering airport development business by taking a majority stake in the modernization of the Caticlan airport, the gateway to the country’s world-famous beach spot Boracay Island.

Inquirer sources said San Miguel had agreed to come in as a strategic partner of the consortium led by Chinese-Filipino businessman George Yang that bagged the right to modernize the Caticlan airport under a 25-year concession arrangement with the government.

San Miguel is expected to sign an agreement to buy a 51-percent interest in Yang-led Caticlan International Airport Development Corp. (CIADC) anytime this week, a source familiar with the matter told the Inquirer. The conglomerate was invited to participate in the much-awaited project by Yang himself and the partnership deal had been in the works for many months now.

CIADC’s Caticlan project is touted as the first ever privatization of an airport terminal in the Philippines. At the same time, it is in line with San Miguel’s diversification into the infrastructure business and recent foray into leisure estate development in Boracay.

The modernization of the Caticlan airport alone is worth around P2.5 billion, based on the framework approved by the National Economic and Development Authority. But the project also has a commercial component that entails the development of a 16-hectare property beside the airport. This peripheral project is estimated to cost P10 billion.

The upgrading involves the construction of a bigger airport passenger terminal, extension of the existing runway from 950 meters to 2,100 meters to accommodate bigger aircraft, improvement of the road network, and upgrading of airport facilities and air traffic control aids. The proponents have also committed to build other support utilities, install fire-fighting equipment and construct a diversion road.

The project is based on a build-rehabilitate-operate-transfer agreement. CIADC has up to seven years to build and expand the airport and 25 years to operate the facilities. All revenues will go to CIADC except for earnings from the operation and maintenance of navigation systems, which would go to the Department of Transportation and Communication.

The modernization work on the Caticlan airport started last January. Once finished, CIADC expects fares to be more competitive for passengers since airlines can use aircraft with more seating capacity than the turbo-propellers that are mostly being used today. A modernized Caticlan airport is also targeted to serve as an international gateway not only to Boracay but also to the rest of the Visayas.

Yang, who holds the master franchise for American fast-food giant McDonald’s in the Philippines, also has some real estate investments in Boracay.

San Miguel, through its property arm San Miguel Properties Inc., is also breaking into Boracay’s booming tourism after recently acquiring a 28-hectare property targeted for leisure development.

SMPI’s Boracay property is adjacent to the plush Shangri-La hotel and is now being planned for development into a residential condominium complex.

GMA scraps $100-million Clark airport deal with Kuwait firm

CLARK FREEPORT, Pampanga , Philippines  – President Arroyo has directed the scrapping of the Kuwaiti Al Mal Consortium in the list of possible contractors for a $100 million passenger terminal at the Diosdado Macapagal Internatiional Airport here amid controversies.

Reliable sources from Malacañang and the Clark International Airport Corp. said the President relayed her directive to former Malacañang public affairs secretary Edgardo Pamintuan during her visit to her hometown in Lubao on Saturday.

“Cut it (any negotiation with Al Mal),” an angry President was quoted to have said. Mrs. Arroyo was reported to have been angered by reports linking her to Al Mal’s interest in the terminal project. Al Mal is a subsidiary of the Kuwaiti firm M.A. Kharafi and Sons.

Pamintuan said in a text message to The Star that the President was supposed to meet about this with CIAC president Victor Jose Luciano, CIAC executive vice president Nestor Mangio, and CIAC executive vice president Alex Cauguiran at the Haribon aviation complex of the Philippine Air Force before flying to the Visayas yesterday morning.

“Let’s make it (President’s directive) after she has met with them,” he said.

Reached by phone, Mangio, who has been pushing for Al Mal as contractor for the project apparently retained hopes that the Kuwaiti firm, with its local partner Al Mal-Pride, would still get the project amid a seven-day deadline imposed on Friday, for it to agree to CIAC’s terms of agreement on the project.
“The President went to the Middle East last year to look into the capability of Al Mal to undertake the airport project. We were impressed by the airport project it built in Egpyt,” he said.

But The Star obtained from a CIAC source early yesterday a statement that was supposed to be released after a meeting of its board late in the afternoon to officially announce the termination of negotiations with Al Mal-Pride as the President had directed.
Terminate negotiations
“We are terminating the negotiations with the Al Mal-Pride consortium due to the non-acceptability of their proposed terms and conditions for a possible joint venture agreement with CIAC for the development of various components of DMIA complex,” the statement said.
The statement said that “out of respect for the other party and until they have officially received our written communication, we will have to refrain from discussing those grounds for the rejection of their proposal.”
But it also said “we categorically deny any attempt to railroad the award of the project to Al Mal-Pride consortium. Records will bear out that Al Mal’s unsolicited proposal to develop the DMIA was first submitted all the way back to April 2008.”

“CIAC had been very careful and judicious in negotiating the terms of our agreement. But while we needed to develop DMIA through the entry of much needed foreign investments, we also needed to protect public interest and make sure we will not violate the law. It was a difficult balancing act,” the statement further said.
CIAC executive vice president Cauguiran said that Al Mal had been pushing for onerous provisions in its version of TOR, including the prohibition of any operation of a premiere airport within a 150-kilometer radius of the DMIA.

Aviation Security Group arrests Albay mayor at Naia for violating firearms ban

THE Aviation Security Group (ASG) assigned at the premier airport yesterday prevented the mayor of Malinao, Albay, from boarding his plane after he was found to be in possession of a caliber 45 pistol with a bogus Commission on Election, (Comelec) gun exemption.

P/SSupt. Napoleon Lim Cuaton, the chief of the National Capital Region aviation police, said Mayor Avelino Ceriola surrendered his gun upon entering Terminal 2 while on his way to board Philippine Airlines (PAL) flight PR 277 bound for Legaspi City.

The ASG authorities immediately subjected the gun for verification with the Comelec. However, the election body said Ceriola was not on their list of persons given the authority to bear or transport the firearm in connection with the May 10 elections.

Cuaton informed Ceriola of the Comelec’s findings and immediately placed the latter under arrest.

Ceriola is now confined at the ASG headquarters while waiting to be brought to the Pasay City Fiscal’s Office for inquest.

Ceriola becomes part of more than 1,000 individuals who violated the election gun ban since the prohibition was enforced, according to the Philippine National Police (PNP).

PNP spokesman Supt. Leonardo Espina said that so far, the number of gun-ban violators has numbered 1,376, most (1,212) were civilians while the rest (164) were state employees.

To date, the PNP has recovered 1,187 firearms, 800 air guns and replica guns, 328 bladed weapons, and 224 grenades and explosives.

The latest to be apprehended were 15 individuals, 14 of them civilians, whose firearms and weapons were confiscated by authorities on March 10.

Espina said a total of seven firearms, one air gun and five bladed weapons were seized from the gun-ban violators.

Last December the Comelec issued Resolution 1814, which recalled the permits of all gun holders, including private individuals acting as security aides of politicians.

The ban does not cover members of the police, the military and other law-enforcement agencies who are on duty.

The directive, which will be in effect from Jan. 10 to June 9, is intended to minimize violence during the campaign period leading to the May 10 polls.

No Visas required - Refurbished golf course to revive Subic airport

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — Subic Golf Course operator Hanafil Golf and Tour Inc. will revive the Subic Bay International Airport by bringing in more foreign golfers once the golfing facility is finished.
The company plans to resume its junket flights after golf course stakeholder Hanatour, South Korea’s largest tourism company, pledged to bring in tourists directly to Subic.

“We are planning to use the SBIA and a partner airline company with low cost fares to bring in more golfers from other countries. The golf course was designed to handle 180 golfers a day, and that number will expand once we add nine more holes in the next phase of the development,” Hanafil President and CEO Benjamin John Defensor III said.

Currently, the company has completed 40 percent of the reconstruction process for the course.
“That includes the reshaping of the greens and fairways of the first nine holes to make it flow better,” Defensor said.

“Current improvements are the eco-friendly irrigation system that uses recycled water, brand new nursery that can use salt water and the drainage system that was replaced to accommodate the volume of rainfall come this rainy season.”

“But these renovations are not just for new members; the company is also accommodating all previous members of the golf club as long as they update their accounts and coordinate with us and the SBMA (Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority),” Defensor said.

An agreement was signed recently between the Bureau of Immigration (BI) and the SBMA and Clark Development Corporation (CDC) that would allow visa-free entry to foreigners visiting the two free ports.
Under the agreement signed by Immigration Commissioner Marcelino Libanan with SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza and CDC President Benigno Ricafort, officers and personnel of foreign locators in the two free ports may now enter and stay in the country without a visa for a period of 14 days.

The privilege, however, will only be extended to those arriving through the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) or the SBIA.

Caticlan airport closed after plane conks out on runway

The Caticlan airport was closed again after a 19-seater Seair passenger plane got stuck on the runway when one of its tires burst upon landing on Monday, airport authorities said.

The Seair plane did not carry passengers when the incident occurred 7:34 a.m. Monday, and all three crewmembers on board—the pilot, the co-pilot and a mechanic—were safe, Caticlan airport manager Mecine Torres told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a telephone interview.

The Southeast Asian Airlines flight DG 705 burst its left tire while landing at Runway 06 of the Caticlan airport at around 7:30 a.m., said reports reaching the Manila International Airport Authority, which operates the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) terminals.

Piloted by Captain James Bihasa with a certain First Officer Cuaresma as co-pilot, the plane left NAIA at around 6:30 a.m. to pick up passengers in Caticlan. The third passenger is an unnamed flight mechanic.
The Let 410 aircraft with registration number 2928 has a seating capacity of 19 passengers.

At the NAIA, at least 15 flights to Caticlan airport were delayed and diverted Monday morning to nearby Kalibo airport.

Mecine said the airport was supposed to resume its operations sometime afternoon of Monday after the plane was towed to the ramp.

The Caticlan airport was previously closed several times after planes either overshot or undershot the runway on landing.

Air Philippines resumed its flights to Boracay on December 1 while that of Cebu Pacific returned on March 1.
Air travelers may view what further flights may be affected at the MIAA website (

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Category 2 could permanently damage tourism

While we continue to struggle with our economy that has become largely dependent on remittances from Overseas Filipino Workers, the downgrading of the Philippines’ rating to Category 2 by the US Federal Aviation Administration more than two years ago could permanently damage the tourism industry. It can be recalled that in the November 2007 audit conducted by the FAA, the country’s civil aviation system was found to be seriously noncompliant with standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization.

Unfortunately, the Category 2 rating gave the public a false impression that Philippine carriers like PAL are not safe – when in fact, the deficiencies (operating regulations, technical guidance, licensing and certifications) were more procedural and technical in nature. FAA found that the then-Air Transportation Office did not have authority “under existing national regulations to conduct appropriate safety oversight functions.” ATO’s record-keeping and filing system was in disarray; it lacked necessary equipment, personnel and technical procedures to certify the airworthiness of carriers; employees conducting airman licensing tests do not have appropriate training and qualifications. Likewise, there was no training program for basic areas of inspector functions. Worse, the FAA could not identify who in the ATO was fully trained. In short, personnel were doing jobs which they were not qualified or trained for.

The government scrambled to restore the country’s Category 1 rating by scrapping the ATO and creating the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines in 2008. Unfortunately, ICAO’s recent issuance of a significant safety concern or SSC rating – putting the Philippines in the same category as 13 other countries like Angola, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Rwanda – again gave the wrong impression that Philippine carriers are not safe when in fact, all these failures have nothing to do with an airline’s operations or its safety record. In fact, PAL, the country’s flag carrier, adheres to international aviation standards and is the only Philippine carrier to pass the International Air Transport Association (IATA) operational safety audit.

I was told by the president of PAL, our good friend Jimmy Bautista, that CAAP inspectors must have the necessary qualifications and the length of experience to do their jobs competently. CAAP was created as an autonomous and centralized civil aviation authority, but a DOTC circular ruled that current inspectors – who presumably were holdovers from the defunct ATO and found unqualified under standards set by the ICAO – are protected by the Civil Service Commission.

The best solution is for CAAP to hire qualified consultants to expedite the lifting of the Category 2 rating and address ICAO’s SSC rating. This is what Indonesia did after it was given a Category 2 rating. This adversely affected its flag carrier, Garuda Indonesia, because it had to suspend flights to Los Angeles. Late last year, the US government invited the carrier to reopen direct flights to the US after the Indonesian aviation rating was upgraded to Category 1. CAAP should follow Indonesia’s example and help our airlines that are already suffering from the global financial crisis like PAL and even Cebu Pacific. What is strange however was the manner by which the FAA downgrade was implemented. The audit was done in July 2007, followed by a written warning to ATO in October indicating that the issuance of the Category 2 rating was imminent. At the time, Hawaiian Airlines was filing for a Foreign Air Carrier Permit with the Civil Aeronautics Board to operate to Manila from Honolulu. According to sources, the FAA officially issued the downgrade in January 2008 – after Hawaiian Airlines obtained a temporary operating permit from CAB. Worse, the FAA waited until after PAL pushed through with its purchase of the Boeing 777s which were specifically targeted for the long range US market. As it is, PAL’s planned flight increase to Honolulu and other US destinations have been put on hold – making the airline a clear victim of the FAA downgrade. Sources say the cost to PAL alone is $100 million a year since 2007, so you can just imagine the damage not only on the flag carrier but on the tourism industry as a whole, especially with news that Australia and the European Union are planning to issue a similar downgrade to the Philippines’ aviation system. I really don’t understand why government has failed to act quickly in lifting the FAA downgrade and protect this country from unnecessary aggravation. This is no longer about politics but our own pride as a country and the protection of our interest as a nation, which is why government should strengthen the mandate of civil aviation authorities.

As a matter of fact, I myself have a first-hand experience regarding safety violations. Last weekend, we were flying by helicopter en route to Batangas and avoided – by just a few seconds – a collision with a seaplane piloted by some American named Mike O’Farrell, registered under Subic Seaplane Inc. with the devilish number RPC-666. There is no question the fixed-wing aircraft had no business flying on a helicopter route at that altitude. O’Farrell is 66 years old and is definitely beyond the age limit for flying a commercial aircraft. The irony is, he’s even claiming to be close to the US Embassy. So what?!? He can be close to Obama – who the hell cares! We’re talking about lives here, particularly that of the tourists he flies. There have allegedly been numerous complaints against this old pilot about culpable violations regarding air safety rules and regulations but surprisingly, he’s still allowed to fly. Ironically, we’re given a Category 2 rating by the US FAA but here’s an American violating our own air safety rules.

It is totally unacceptable for a foreigner to blatantly ignore and violate our air safety regulations. Civil aviation authorities must act on this matter immediately because the next time this over-aged pilot flies on the wrong altitude, he may kill 300 people on a 747. This is only one of the safety problems that aviation officials must address quickly – and not react when lives have already been lost.

Read the Article here ..

Palace executive introduced Kuwait company, admits Clark official

CLARK FREEPORT, Pampanga , Philippines  – The chairman of the Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC) yesterday said a Malacañang official “introduced” Al Mal, a subsidiary of Kuwait’s Al Kharafi, as contractor for the $100-million new terminal project at the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) here.
In a telephone interview, Nestor Mangio, however, did not identify the Palace official who endorsed Al Mal but stressed that “nothing has been signed yet precisely because we could not agree on the terms of reference (TOR).”
This, even as the CIAC board of directors met the other day to give Al Mal seven days within which to accept CIAC’s TOR which exempts Terminal 1 from being taken over by the Kuwaiti firm.
The CIAC’s TOR provided space for the signatures of Mangio and Loay Al Kharafi, identified in the document as the chairman of Al Mal Investment Co.

Contract being rushed?
The contract, according to sources, is allegedly being rushed so it would not be caught by the election ban on the signing of government contracts on March 26. 
Under the proposed TOR, Al Mal, identified as a vehicle of the M.A. Kharafi Group based in Kuwait, “shall develop the Clark civil aviation complex and the more or less 1,500 hectares land adjacent at a minimum investment capitol of $1.2 billion through a joint venture company with CIAC.”   When President Arroyo made an official visit to the Middle East last year, Malacañang issued a news bulletin reporting that the President had secured a $1.2-billion investment from Al Kharafi for a joint venture to build a new airport terminal and aviation city here.
The proposed TOR stated that “it has been agreed that for Phase One, the joint venture company shall develop Terminal 2 at a total investment cost of $100 million with a capacity for seven million passengers per year.”
‘Onerous’ proposal
No one else from CIAC could explain why Al Mal is again being considered for the project despite its proposal being junked in December 2008 by the CIAC’s Joint Venture Special Committee (JVSC) as being “onerous.”
Al Mal has been negotiating for its own version of the TOR, which allocates to itself the sole authority to develop all areas within a 50-mile radius of the airport, as well as full control of the existing Terminal 1, which the CIAC is currently upgrading. 
Al Mal reportedly offered only $20 million for its takeover of Terminal 1 for 45 years, renewable for another 25 years, amid projections that the terminal could generate an income of $120 million during the period.
Apart from Terminal 2, Al Mal also intends to build a third terminal for the DMIA.
CIAC employees went out of their offices the other day to hold a noise barrage to protest Al Mal’s almost full takeover of the aviation complex here, as they feared for their jobs. 
Mangio, however, said he later explained to the employees that part of the negotiations with Al Mal included their continuing employment.
“Only employees of the existing Terminal 1 would be affected,” he added.
Mangio recalled that the Palace “introduced” Al Mal to CIAC executives sometime in 2008, adding that CIAC president Victor Jose Luciano was present then.
Luciano could not be contacted yesterday as he was with some guests.
Mangio said he has been reporting to both President Arroyo and former Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Favila on developments on Al Mal’s bid to get the terminal projects here.
Favila, he said, was the Cabinet member in charge of overseeing foreign investments in the country.
“We had been looking for investors since 2008. There were Chinese, American, Filipino contractors but they all failed to comply with the requirements,” Mangio recalled. Al Mal was among those which failed, he admitted.
Last year, the CIAC, however, again received “unsolicited proposals” that included those from Al Mal. “Al Mal was chosen as the best. We were following all government rules and regulations.”
Rejected anew
A CIAC source, however, said the CIAC board again rejected Al Mal’s proposals only two weeks ago.
Al Mal has reportedly linked up with a local firm called PRIME to comply with the law limiting foreign ownership of public facilities in the country, to justify the requirement of a 70-30 percent joint venture. PRIME was reportedly set up by three businessmen, including Batangas Rep. Hermenigildo Mandanas.
Mandanas and Mangio were among those who were with the President in her visit to Davos, Switzerland last year, sources said.
Sometime in April last year, CIAC expressed “high hopes” on the completion of Terminal 2 amid a proposal from the Pacific Avia Group Inc. (PAGI) which was then being considered.
No CIAC official could immediately be contacted to explain what happened to PAGI.  
‘Midnight deal’
Reacting to the Clark airport issue, opposition senatorial candidate Joey de Venecia yesterday advised President Arroyo to “back off” from the “midnight deal” on the new DMIA terminal.
De Venecia, one of the senatorial bets of the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino, said Mrs. Arroyo should leave the project to the next administration.
“There appears to be something fishy about the proposal to allow a Kuwaiti firm to take over the airport project,” he said.
“Insiders are confirming that as early as 2008, the CIAC’s Joint Venture Special Committee had already rejected Al Mal’s proposal as onerous. The backroom maneuvers to award the deal to the Kuwaiti firm smacks of a midnight contract aimed as lining the greedy pockets of unscrupulous Palace brokers,” De Venecia said.
He said Mrs. Arroyo “will do well to tell her boys to back off from this deal. They should not forget that the Clark International Airport is dedicated to the memory of her father. They cannot sully his memory with a midnight transaction that may end up to be grossly overpriced and absolutely questionable.”

Cebu Pacific eyes solo slot at T3

BUDGET AIRLINE CEBU PACIFIC WANTS TO be the only carrier in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) terminal 3 by 2013.
The Gokongwei-led carrier said it plans to grow its passenger base to over 13 million, 12 million in Manila, in the next three years, indicating that airport facilities need to be expanded to prevent any potential squeeze on tourism and trade.
Fueling this growth is the company’s planned acquisition of 10 new Airbus A320 aircraft in the next three years.
“Cebu Pacific’s rapid expansion was substantially helped by its transfer to terminal 3 in August 2008, when nobody else wanted to use it. We could not have grown this much had we stayed at the old domestic terminal, which has a capacity of only two million per year,” Cebu Pacific vice president for brand and marketing Candice Iyog said in a statement.
Terminal 3, she said, provided the space, convenience, and opportunity for the airline to really grow and serve its passengers. “Transiting passengers, for instance, could catch their connecting flights with ease since our domestic and international operations are under one roof, as are other airlines, which put everyone on equal footing,” she said.
“Our population is growing and Asia, including the Philippines, has been tagged as a growth area. We believe that our airports, being the welcoming gateway into our country, should be adequate now and in the future,” she added.
The Manila International Airport Authority (Miaa) has said it plans to spend P40 billion in the next 10 years to expand Manila’s airport capacity to keep up with rising air traffic.
Miaa assistant general manager Tirso G. Serrano said that while Cebu Pacific’s operations alone will eventually be all that terminal 3 can take, the airport authority also had to think about the needs of other airlines flying out of Manila.
Manila’s current airport system, made up of three Naia terminals and the domestic terminal, have a total capacity of 33 million passengers a year. Last year, 24.5 million travelers passed through these four airports.
Last year, Cebu Pacific said it carried over 7.3 million passenger. This is 29-percent higher than its 5.7 million passengers the year before. This year, Cebu Pacific expects to carry more than 10 million passengers on the domestic and regional fronts.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cusi vows to correct aviation deficiencies

Former airport general manager Alfonso Cusi pledged Wednesday to correct the deficiencies in the country’s civil aviation system as he formally took over the helm at the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) Wednesday, taking over the post vacated by retired General Ruben Ciron.

Last Monday, Cusi was sworn in as the new Director General of the CAAP following his decision to pull out from the congressional race in the second district of Mindoro Oriental.

After simple turnover rites held at the CAAP headquarters in Pasay City, Cusi said his main thrust as the new CAAP chief would be to bring the country back to "Category 1" status.

Back in 2007, the US Federal Aviation Administration conducted an audit of the country's civil aviation system and found it to be non-compliant with the standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The negative findings resulted in the FAA downgrading the Philippines' status to "Category 2."

An FAA "Category 1" status indicates if a country's civil aviation industry is fully compliant with international aviation safety standards. The FAA performs an audit of the concerned country’s Civil Aviation Authority to ensure its capability to provide safety certification and continue oversight on its international carriers.

The audit team finds out if the CAA is compliant in areas of aviation legislation, operating regulations, civil aviation structure and safety oversight functions, and licensing and certification obligations. Civil aviation authorities who are found not in compliance with the ICAO standards are given a “Category 2” status.

The FAA auditing team found that the then Air Transportation Office (ATO) lacked the authority to conduct safety oversight functions and had deficiencies in licensing and certification regulations.

The negative rating makes it harder for Philippine air carriers to apply for additional or new flights to US destinations.

"I will be addressing these issues head on," Cusi said. "We will work closely with the airline operators and industry players to get the authority on the right track."

"We will correct all the deficiencies found in our system and hopefully get back the "Category 1" status," Cusi said.

RP faces Icao audit in bid to regain ‘1’ status

WITH the threat that Philippine airports may be blacklisted by the European community, newly appointed Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) Director General Alfonso Cusi is scrambling to head for Brussels, Belgium, on March 15 to be able to attend a critical audit by the International Civil Aviation Organization (Icao).

It should have been Ruben Ciron who was to attend until he was replaced by Cusi on Tuesday and, for a while, there was no information on plans of the new chief in attendance at the audit, which would show whether Philippine aviation can be lifted back to Category 1 from Category 2.

Now, taking along top flight-safety advisers and executives of the country’s three major airlines, Cusi is heading for Brussels, saying it would be a great loss if the Philippines is blacklisted by the European Union (EU) for failing to attend the audit from March 15 to 19.

“Our aviation has been downgraded by FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] to Category 2 and it means really bad for all of us. If we are blacklisted, that means that we are disconnecting ourselves [from] the air routes or air highways for our trade and developments,” he said in a press briefing.

To prepare him for the meeting, Cusi was briefed on Wednesday by Eduardo Batac, director of the Flight Service Inspectorate Service and chairman of the International Audit Preparedness Task Force.  

He is to brief Daniel Calleja, the European Union director general for transportation and energy, on what has been achieved by the agency in compliance with their safety concerns aired by the Icao audit team last October 2009.

Batac said that although the Philippines does not fly to Europe at the moment, there are many Europeans who come as tourists or businessmen and so the EU is concerned about their safety.

One of the things brought up by the US FAA, the Icao and the Universal Safety Oversight Audit Program of the EU is the “inability of the Philippines to recruit and retain qualified technical personnel.”

“In the past some highly trained technical personnel were recruited but left for greener pastures,” said Batac.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cusi cites need for effort of all stakeholders and CAAP to regain Category 1 status

FORMER airport general manager Alfonso Cusi is now the director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), replacing Ruben Ciron.

“I have taken my oath of office in Malacañang on Monday, and I have sent my papers to General Ciron to let him know that I am coming over,” said Cusi. But he quickly added, “I hold him in high esteem and I am not in a hurry to grab his post.”

Cusi said the challenge he faces is to get the country back to Category 1 status and he alone would not be able to do it but through the efforts of all the stakeholders “for the good of the country…one of my first moves is to call a summit of the airline operators, industry players and others to discuss my role at the CAAP. We must agree what rules to be followed and what the aviation authority has to do, which must be known to the people.”

One of the things he has done to achieve his aims is that he has prepared a 100-day plan he would present to the rank and file. “Ayaw kong magmarunong [I don’t want to be a know-it-all],” he said.

Ciron has canceled his scheduled trip to Brussels, Belgium, on March 15 to have a meeting with Daniel Calleja, the European Union (EU) director general for Transportation and Energy, who he was supposed to brief on the progress of CAAP compliance with the “significant safety concern” aired by the International Civil Aviation Organization audit team in October 2009.

His presence in the European Union would signify the Philippines serious concern to address the issue raised by the Universal Safety Oversight Audit Program. “Any disruption of this meeting would send a wrong signal to the EU that the Philippines is not focused in returning the country’s aviation to Category 1 status and that we have taken for granted the seriousness of our dire situation.”

If a negative ruling is given by the EU, airline industries, particularly Philippine international carriers, may be refused further landing rights in foreign destinations, and the tourism industry and other downstream businesses related to air travel and tourism would suffer a devastating fallout.”

He did not say, however, what the government plans to do now that he has cancelled his meeting with Calleja.

Meanwhile, Melvin Matibag had taken over the helm of the MIAA from Cusi. A lawyer, he is the former head executive assistant of Cusi.

Matibag said he would follow the blueprints that had been prepared by his predecessor. “I will continue the projects that are already in the pipeline and that includes getting the ISO for Terminals 1 and 2.” He added that he would also complete the rehabilitation of Terminal 1 and other unfinished facilities to make it an alternative building for Terminal 3, since the latter’s full operation could no longer be guaranteed.

Melvin Matibag appointed as general manager of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA)

Lawyer Melvin Matibag took over as general manager of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) Tuesday. He took his oath of office in Malacañang on Monday.
Matibag succeeds Alfonso Cusi, whom Ms Arroyo named the new director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).
Both the MIAA and CAAP are attached agencies of the Department of Transportation and Communications.
Matibag was formerly Cusi’s head executive assistant and the concurrent manager of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3.
The MIAA operates the three NAIA terminals.

Cusi named CAAP chief

MANILA, Philippines - Alfonso Cusi, general manager of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), has been named the new head of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).

Cusi replaces incumbent CAAP Director General Ruben Ciron, who is currently abroad.

The CAAP is the regulatory body responsible for implementing policies on civil aviation to ensure safe, reliable and efficient air transport in the country. It is tasked with ensuring the full integration of civil aviation with the national transport system, taking into account the requirements of national interest and environmental concerns in accordance with International Civil Aviation Organization standards and recommended practices.

Cusi's position in the MIAA will be filled in by his former head executive assistant, Atty. Melvin Matibag.

Cusi, who used to be general manager of the Philippine Ports Authority, recently dropped his candidacy for the second congressional district of Mindoro Oriental.

P400,000 worth of shabu confiscated at Silay City airport

Anti-narcotics agents have arrested a man at Silay City airport in Negros Occidental in possession of P400,000 worth of suspected metamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu.
According to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in Region 6, PDEA operatives and airport authorities nabbed suspected drug courier Xavier Louis Rosales at around 7:45 p.m. at the airport in Silay City yesterday.

Rosales reportedly yielded an estimated 40 grams of shabu when accosted by authorities.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Immigration cops thwart human trafficking at NAIA

MANILA, Philippines—Immigration officers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) have foiled an attempt by an international human trafficking syndicate to smuggle illegal aliens to Canada, using Manila as a transit point.

Bureau of Immigration (BI)-Airport Operations Division director Ferdinand Sampol said the human trafficking operation was thwarted on Monday with the apprehension of the syndicate’s courier and two of its victims at the NAIA.

Immigration Commissioner Marcelino Libanan, said the interception of the victims and the arrest of their courier were the result of proper trainings and use of modern technology.

“This showed that our agency is capable of defeating any attempts by human trafficking syndicates to use the Philippines as their transit point in transporting illegal people,” Libanan said.

Sampol, in a report to Libanan, identified the suspected courier of the syndicate as Joana Lee May Lin, a Singaporean, and her companions as Jeremy Lim Chee Siong and Jimmy Ong Lai Heng, both Chinese nationals.

Sampol said the three passengers were intercepted at the NAIA Terminal 2 before they could board a Philippine Airlines flight bound for Vancouver, Canada on March 1.

BI associate commissioner Enrique Galang presented the three aliens in a news conference at the agency’s main office in Manila on Wednesday. He said Lim and Ong were initially apprehended for trying to leave the country using fraudulent Singaporean passports.

“They arrived in Manila using their original Chinese passports but upon arriving here the syndicates gave them the Singaporean passports,” Galang said.

High Court orders return of Cebu airport property

Victory could prove bittersweet for a Cebu land owner after the Supreme Court finally allowed him to buy back a parcel of land expropriated from him for the supposed expansion of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport in 1961.

However, since the SC ruling came after almost five decades, Bernardo Lozada Sr. and his children would need to shell out a huge amount of money to regain ownership of the so-called Lot 88, which covers some 1,017 square meters.

In a unanimous decision penned by Associate Justice Antonio Eduardo Nachura, the High Court ordered the Air Transportation Office (ATO) to return Lot 88 to the Lozadas.

The court denied the petition filed by the ATO and the MCIA Authority to reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals, which upheld the ruling of the Cebu City Regional Trial Court.

The Cebu City RTC, in its assailed decision dated Dec. 29, 1961, ordered the recovery of possession and reconveyance of ownership of Lot 88 to the Lozadas after the purpose of the expropriation did not materialize.

However, the SC made substantial changes in the lower court decision, which includes an order for the respondents to return to the government the just compensation they received for the expropriation, plus legal interests, to be computed from 1961 up to present.

The Lozadas were also ordered to pay the government the necessary expenses incurred in maintaining Lot 88.

The SC also remanded the case to the Cebu City RTC for the purpose of receiving evidence on the amounts that the Lozadas will have to pay the government based on the High Court’s decision.

At the time the ATO and MCIAA bought the land from the Lozadas, the property was valued at P3 per square meter. The respondents received the amount of P3,018 by way of payment.

In its decision, the SC agreed with the contention of the Lozadas that the government lost its right to the property taken since it did not pursue the public purpose of the expropriation, which is the expansion of the airport.

“If not, it is then incumbent upon the expropriator to return the said property to its private owner, if the latter desires to reacquire the same… Accordingly, the private property owner would be denied due process of law, and the judgment would violate the property owner’s right to justice, fairness and equity,” the court said.

The court further reminded the ATO and MCIA Authority that the taking of private property, consequent to the government’s exercise of its power of eminent domain, is always subject to the condition that the property be devoted to the specific public use for which it was taken.

If the particular purpose or intent is not pursued, and is peremptorily abandoned, the former owners may seek reversion of the property, subject to the return of the amount of just compensation received, the court added.

Clark airport-terminal expansion in full blast, to feature 2 boarding bridges

CLARK FREE PORT, Pampanga—Construction activities for the P308-million expansion of the existing terminal of the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) here are in full blast. The expanded terminal is expected to be operational next month.

Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC) president and chief executive officer Victor Jose Luciano said in an interview over local radio station dwRW 95.1 yesterday that the newly expanded Terminal 1 will feature two passenger boarding bridges for the added convenience of passengers.

“We expect this to be operational in April and we will invite President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to lead the inauguration of the new expanded terminal on her birthday, April 5,” Luciano said.

He said the two passenger boarding bridges are expected to arrive at the Clark Civil Aviation Complex in Clark Free-port Zone by the end of this month.

The expanded DMIA Terminal 1 will become a two-story building with the boarding bridges, flight information display, closed-circuit television camera, background music, public address system, x-ray machines, escalators and elevators.

Luciano added that the expanded terminal will have a bigger space for commercial concessionaires and a larger lounge for passengers.

The expanded terminal will accommodate an additional 500,000 passengers annually, on top of the current capacity of 2 million passengers annually, increasing its capacity to 2.5 million passengers annually.

Last month President Arroyo inspected the ongoing DMIA Terminal 1 expansion, as well as the other infrastructure projects in Northern Philippines during her Urban Luzon Beltway tour.

As this developed, the CIAC chief also expressed his gratitude to all the stakeholders in this free port for their support, especially for the development of the DMIA which is now host to foreign and local airlines.

“I would like to thank all the stakeholders of Clark, to the Clark Development Corp. and the employees of CIAC for their unwavering support for Clark and the DMIA,” said Luciano, who recently bagged the 2010 AIM Alumni Achievement Award, or Triple A, for his excellent performance that resulted in the development of DMIA.

Despite a slump in the aviation industry last year not only in the Asian region but globally, the passenger volume at the DMIA increased an average of 14 percent, with passenger figures breaching the 600,000 mark.

Luciano said more airlines are expected to start operations at the DMIA following completion of the terminal expansion of which the new facilities will add to the convenience of travelers.

The DMIA is currently host to Asiana Airlines of South Korea that flies to Incheon; the Philippines’ second flag carrier Cebu Pacific Air that services Bangkok, Singapore, Macau and Hong Kong; Air Asia Berhad of Malaysia with flights to Kota Kinabalu and Kuala Lumpur; Tiger Airways of Singapore that flies daily to Singapore; the Spirit of Manila that flies to Taipei; and Southeast Asian Airlines that flies to Caticlan for travelers that would like to go to the island resort of Boracay.

MVP looking at Clark international airport

TELECOM executive Manuel V. Pangilinan on Thursday said Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC) has approached his group to take interest in the development of a new airport in the free-port zone.

“We’ve been asked to look at the international airport in Clark. We are looking at it. We have been talking to the CIAC to build a new airport. That is the program of the government, I understand,” said Pangilinan at the sidelines of the contract signing between the Philippine Constructors Association (PCA) and the Philippine Disaster Recovery Foundation (PDRF), which Pangilinan chairs.

Pangilinan said talks with the CIAC are “very preliminary” and he also did not say if he has already replied to the proposal. “There’s a change in government. All I know is that the country needs to build a new airport. We have got to build a new one.”

He said existing airports in Manila are old and congested, thus the need to build a new one. “It’s very sad. Most have new and bigger airports such as China, Indonesia and Thailand. The Philippines looks pitiful. The airport here is short, congested and in the middle of the city. We have [to] build a new airport.”

Pangilinan stressed the need to also establish a railway system going to Clark for an easy, fast and convenient way to reach the airport for those coming from Manila. “It is important. It is essential to the project. It’s got to be not just an airport. We have no problem with bus and taxi because you can use the Nlex [North Luzon Expressway]. There should be a high-speed train, otherwise the new airport won’t work,” he added.

Also, Pangilinan said his group is unsure whether to take a second look at the Laiban Dam project following reports that the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) has terminated joint-venture negotiations with San Miguel Corp.’s water subsidiary.

“I just read about it. We are looking at other sources other than Laiban already. So, I guess, in total possibility of options, we don’t know yet,” he said.

He also said the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) Group has no immediate plans to acquire or make new investments anytime soon. “Nothing…let’s digest this first,” Pangilinan said.

For PLDT, Pangilinan said the management will undertake a review on implementing cost-cutting measures.

“There’s a management review that will specifically focus on certain cost-cutting measures that will be undertaken in March. So let’s wait for that. We’re looking at maintenance cost, our rentals and our compensation. I have confidence that the men and women of PLDT and Smart respond to the challenges,” he said.

Pangilinan said last Tuesday that 2010 is another year filled with challenges—“competition shows no signs of abating, consumer wallets are tightening, elections notwithstanding, and alternative means of communications such as social networking.”

“At P41 billion in core net income already, this is a year for us to regroup, refocus and redirect efforts into new directions. We should be back on the growth track starting 2011,” he said.

PLDT reported P41.1 billion in core net income last year against P38.1 billion in 2008.This year the phone giant said it expects to post just over P41 billion in core net income.

Pangilinan said the PLDT Group is cautious as to where the industry is headed this year. Given the high market penetration, the market’s increasing preference for unlimited offers and multiple-SIM ownership, as well as competition from social networking and broadband, Pangilinan said the cellular business faces challenges.

“The market is fast-changing. We want to see where is it really heading? Who  would have imagined that 10 years ago texting would become this big. But now, it has become a plateau. So, where are we headed? Is it broadband?” Pangilinan said.

The PLDT Group’s total cellular subscriber base for 2009 grew to 41.3 million subscribers, a 17- percent growth year-on-year. For 2009, Smart Communications Inc. added 6.1 million subscribers, compared with 5.2 million in 2008. Smart Buddy recorded net additions of over 1.6 million subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2009, to end the year with 24.2 million subscribers while Talk ’N Text added approximately 500,000 subscribers to end 2009 with 17.1 million subscribers.

“I believe the budget is 4.5 million in subscriber net adds this year. But I guess, maybe similar to 6 million last year if the trend in January and February continues. So, probably something closer to 6 million this year the way the first two months are trending,” Pangilinan said .

PLDT president Napoleon Nazareno had said that the trend in subscriber growth for the first two months of the year was the same in January and February of last year. This meant that the group added this year 500,000 new wireless subscribers for January and another 500,000 in February. 

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Lawnmower and plane in near miss at Dublin Airport

I just HAD to post this ... only in Ireland ..

A near miss between a ride-on lawnmower and a Boeing 757 landing at Dublin Airport could have had catastrophic consequences, a report has said. The plane, carrying 198 passengers and eight crew, was returning from Sharm-el-Sheikh in Egypt on 29 May last year. The incident was investigated by the Irish Air Accident Investigation Unit. Its final report, which was released on Wednesday, found that the mower did not have adequate radio communications or lighting equipment. Read More

Breastfeeding facility set up at airport

Manila: Manila's international airport in Pasay City has opened a private area for breastfeeding mothers, a senior official said, adding it is part of the government's effort to promote breastfeeding in the Philippines.
"This facility was set up to give mothers a relaxed and secure area where they can nurse their babies free of charge," said airport general manager Alfonso Cusi.
The 32-square-metre breastfeeding station is located after the immigration area for departing passengers. It has four cubicles, each with a bed, swivel chair, drawer, a window and a lockable door, said Cusi, adding the facility was opened in time for the celebration of International Women's Month.
The Philippine Congress recently passed a bill that prevents companies from promoting infant formula.

Next CAAP Director General????

Airport chief quits Mindoro congressional race

MANILA, Philippines -- Manila International Airport Authority General Manager Alfonso Cusi withdrew his candidacy as congressman for the second district of Oriental Mindoro.
In a statement sent to media outfits, Cusi said, “After close consultations with our constituents in Oriental Mindoro, our colleagues at the MIAA and my family, and deep soul-searching and personal reflection, we have decided to withdraw our candidacy as representative in the second congressional district of our province.”
Cusi said he was “considering another position where we can continue serving the national interest and we are truly fortunate to have been given this opportunity.” The other week, Cusi was offered by Malacañang to be the next director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines. Cusi did not say on Wednesday if he gave up the congressional race for this position.
“Politics can wait but we cannot turn our back on this singular chance to continue serving the Filipino people in the best way we can. We hope to be able to share with you this new position where we can continue pursuing the national interest at the proper time,” he said.
Cusi thanked his party, the Sandugo Party, “for making the decision-making process less painful for us,” adding, “Their generous understanding enabled us to consider facing a different but broader challenge.”
However, he added that he remained committed to serving the people of Mindoro. He said he will continue to support Sandugo Party in helping improve the quality of life of Mindoro folk.
The second congressional district of Oriental Mindoro is composed of the municipalities of Bansud, Bongabong, Bulalacao, Gloria, Mansalay, Pinamalayan and Roxas. The district has a population of about 335,000 in 2007.
Cusi and six other candidates were supposed to vie for the congressional seat. The other candidates include Securities and Exchange Commission member Thaddeus Venturanza from Lakas-Kampi-CMD, who served as vice governor of the province from 2001 to 2004.
The other candidates are Liberal Party's Reynaldo Umali, Bureau of Customs deputy commissioner and brother of incumbent Rep. Alfonso Umali Jr., who is on his third and final term; Partido ng Masang Pilipino's Ephraim Salcedo, father of former President Joseph Estrada's spokesperson Margaux Salcedo; Anthony Yap of the Nacionalista Party; Edmund Dante Janda of Aksyon; and independent Benrome Abao.