Saturday, September 25, 2010

PALEA Celebrates 64th Anniversary Amid Turbulent Times at PAL

This year, both PALEA and FASAP are seeking to finally ink a new, improved CBA with PAL. But PALEA has so far been met with mass termination notices on account of PAL’s planned spin-off, while FASAP has been forced to file a notice of strike as PAL firmly refuses to put the discriminatory retirement provision affecting flight attendants on the negotiating table in this CBA.

The union of Philippine Air Lines ground workers, “(un)arguably the oldest union existing today,” celebrated its 64th anniversary last Tuesday September 21 with a prayer rally at Nichols and a mass at Our Lady of Airways Parish in Mia Road, Parañaque City. The prayer rally and mass were attended by over a hundred employees, including some PAL executives such as PAL president Jaime Bautista. During the homily, the officiating priest noted that PALEA’s anniversary coincides with the feast of St. Matthew the tax collector and the commemoration of Martial Law. The priest enjoined the gathered unionists and PAL executives to “be content with what you have” and “leave the disputes to God.”

Since April this year the 3,732-strong PALEA has been restive over the PAL management’s plans to terminate most of their members under a planned spin-off that had been approved by the labor department last June. PALEA is questioning the management’s moves, saying the spin-off is just the PAL management’s way of turning employees into lower paid contractual employees without benefits and without protection of a union. The union and management are currently holding conciliation meetings being mediated by the labor department.

In his brief speech during the mass, PALEA president Gerardo Rivera thanked the union members and the PAL management, calling the latter as a “partner”, and expressed hopes that PALEA would continue working with them as a “partner.”

History of Ups and Downs

PALEA was founded in September 21, 1946, at a time when PAL was still a public-owned airline. Its establishment was spearheaded by airplane mechanics. Ironically, airplane mechanics are now without a union after their department was transferred or spun-off to Lucio Tan Group’s MacroAsia Corporation in 2000.

Through the years PALEA has grown big and small, said Rivera in Filipino. He added that they have been a “good partner of PAL” and that even though sometimes they might look like enemies they have also walked “arm-to-arm” often.

PALEA has also had its share of union presidents who had been reportedly paid off by PAL to agree to management decisions concerning its workers. There was Alex Barrientos, PALEA president who allegedly received P50 million ($1.136 million) as bribe from Lucio Tan to make the union vote in favor of the 10-year CBA suspension in 1999. This suspension was extended by another year by the next PALEA president, Edgardo Oredina. Barrientos and Oredina both became members of PAL’s board of directors, receiving their pay in dollars, according to the company’s financial reports.

Rivera, a nominee of losing party-list contender Partido ng Manggagawa, also announced the union’s “reactivation” of its affiliation with the government-backed labor center Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) in their anniversary mass. In an interview with Bulatlat, he said there is a need for different labor organizations to unite and fight the drive for contractualization.

Last month, PALEA officers and members of Anakpawis chapter in PAL trooped to the meeting called by Anakpawis Partylist Representative Rafael Mariano. The consultation turned into a preliminary meeting of the House Committee on Labor and Employment, as many of its member legislators attended and vowed to speed up the committee’s formation so they could immediately look into the labor complaints lodged against Lucio Tan’s business practices.

Asked if his attendance at the PALEA anniversary mass indicates that PAL would no longer terminate its workers and “spin off” the ground workers’ departments, PAL president Jaime Bautista replied that the matter is already being discussed at the Department of Labor and Employment. He said he hopes to continue working with PALEA, the “recognized union” of ground employees.

Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) Woes

Prior to the ending of the 10-year CBA suspension with PALEA and the increasing restiveness as well of the union of flight attendants – FASAP’s 2005-2010 CBA is still under negotiation up to now- the Philippine Air Lines had been steadily raking in profits. It has managed to come out of rehab earlier than scheduled, and started another re-fleeting program that has also begun to eat up into PAL’s profits. These supposed losses now formed part of PAL’s standard excuses for stonewalling the demands of flight attendants and ground employees.

This year, both PALEA and FASAP are seeking to finally ink a new, improved CBA with PAL. But PALEA has so far been met with mass termination notices on account of PAL’s planned spin-off, while FASAP has been forced to file a notice of strike as PAL firmly refuses to put the discriminatory retirement provision affecting flight attendants on the negotiating table in this CBA.

“We have been urging the removal of that discriminatory provision since two CBA’s ago,” said FASAP president Robert Anduiza last month. FASAP explained that “In the past, the union and its members are practically held hostage by PAL management prolonging the CBA negotiations and delaying any improvements in financial benefits.”

Times have changed, however, FASAP said. Their retirement issue has “ripened into its top priority and most important cause for majority of its members.” There is less than two weeks now before the mandated pre-strike cooling-off period lapses for FASAP, but so far, all they have agreed with the PAL management is their rice benefit.

As for ground employees, its union said they would be submitting their CBA proposal before the end of September. Last week, PALEA submitted to the labor secretary its comments to documents obtained from PAL such as the March 31, 2010 financial statement and outsourcing agreements with Sky Kitchen Philippines Inc and ePLDT Ventus, Inc. PALEA argued that these documents prove the financial situation of PAL “does not warrant the mass retrenchment.”

The union argued as well that “it is not true” that the Lucio Tan Group has nothing to do with the prospective third-party providers. Rivera said that in one of their conciliation meetings, PAL management admitted that they partly own the Sky company, and the new service providers, through Macro Asia.


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Why few Filipinos go to flight schools

OVER 100 students are attending this flight school based on Mactan Island in Cebu. Training is rigorous. The flight school

does not take any shortcuts in making sure that its graduates comply with the required number of flight hours necessary for them to obtain licenses as commercial pilots.

But the news is—only five of the hundred students are Filipinos. The majority come from countries in Asia, Middle East and even Africa.

Lately, Indonesians dominated the enrollees at Aviatour Flight School (Aviatour). They decided to come to Cebu to train after the aviation industry in their country announced opportunities for them to work as pilots right after graduation.

The dismal turnout of Filipino enrollees in an estimated 60 flight schools across the country and seven flight schools in Cebu is primarily brought about by the notion that “flight school is expensive,” says Capt. Jessup Bahinting, Aviatour chair and chief executive officer.

“There are no available scholarships for prospective students. For those who do not know the industry well, they think that going to a flight school is expensive. In reality, it’s almost the same (expenses) when (you send a student to) study medicine,” Bahinting says.

Parents’ mind-set

A student will have to spend roughly P2 million for a 10-month to one-year study in flight training, according to Bahinting. This include tuition, housing and daily allowance for a student who does not live in Cebu.

Bahinting’s daughter, Jemar, who is currently president and chief operating officer of Aviatour, says the situation is different in Indonesia where the job market for pilots would entice students to go to a flight school.

“Indonesians come here because there is an aviation market there. The six airlines there are waiting for these students to graduate and they will employ them immediately,” she says.

Currently, Aviatour has 25 flight instructors and has graduated over 200 since it started in 2006. It operates 35 Cessna 152 and Cessna 172 aircraft which are used for flight training.

Captain Bahinting said changing the mind-set of the parents to send their children to flight school is another major problem.

“Many parents will think about their return of investment. How fast will they get their money back. But I tell you, even if you work here, in our school, for example, as flight instructor, you can earn better,” he says.

Flight instructors in Aviatour earn at least P100,000 a month.

“They (parents) might get their investment on the third or fourth year,” Bahinting says.

Another challenge is the lack of government support in terms of providing scholarships for students, Kenneth Madrid, executive vice president for sales and marketing of the company, says.

In India, for instance, Bahinting says the government has partnered with a bank to give funds to potential pilots to study in a flight school. The scheme is similar to the “study now, pay later” program, which most Philippine organizations have adopted.

“These potential students report to the airline company and the company evaluates if they have potential to be future pilots. When they are given positive remarks from the airline, they are connected to a bank which will give them the loan,” Bahinting says.

“They will pay their loan through a salary deduction once they start working for the airline company.”

Worldwide prospects

Aside from Filipinos, the current crop of Aviatour students come from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Papua New Guinea, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Oman, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Syria.

These issues should not discourage Filipinos from considering enrolling in a flight school, especially now that stricter rules are being implemented before allowing flight schools to continue their operation.

“We are strictly following Icao (International Civil Aviation Organization) standards because we don’t want a one-shot business. We want repeat business. We do not do shortcuts. Quality is ensured,” Madrid says.

“There is no hiding how good the students are because they can see the quality of the graduates (from the Philippines). This way, we are helping build the image of the Philippines,” he adds.

Captain Bahinting says the bright prospects for pilots abroad should encourage them to study even if the local job market is still weak.

Citing recent aviation statistics, Bahinting said about 400,000 pilots would be needed in 20 years while 35,000 aircraft would be ordered by airline companies worldwide in the next 10 years.

These developments indicate that demand from air travel would continue to grow in the succeeding years, Bahinting says. These should encourage Filipinos to start steering the wheel and try flying.

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PAL to save P141M on cabin crew cutback—Fasap

The flight stewards union of the Philippine Airlines on Friday said the flag carrier would reap more than P141 million in savings for cutting down the number of cabin crew members per aircraft, an amount bigger than the financial package it was offering to flight attendants.

In a statement, the Flight Attendants and Stewards' Association of the Philippines claimed that the reduction program was being implemented "at the expense" of flight attendants now working double-time due to the small number of crew members serving per aircraft.

"The reductions scheme takes away food on the flight attendants' table, making them work more for less pay," said Fasap president Bob Anduiza in a statement Friday.

The program was enforced starting July despite strong objections from FASAP, he noted.

Citing documents detailing PAL's plans to reduce Cabin Crew Complement per aircraft type, FASAP on Friday said such scheme would result to a "whopping" P141,306,729.17 savings yearly for the national carrier.

"[This figure] is certainly several times bigger than the financial amount PAL is offering to the 1,542 flight attendants to cover for a three-year Collective Bargaining Agreement," said Anduiza.

PAL has increased its economic package offer from P80 million to P105 million. But Fasap was demanding for a P300 million economic package.

The cabin crew union has threatened to hold a strike against PAL after both camps failed to reach an agreement at the Department of Labor and Employment.

Among many other contentions that have yet to be settled include moving the retirement age of flight attendants from 40 to 60 years old, raising pay to be at par with that offered by foreign carriers and providing for a paid maternity leave.

Under the reduction scheme, a 400-seater plane, which previously operated with 18 cabin crew members, now only carries 12 flight attendants to serve passengers. The number of cabin crew in smaller aircraft has also been trimmed down.

Anduiza said the scheme was also shortchanging the riding public who pay a steep price for PAL's tickets "but will now get less service."

"The riding public should know about this because PAL has recently been trying to paint a picture that they are being reasonable in dealing with Fasap," he said.

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CebuPac eyes more destinations abroad

CEBU AIR Inc., operator of budget carrier Cebu Pacific, plans to aggressively grow its international business over the next five years to match its bread-and-butter domestic operations.

Ahead of its initial public offering (IPO) next month, Cebu Pacific will continue to add more routes and fly more often to high-traffic destinations in the Philippines and abroad as it takes delivery of more aircraft, an airline official said.

Cebu Air senior vice-president and chief strategist BJ Sebastian said the company could grow its international business by 25 percent a year over the next two to three years.

Its domestic business, which contributes 70 percent of total revenue, may grow 15 percent a year over the same period, Sebastian said.

“For Cebu Pacific, that growth, just on the basis of momentum, is very defensible,” he said.

The company has been growing by 25 to 29 percent a year for the last three years, the airline official said.

The company also has plans to follow a “disciplined and profitable” growth path over the next few years, Sebastian added.

The Philippine Stock Exchange has approved Cebu Air’s IPO for Oct. 25, although the national barangay elections, which will likely take place on the same day, may push back the listing by a day.

With a price guidance of between P110 and P135 a share, Cebu Air of the Gokongwei group, expects to raise up to $80 million in fresh funds from the sale of new primary shares from the IPO.

This will make up about 15 percent of the total offering.

The rest of the offering of around $400 million, depending on the price, will come from the sale of secondary shares currently held by JG Summit, Cebu Air’s parent company.

Sebastian said JG Summit plans to retain a 65-percent stake in the airline.

Cebu Pacific is expecting the delivery of 22 new Airbus A320 jets starting next month until 2014.

This will bring the number of planes in the airline’s fleet to 47.

Sebastian said the new planes will be used mainly for the expansion of the company’s international network.

The company currently has 16 international destinations.

Considering the A320’s range, the company may be able to choose from about 180 domestic and international routes within the Asia Pacific region, Sebastian said.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cebu Pacific Gets Go-Ahead For IPO

The Philippines’ second-largest airline group, Cebu Pacific, has received regulatory approval to have an initial public offering (IPO) that aims to raise as much as 32.19 billion pesos ($728 million).

The stock exchange says it has granted approval for the IPO in which 31% of the carrier’s shares will be sold at a price not exceeding 150 pesos.

The IPO will raise as much as 32.19 billion pesos, making it the largest IPO in the Philippines’ corporate history, say local news reports. Seventy percent of the shares on offer will be sold to international investors and the rest to local investors, says the stock exchange. The offer price and number of shares will be decided on Oct. 8 and the tentative date for listing is Oct. 25.

Cebu Pacific was established in 1988 and claims to be Asia’s first low-cost carrier. It operates 21 Airbus A320-family aircraft and eight ATR 72-500s, with another 22 A320s on order, according to Ascend data. The A320s on order are for fleet expansion and to replace older A320s on lease, say industry executives.

Cebu Pacific started as a domestic airline, but in recent years has expanded internationally and now services 16 international destinations. The carrier had revenue of $502 million in 2009 and a net profit of $70 million.

It was originally planning to have its IPO in 2008 but shelved it due to the global financial crisis. The Filipino-Chinese Gokongwei family control Cebu Pacific via its Philippine business conglomerate SG Summit. They are already one of the richest families in the Philippines with interests in telecommunications, financial services, petrochemicals, power generation and livestock.

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Philippines' identifies 10 priority public-private projects, mostly airport Developments

The Philippines has identified 10 priority projects, including seven worth nearly 128 billion pesos ($2.9 billion), that it wants to pursue via public-private partnerships (PPP), part of a drive to increase investment.

President Benigno Aquino wants to attract private investors to generate funds to upgrade dilapidated infrastructure and free up state funds for other projects. His economic team met business groups in the United States last month. [ID:nSGE682098]

On Monday, the finance secretary said projects would be put out for bidding in the first half of next year. [ID:nMNA002902]

Following are details of the priority projects, the estimated cost where available, and expected completion time or date, based on government data:

- Expansion of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) line 1 in the capital by 11.7 kilometres southward to Cavite province: 70 billion pesos; four years.

- Four-kilometre extension of eastern portion of the Metro Rail Transit line 2: 11.3 billion pesos; two years.

- Construction of a new airport in Panglao island, central Bohol province: 7.54 billion pesos; four years.

- Rehabilitation of the Puerto Princesa airport in southwestern Palawan province: 4.36 billion pesos; four years.

- Construction of an elevated expressway in the capital linking the North Luzon Expressway and the South Luzon Expressway: 21 billion pesos; 2014.

- Construction of the Manila side of the CALA expressway linking southwestern Cavite province to the capital: 10.5 billion pesos; mid 2015.

- Construction of the Daraga international airport in central Philippines: 3 billion pesos.

- Development of a city terminal to service the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) at the former U.S. military base Clark in Angeles, Pampanga province north of Manila: no cost provided; 2011.

- Privatisation of the maintenance and operation of the Laguindingan International Airport in the southern Misamis Oriental province: no cost provided; 2011.

- Supply of treated bulk water for Metro Manila to meet long-term demands: no cost provided; no date provided. ($1=44 pesos) (Reporting by Rosemarie Francisco, editing by Miral Fahmy)

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Clark vs Manila Airports

Lim, Cusi disagree over which airport should lead

THE Ninoy Aquino International Airport must eventually be moved to Clark in Pampanga as its facilities in Metro Manila are nearing full capacity, Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim said over the weekend.

“We have to move to Clark,” Lim said, adding the country needed a bigger area to accommodate larger passenger and cargo terminals and parallel runways.

“At Clark, we could have more than one terminal,” he said, and with budget, regular and domestic flights using separate facilities.

The move to Clark would take up to six years and require high financing and private sector participation, but upgrading the premier airport was urgent, Lim told a meeting called last week to discuss how the airport could be improved.

“It’s important to give the best experience possible to passengers who come and go through the airport. It is the first and last impression of the country,” Lim said.

Last week’s meeting was also attended by Transport Secretary Jose de Jesus, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, information secretary Ramon Carandang, and airport General Manager Jose Honrado.

But Alfonso Cusi, the airport’s former general manager and now director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, said there was no need to move to Clark. The more practical solution was to maximize passenger capacity and upgrade the runways to accommodate larger aircraft.

The airport could accommodate almost 95 million passengers a year with its three terminals, but it was handling only 55 percent of that traffic, Cusi said.

The runways could be re-aligned to create a parallel 3.5-kilometer runway at a cost of about P2 billion. A proposal to connect the three terminals by train would facilitate passenger transfers to all terminals within minutes as in the Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysian airports.

At a congressional hearing last week, Lim said the Tourism Department wanted to see a 10-percent increase in arrivals over 2009 despite the steep drop in Hong Kong visitors after eight Hong Kong residents were killed in the Aug. 23 hostage crisis. The goal was to double tourist arrivals to 6 million by 2016.

For now, the Tourism Department would stop marketing the Philippines to Hong Kong tourists, and focus instead on other countries to hit its target of attracting 3.3 million visitors and generating $2.5 billion in tourism receipts this year, Lim said.

Given the Aug. 23 hostage tragedy, it would be a while before the country could try to woo back Chinese visitors, he said.

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

FASAP narrows down demands on PAL

The Flight Attendants' and Stewards' Association of the Philipines (FASAP) has narrowed down its demands on the management of the Philippine Airlines (PAL) in a bid to avert a strike and agree on a new collectibe bargaining agreement (CBA).

FASAP said on Sunday that in order to come up with a compromise agreement with PAL management, the group will just push for the mandatory retirement age to be changed to 60 from 40. This has been the biggest issue that has led to the impasse on the mediation and conciliation talks being conducted by the Department of Labor and Employment.

Another demand is for the management of the flag carrier to include or count in the years of service, the months covering pregnancy and maternity leaves.

The third demand is for the management to impose a uniform minimum wage among FASAP members.

Despite these compromises, FASAP Vice President Andy Ortega said that PAL management has been unwilling to mee them half-way.

Another conciliation meeting will be held this week at the DOLE to try and come up with an agreement acceptable to both parties.

FASAP has already filed a notice of strike with the DOLE about 2 weeks ago. The Department of Transportation and Communication and other state aviation agencies are exhausting all possible measures to prevent a strike that could cripple trade.

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Cebu Pacific aims to raise 32.19bn pesos in October IPO

Philippine budget airline Cebu Pacific plans to raise up to 32.19 billion pesos ($727 million) through a listing on the country's stock exchange in October.

Its parent company, Philippine conglomerate JG Summit, will list around 31% of its shares in the IPO, says the Philippine Stock Exchange. Of this, 70% will be sold to US investors and the rest domestically. Under Philippine law, the country's citizens must own at least 60% of domestic carriers.

The offer price should not exceed 150 pesos per share based on existing market conditions, says the exchange. The airline initially planned an IPO in 2008, but that was delayed due to the global financial crisis. It then considered a listing in March, but delayed that due to elections in the Philippines.

Cebu Pacific, which began operations in 1996, plans to use the funds raised to pay for aircraft purchases in 2011-2012, adds the exchange. The carrier operates a fleet of Airbus A319s, A320s and ATR 72-500s, and has 22 A320s and two ATR 72-500s on order, according to Flightglobal's ACAS database.

In the six months to 30 June, its net income rose 55.6% to 3.09 billion pesos on strong traffic growth. Revenues rose 30.9% to 14.9 billion pesos, mainly due to an increase in passenger numbers due to additional flight frequencies to existing destinations.

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Lawmaker sees anomaly in chopper deal

Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño on Friday said the military may have rigged a multibillion-peso contract in the purchase of 7 helicopters as part of its modernization program.

In Thursday's budget hearing, the Armed Forces revealed that only one bidder, PZL Swidnik of Poland, participated in the bidding and bagged the contract worth P3,180,169,000. The bidding was held last September 9 at the AFP headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo.

Military officials admitted that the P3.2 billion budget was originally for 14 attack helicopters. In December 2009, then Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales announced that the acquisition was down to eight W-3 Sokol combat utility helicopters worth P2.8 billion. But in last week's bidding, the number of units had gone down to seven while the cost increased to P3.2B.

Casiño said it was suspicious that 5 of the 6 interested bidders backed out of the bidding process. These included such big names in the industry like Boeing, Asia Aerospace/MD Helicopter Inc., Eurocopter, Elbit System/Joavi Phils. and the Russian Federation.

"When only one bidder 'qualifies' in any bid process, that is usually a tell-tale sign that the bidding is tailored-fit for one supplier,” he said in a statement.

"You don't usually back out of a P3 billion contract unless you know its a futile exercise, meaning the bidding is rigged in some way. It defies logic that only one bidder can satisfy the requirements set by the DND and the PAF. It would be interesting to know why these reputable companies did not participate," he added.

Ernesto Boac, chairman of the defense department's bids and awards committee, also admitted PZL Swidnik had won another contract last year under similar circumstances.

Casiño warned that another bid opening set on September 23, 2010 for multi-purpose helicopters and C-130 aircraft worth P2.5 billion might be put in peril given the questionable circumstances of the September 9 bidding. "The information reaching my office is that no one wants to participate in the bidding anymore due to the fear that there is already a favored company who will be qualified," he said.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

I won't be grounded for long - autogyro pilot

BACK on home soil after a six-month journey by autogyro, adventurer Norman Surplus said he is all fired-up to finish his epic voyage.
The Larne man has managed to get half-way on his round-the-world trip, landing in the Philippines last week after flying 16,000kms from his starting point at playing fields near his home in March.

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Norman Surplus
Norman Surplus

Dangerous weather conditions forecast for the next stages of his route forced him to take a break.

The 47-year-old has already crossed Europe, Africa and most of Asia, and will resume next March in the Philippines, from where he will fly on to Japan, Taiwan and Russia before crossing to Alaska and the United States.

The finale will be his flight across the north Atlantic and he may be joined by a host of other autogyros when he makes his triumphant landing in Larne next summer.

Norman's inspiration for the record-breaking flight came from a daytime television programme he watched in 2003 while recuperating from intensive chemotherapy to treat bowel cancer.

"The first time I ever saw an autogyro was in a James Bond film and I was fascinated but, like a lot of things in those films, I thought it was more fanciful," he said.

"I forgot about it for years, then when I was in the hospital and watching daytime television, there was a programme on about restoration and it was featuring a single seater autogyro.

"I then looked it up online and found a place in Cumbria that had some models."

Norman's wife Celia is from England and, while visiting her family, the couple stopped off in Cumbria to have a closer look at some of the autogyros.

As he was getting to grips with training to fly one, army helicopter pilot Barry Jones was attempting to be the first to fly an autogyro around the world.

He did not succeed. Norman felt sure someone else would try it – but when they didn't, he decided he would go for it.

While enjoying his home comforts and spending time with his wife and two sons, Norman will also be using his break to pen a book about his experiences.

"I initially was going to do a book about the whole thing, but now I may write one about the first part and maybe have a sequel," he said.

While Norman is starting to be known all around the world for his autogyro exploits, he is already a familiar character in Larne with his "yellow bumblebee", as his autogyro is known.

He now has thousands of fans around the world following his progress on his online blog and satellite tracker which plots his current position on a map on his website.

"I have been amazed by the kindness of strangers, people you don't know put you up in their home and take you around their country," he said.

"It is always better when locals do that than staying in a hotel near the airport where the only experience you get of the country is talking to the waiter. I have stayed in everything from palatial houses to six-dollar hotels."

Celia said she worries about her husband when he is away but that she believes he is in more danger on a motorway.

She has not yet gone up in Norman's two-seater autogyro – which is currently in the Philippines awaiting his return – but said when he finishes his round-the-world voyage, the pair will head off to Scotland for lunch in it.

For more information about Norman's adventure, log on to

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mactan airport upgrade among Aquino infrastructure priorities

President Aquino on Wednesday assured the business sector in the Visayas that infrastructure projects would be among his administration's top priority under the private-public partnership program.

Aquino was in Cebu to attend the Regional Economic Manager’s Briefing and Dialogue at the Cebu City Mariott Hotel, which was participated in by around 200 businessmen in the region and local government officials.

The President emphasized anew the role of public-private partnership in implementing infrastructure projects, one of the seven key issues raised by business groups in Central Visayas in an economic briefing here.

In his five-minute speech to more than 200 participants from business groups and government agencies, President Aquino said the redevelopment and upgrading of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport was one of the priority projects listed under the public-private partnership program of the government.

“We want to hear from you on what other infrastructure projects you think are needed in Cebu so we can say that we can be an engine of economic growth,” Mr. Aquino told businessmen and entrepreneurs.

President Aquino also said the government was “seriously considering liberalizing air transport” to facilitate travel around the country.

“This is the essence of public-private partnership I was talking about in my State of the Nation Address, that working together, government and business can achieve mutual goals that benefit the entire nation,” the President said.

Seven key issues were raised by the business chambers of Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor and Negros Oriental. They involved infrastructure, tourism, fuel and power costs, the establishment of mass transport system, the realization of the Panglao International Airport project and the building of Cebu-Bohol


However, the President said the proposed Cebu-Bohol Friendship bridge was quite ambitious as it would cost P20 billion.

The business sector also asked for the implementation of P4.4 billion worth of infrastructure projects for drainage improvement, national road widening, concreting and rehabilitation of roads, the construction of flyover and rehabilitation of the first Mandaue-Mactan bridge.

The Cebu businessmen also appealed for a reduction in fuel prices, explaining that Cebu’s pump prices were higher compared to those in other parts of the country.

They also called for a reduction in electricity prices to make Cebu more investor-friendly and for government to provide stable and sustainable power at the least cost from the investors to end-consumers.

On the other hand, Arroyo’s economic team headed by Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said they have to identify what infrastructure projects were needed by the businessmen in the region.

Purisima considered Cebu as the best model of an economic improvement that cuts across various sectors, namely tourism, export and business process outsourcing.

“What’s happening in Cebu is part of what we want to happen in the entire country. In terms of tourism and creative economy, your designers and furniture makers are taking the lead,” Purisima said.

He also recognized Cebu as a leader in shipbuilding (through the collaboration of Aboitiz Group and Tsuneishi) and semi-conductor production.

In a separate presentation, Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said Cebu should not remain complacent with the assurance that there would be a 300-megawatt excess capacity by the end of the year.

“The biggest setback is to sit down and do nothing after this. The challenge for Cebu is to build more generating capacity for the growing demand,” Almendras said.

Meanwhile, the police here had to make adjustments in providing security for the President because of the latter's refusal to use sirens.

At least 300 traffic enforcers were deployed to ensure a smooth flow of traffic.

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Better management of Bacolod-Silay airport urged

Members of the Negros Occidental provincial board have called for an improvement in the management of the Bacolod-Silay Airport following numerous complaints.

In a dialog with airport manager Felizardo Toralba at the Vice Governor’s Office at the Capitol in Bacolod City on Tuesday, the provincial officials said there were complaints about the airport being dirty with stinking toilets and poor air conditioning.
They also noted that janitors and security personnel worked as porters instead of doing their jobs.

Toralba said he would act on the matter of cleanliness and instructed the janitors and the security men to refrain from acting as porters.

He said the centralized air conditioning system at the airport had been damaged by fluctuating power from the Central Negros Electric Cooperative and that funds were needed for its repair.

Half of the airport's P8 million monthly income has to be remitted to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, Toralba said.

Board Member Nehemias de la Cruz, chairman of the provincial board’s Committee on Tourism

, urged Toralba to address the problems of the airport immediately because it was a show window for Negros Occidental.

“The tourists’ first and last impressions of Negros Occidental are important,” De la Cruz said.

The airport, which is supposed to be of international standards, would need more operational funds and improved management, he said.

Board Member Emilio Yulo III said they would ask the national government for more funding for the Bacolod-Silay Airport.

Board Member Patrick Lacson noted that the Department of Transportation has the responsibility of checking if the airport has met international standards.

Lacson suggested that the Sangguniang Panlalawigan tap the help of the Department of Tourism in ensuring the maintenance of all the country's major airports, including that in Bacolod City, to prevent complaints from tourists.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Philippine defense and military officials to fly to the Spratly Islands next week

Philippine defense and military officials will fly to the Spratly Islands next week to inspect a Philippine military outpost and facilities on one of the islands.

The Philippines is looking at repairing and improving its military facilities and an airport on Pag-Asa Island, southwest of the country.

A spokesman says the inspection is not related to the tension between the Philippines and China resulting from the Manila hostage siege last month.

Officials also say it will not be in violation of the status quo being observed by claimant countries to the Spartleys because it is not a military endeavor.

China and ASEAN have agreed to a code of conduct requiring rival claimants to the Spratly Islands to refrain from action that would establish their presence in the south China sea.

The Spratley islands are claimed by the Philippines, China, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.

A C-130 plane lands at the Philippine military base on Pag-Asa Island.

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Cebu Pacific IS HIRING!

CEBU Pacific (CEB) is hiring 300 flight attendants to augment the
airline’s workforce in time for the arrival of four brand-new Airbus
A320 aircraft, which is set to be delivered from October 2010 until
January 2011.

The CEB team has scheduled a recruitment campaign in Cebu on September
16 at the Cebu Midtown Hotel and initial screening in Manilaon
September 20 and 27 at the CEB Training and Development Center,
Domestic Airport Road and on October 6 at the Crowne Plaza Galleria

“We are scheduled to add more flights to Kota Kinabalu, Taipei, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and Seoul in time with our Airbus A320 aircraft deliveries, and we need more cabin crew to handle our additional capacity,” said Candice Iyog, CEB vice president for marketing and distribution.

Iyog said this continuous hiring of cabin crew from all over the Philippines also contributes to nation-building by providing job opportunities.

“In the past, we have hired flight attendants from our recruitment campaigns in
Davao, Cebu, Iloilo and Bacolod, among the many other destinations we fly to,” she added.

Qualifications for being a CEB flight attendant include a dynamic personality that embodies CEB’s culture of fun, at least 5’3” in height for female and at least 5’7” in height for male, weight that is proportional to height, clear complexion, good eyesight and good set of teeth.

The applicants must also be college level, proficient in Filipino and English and are willing to be assigned outside Metro Manila. They are advised to bring along their updated resumé and recent 2x2 photo.

Screening of applicants is on a first-come, first-served basis.

“We have already successfully trained 120 flight attendants this year and our
70th batch will soon graduate by the end of September. After rigorous training on safety and service, and competency checks, Batch 70 with 19 females and nine males will be welcomed into the CEB family,” Iyog said as she encouraged young graduates to apply so they can experience being part of a “young, fun and service-oriented firm committed to providing high-quality service across Asia.”

CEB currently has a fleet of 10 A319, 11 A320 jets and eight turbo-prop ATR 72 aircraft. It expects to take delivery of a total 24 brand-new Airbus A320 until 2014.

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

PAF Grounds Huey Helicopter Fleet

The entire fleet of Philippine Air Force (PAF) UH-1H “Huey”
helicopters has been grounded by PAF chief Lt. Gen. Oscar Rabena
following the incident last Friday wherein one of their choppers was
engulfed in flames after making an emergency landing in Ilocos Norte.

This was revealed on Saturday by PAF spokesperson Lt. Col. Migue Okol
who said the entire “Huey” fleet will remain grounded until
investigators determine the cause of the fire.

According to Okol, the PAF Huey helicopter with tail number 330 was on
a resupply mission in support of the 503rd Army Infantry Brigade and
was ferrying several soldiers when the incident happened.

While enroute, Capt. John Gador and Lt. Edbert Ngina experienced
engine problems and were forced to make a precautionary landing in an
open field in Barangay Nagrebcan.

After safely touching down with all the passengers and crew out of the
aircraft, a fire reportedly developed inside the engine bay which
became too big for the crew to put out with their fire extinguishers.

With the aircraft still fully loaded with fuel, the fire spread to the
fuel tanks causing the fire to engulf the entire aircraft.

The Huey chopper was left in a total state of disrepair.

The UH-1H helicopter is the PAF’s workhorse used in combat, troop
transport, rescue, and re-supply missions. With the latest incident,
the PAF is now left with just about 40 Huey helicopters.

Meanwhile, the PAF is anticipating the delivery of eight brand-new
utility helicopters from Poland to replace their aging fleet of

According to Okol, they expect the delivery of the combat utility
helicopters from PZL Swienik Company of Poland by the first quarter of

Okol disclosed that the Swienik helicopter can carry 14 persons,
including the pilot and co-pilot, and has a maximum speed of 260 kph
with a range of 745 km, non-stop. The Sweinik can climb to an altitude
of 19,680 feet, which is more than twice the height that the Huey can

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Philippine Air Force chopper catches fire in Ilocos

An Air Force helicopter on an aerial surveillance mission against
communist rebels in Ilocos Sur caught fire on Friday, reports said.

Six soldiers on board the helicopter cheated death as they were able
to leave the aircraft when it made an emergency landing in Barangay
Nagrebcan in Santa Lucia town.

The military has yet to reveal the cause of the fire.

Some suggest that the helicopter may have been hit by gunfire from the
ground but the military believes that the aircraft developed
mechanical trouble while in the air.

Army Lt. Col. Rogelio Migote earlier confirmed an armed encounter
between government troops and New People’s Army guerrillas in Barangay
Cuncunit also in Santa Lucia.

He did not say if there were casualties from the clash.

Nagrebcan is located in the boundary of La Union, Ilocos Sur, at Abra provinces

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AirPhil Express to launch daily flights to Singapore

Airphil Express (APX), the low-cost carrier of tycoon Lucio Tan, has
increased the flight frequency for its Singapore-Manila route from an
initial thrice weekly to daily.

In a statement, APX said it was recently awarded an additional 500
seats for its Singapore-Manila service due to strong market demand.
The airline will operate at Changi Airport's Budget Terminal 4, with
its maiden flight scheduled on October 27, 2010.

"The growing demand for low cost air travel to exciting destinations
such as Singapore is the main factor in our decision to fly the
Singapore-Manila route as our first regional offering," said Maria
Java, vice president for marketing and media at APX.

"The end of business day departure out of Manila at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.
departure out of Singapore has been well received by our markets both
in the Philippines and Singapore. It allows for both business and
leisure travelers to have a full day of activity and then relax while
in transit," Java added.

Singapore travel agencies that have signed up to offer APX have
enjoyed brisk sales in its early selling phase. Ongoing seat sales
offer introductory promo rates starting at SGD 70 (P1,800).

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Crime and No Punishment in Philippines

On Monday morning, a squad of perhaps half a dozen men, reportedly
armed with M-16 rifles and a grenade launcher, invaded the cavernous
SM Mall about 35 kilometers south of Manila and interrupted personnel
for Banco De Oro as they were about to load cash into an ATM. When a
security guard put up a fight, he was shot three times. The robbers
escaped with an estimated $90,000 to $112,000 in cash.

This episode of cops and robbers is more typical than anybody would
like to think in the Philippines, even if it is overshadowed by the
horrific events of Aug. 22, when eight Hong Kong tourists and their
ex-cop captor died in a disastrously mishandled shootout that left the
country humiliated and facing furious questions from the Hong Kong and
Chinese governments.

Pacific Strategies & Assessments, a Manila-based risk assessment
group, recently pointed out that on the day of the bus hijacking, an
incident took place “that characterizes today’s Philippine risk
climate and is equally critical for foreigners to understand.”

A van loaded with eight South Korean church pastors left Ninoy Aquino
International Airport — a heavily urbanized, busy and presumably safe
area — at 12:30 a.m. and ran into a nightmare when armed men stopped
the van by firing shots at it.

When one of the Koreans attempted to resist, the gunmen shot and
killed him, then robbed the others of their cash, jewelry, cell phones
and other personal belongings.

They then took two of the Koreans hostage and sped off, later dropping
them off at a deserted location.

It wasn’t the first time foreigners have been kidnapped at the
airport. In July, gunmen tailed a family of four out of the airport,
rammed their own car into the family vehicle, then robbed the family
when they got out to inspect the damage.

Several other similar incidents have taken place this year, targeting
both foreigners and locals.

Although it appears too early to be able to measure the effect, the
hostage incident and the growing spillover from such episodes as the
Korean van hijacking appear to be having an effect on tourism,
especially from China and Hong Kong.

The Philippine Star said that Island Souvenirs, the largest souvenir
chain in the Philippines, had recently seen a 10 to 12 percent drop in
four of its stores.

Anecdotally, airplanes flying into Manila appear to be carrying far
fewer passengers, and they appear to be Filipinos returning home
rather than Chinese on their way for a holiday.

Likewise, it is too early to tell about the effect on the foreign
direct investment climate, although it is already relatively anemic.
FDI fell by 31 percent in the second quarter after increasing over
previous quarters.

Business people and tourists have a right to be concerned. This is a
gun culture, where the crack of automatic rifle fire echoes through
the countryside just for entertainment purposes.

At the same time, law enforcement is problematic. The Philippines has
long been plagued by a criminal justice system that barely functions.

Court proceedings are drawn out for years, judges are known to accept
bribes and wealthy criminals, if they are convicted, can usually buy a
cozy prison cell or even live in their own homes.

The national police are something of a national joke. Poorly trained
and underpaid, they are chiefly known for soliciting bribes from taxi
drivers and motorists.

Kidnapping has long appeared to be something of a national pastime as
well, with wealthy Filipinos and foreigners often targeted.

Three people were reported kidnapped in July, although the total is
probably much higher as victims usually pay and keep quiet.

One recent case involved a 39-year-old Filipino woman, married to an
American, who had come back to the country only to have her car forced
off the road in April.

The kidnappers held her, transferring her from city to city while they
attempted to negotiate a $1 million ransom through her cell phone with
relatives in the United States.

After several weeks, she was moved to a safe house near Tagaytay City.
There, neighbors grew suspicious and called the police, who invaded
the house at 3 a.m. and shot the three kidnappers, killing two and
wounding one.

The woman was rescued unharmed on May 7, an unusually upbeat ending.

There is no apparent solution to the crime problem. Guns are
commonplace almost everywhere. With few people trusting the police, a
thriving business exists in private security for the wealthy.

The less well off have to hope for the best and most everyone has a
story of being pick-pocketed or having a bag snatched.

The vast majority of crimes go unreported, experts say, because there
is such widespread doubt that the police will do anything about a

The deeper problem in the police, of course, lies in the fact that
many kidnappers, muggers, smugglers and other local bandits are
themselves either off-duty police officers or soldiers.

The late dictator Ferdinand Marcos used to deal with this corrupt mess
by occasionally organizing a band of “crime busters” and announcing
that a get-tough policy was in effect.

Batches of presumed criminals would be shot en masse and dumped in
local rivers for a few days. That would settle things for a time and
put the fear of God in the bad guys.

Nothing seems to rattle them these days.

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Philippine Airlines cabin crews file strike notice

Philippine Airlines' cabin staff on Thursday formally advised the
government they would go on strike at the end of October, saying the
move would ground all flights by the loss-making flag carrier.

The 1,600-member cabin crew union said it had filed a strike notice
with the labour ministry, which by law has 30 days to try to find a
compromise between the airline and employees to prevent a shut-down.

"Once we go on strike, no flight will take off," said Bob Anduiza,
president of the Flight Attendants Association of the Philippines.

"This will ground PAL's entire operations," he told a news conference.

PAL spokeswoman Cielo Villaluna appealed to the union to reconsider
and return to the negotiating table.

"This will affect Philippine tourism and our financial position,"
Villaluna said in a radio interview.

The cabin staff are seeking a raise that would put their pay on par
with that offered by foreign carriers. They are also demanding paid
maternity leave and an end to a company policy that forces female
attendants to retire at the age of 40.

There was no immediate comment from the labour department.

The planned strike is the latest in a string of labour problems to hit
the national flag-carrier. Last month, 25 pilots and first officers of
PAL's short-haul aircraft suddenly quit for higher paying jobs abroad,
forcing the abrupt cancellation of several flights.

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Philippines prepares for EU check on aviation safety standard

The Philippines' government and civil aviation sectors are preparing
for the visit in October by an official team of the European Union
(EU) to conduct an audit on progress in improving safety standards and
procedures, the chief of the Civil Aviation Authority of the
Philippines (CAAP) said.

Alfonso G. Cusi, CAAP director general, said in a telephone interview
that his office has asked the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)
to provide a detailed agenda for the visit on Oct.18-22.

"We’re hoping to get the union’s reply as soon as possible to prepare
for the visit," he said. "The visit has been scheduled in October
because the European Union Air Safety Conference is scheduled in
November. We’re hoping to get positive feedback from them so that the
representatives could relay that to other union members in the

The outcome of the visit will be discussed and reviewed by EU members
in the conference that will be held in Brussels, Belgium.

Mr. Cusi said the visit is a "perfect opportunity for the country to
convince the union that it has improved the security and safety
standards of its aviation industry" after the EU banned Philippine
carriers last April from flying to the organization’s 27 member

The move was after the announcement by the International Civil
Aviation Organization in October last year of a "Significant Safety
Concern" relating to poor government oversight of safety in the
industry and the earlier downgrading of the Philippines’ safety rating
by the US Federal Aviation Administration.

EASA is the civilian aviation regulator of the EU based in Cologne,
Germany that enforces safety standards and authorizes non-EU flag
carriers to service the region.

"We are also hoping to get clearance for the two major carriers of the
Philippines which are Philippine Airlines (PAL) and Cebu Pacific," Mr.
Cusi said.

"Actually, Cebu Pacific never had flights to any EU country," he
clarified. "But as one of the major airlines here, we have to get it
cleared, according to the union’s standards."

PAL President Jaime J. Bautista told reporters at the sidelines of the
company’s stockholders’ meeting yesterday that the flag carrier has
been always prepared for the inspection. "We hope to have the ban
lifted as soon as possible," he said.

PAL and Cebu Pacific representatives met EU aviation officials last
June to update them on the two carriers’ upgraded security and safety
procedures after getting new operating certificates from CAAP.
However, the airlines were unable to convince the body to drop the
Philippines from its black list.

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Protest at Philippine airline's refusal to carry kidney

Philippine medics had to throw away a donated kidney when a local
airline refused to fly it, transplant doctors said Thursday.

Cebu Pacific Air said it was protecting passengers from possible
infection or contamination when it refused to allow the team who
harvested the organ to carry the kidney in the cabin on the flight
last month.

Benjamin Balmores, president of the Philippine Society of Nephrology
(PSN), said the kidney could no longer be used after doctors instead
tried to drive it nearly 400 kilometres (250 miles) to its

"According to NKTI (the government-run National Kidney and Transplant
Institute), this is the first time that the team was not allowed to
hand-carry the human organ," Balmores told AFP.

Cebu Pacific said it offered to carry the kidney on priority cargo,
but the doctors declined because the organ was too fragile.

Candice Iyog, a spokeswoman for the airline said: "The way (the
kidney) was packed was not in accordance with prevailing
internationally accepted standards."

Balmores, whose group represents the country's kidney doctors, urged
airlines to commit to a set of guidelines on transporting harvested
human organs.

"It seems there is no standard policy nor a consistent implementation
of such policy as seen in the past experience of the National Kidney
and Transplant Institute retrieval team," he said.

Health Secretary Enrique Ona confirmed the incident, and said the
government needed to educate airlines about the importance of organ

Balmores called on the government to provide more funds for the
state's donor programme.

"(It) would not be too ambitious to have a dedicated helicopter to
transport organs for transplantation," Balmores said.

Health department data show 9,000 Filipinos die from renal failure every year.

Balmores said 11,000 people are on dialysis nationwide, 3,000 of whom
would be fit enough and could afford a kidney transplant.

The PSN said it performed 511 kidney transplants last year.

The Philippines has been encouraging more transplants from deceased
donors to discourage the underground practice of poor people selling
their kidneys.

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Airphil Express Launches Sulu Flights After Runway Upgrades

Airport runway upgrades completed in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi, and Jolo,
Sulu, through a US-Philippines partnership has led to the
establishment of new commercial flights between those provincial
capitals and this city.

Airphil Express will fly a 77-seater Bombardier Q400 along the
Zamboanga-Jolo route three times weekly beginning September 11, and
along the Zamboanga-Bongao route four times weekly from September 10,
with connecting flights to Manila and Davao, according to Maria Java,
the airline’s vice president for marketing and media.

Chambers of commerce, together with the two provincial governments,
worked with the airline and the Civil Aviation Authority of the
Philippines (CAAP), to expedite the establishment of the new flights,
which they expect will lead to an increase in trade and other business
activity in the Sulu Archipelago.

“Even before the runway was inaugurated, we were pushing to get new
air routes set up,” said Robert Tan, president of the Tawi-Tawi
Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “We met with Airphil Express
officials in Manila to persuade them and to offer the chamber’s

The airport runway upgrades, which were built under a partnership
between the Philippine and US governments, were implemented by the
Department of Transportation and Communications, the provincial
governments of Tawi-Tawi and Sulu, and USAID’s Growth with Equity in
Mindanao (GEM) Program, under the oversight of the Mindanao
Development Authority.

The Tawi-Tawi runway was extended by the GEM Program from 1,608 to
1,920 meters, and widened from 18 to 30 meters. The Jolo airport
runway was likewise extended by GEM, from 1,200 to 1,845 meters, and
widened from 18 to 30 meters. Both are now all-concrete runways.

The improvements, which allow both airports to accommodate
larger-bodied aircraft such as Boeing 737s and Airbus 320s, drew the
interest of commercial airlines.

“It felt like landing on runways in the US, built to the highest
standards,” said Captain Patrick Roa, Airphil Express’ chief pilot for
safety and security, who flew the evaluation flights in July. “The
surface is grooved to ensure safety even during heavy rainfall.”

“The old runways could accommodate only 19-seater planes and were
often closed for patch-up repairs,” said Luis Go, president of the
Sulu Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “We then had no choice but to
travel to Zamboanga by sea, which can be uncomfortable and takes a

“Flying to Zamboanga from Jolo takes twenty minutes, compared with
traveling ten hours by inter-island ferry,” said Java, who added that
traveling by ferry from Zamboanga to the more distant Bongao took
seventeen hours. “We could see the market potential from the number of
people going by boat.”

She added that flight cargo from the two island-provinces would likely
include high-value fruits and marine products such as live fish, among
other commodities.

Businesspeople said that the new flights, are substantially cheaper
than those offered by the airline that previously plied the routes
with smaller aircraft, would have a big impact on the local economy.

“People can now easily go to Zamboanga, which is the commercial hub of
western Mindanao, to order stock and conduct business,” said Go. “Even
buyers from Manila and Cebu will be more likely to travel here.”

He added that the air service would also provide Sulu residents with
better access to government, medical and banking services on the
Mindanao mainland

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PAF to get more planes next yea

The military will have a robust air fleet next year, but in the
meantime, the Philippine Air Force has to make do with what is
available to perform its job, an Air Force official said Wednesday.

Lt. Col. Miguel Ernesto Okol, PAF spokesperson, said at least 18
trainer aircraft, eight combat utility helicopters “and more flying
C130 airplanes” will be arriving starting next year.

Okol told reporters during a visit here that one of the C130 planes
they were expecting will be coming from the United States.

The PAF is beset by a lack of aircraft. A number of its aircraft have
crashed or are currently undergoing maintenance while others havce
been grounded due to old age.

Okol said the Air Force expects that the arrival of more aircraft,
including C130s, will boost the military’s capability to transport
personnel and supplies during combat operations and deal with threats
to national security.

While the PAF was optimistic, the Philippine Navy on the other hand
said it continues to yearn for assets that could boost its

Rear Adm. Danilo Cortez, acting Navy commander, said they might have
two helicopters at the moment but these have been grounded due to

“The Bolköw helicopters that we have are no longer working,” he said.

Cortez cited the importance of helicopters in search-and-rescue operations.

He said they were pinning their hopes for new air assets on the
planned modernization for the military.

“Let’s hope that there will be new acquisitions,” Lt. Gen. Ben
Dolorfino, Western Mindanao Command chief, said.

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Monday, September 6, 2010

Pilots Sought to Fill Cockpits in Asia as Rising Travel Creates Shortage

Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd., Qantas Airways Ltd. and Emirates Airline
are awaiting deliveries of about 400 planes to capitalize on Asia’s
rising prosperity. Finding pilots is the next job.

Boeing Co. expects the region’s carriers to be the biggest buyers of
twin-aisle planes as travel grows in China and India, home to a
combined 1.1 billion middle-class people. Asia-Pacific airlines will
buy about 8,000 planes worth $1.2 trillion over the next 20 years,
Airbus SAS said.

Airlines worldwide need an average of 49,900 pilots a year from 2010
to 2030 as fleets expand, yet current training capacity is only
47,025, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization in
Montreal. That is sparking bidding wars as Emirates offers tax-free
salaries and four-bedroom villas for captains, and AirAsia Bhd., the
region’s biggest budget airline, gives tuition-free training.

“It’s a major issue and will be a big challenge to the industry’s
growth,” said Binit Somaia, a Sydney-based analyst for the Centre for
Asia Pacific Aviation. “Even if you can find the pilots, you have to
pay top dollar for them because they are so scarce.”

China, India

China, the world’s fastest-growing major aviation market, likely will
account for a third of the region’s orders, Airbus, the world’s
biggest aircraft maker, said in February. Its economy will grow 10.5
percent this year, compared with world growth of 4.6 percent,
according to International Monetary Fund estimates.

India, with estimated growth of 9.4 percent this year, may overtake
China as the world’s fastest-growing major economy as early as 2013,
according to Morgan Stanley.

This year, the region’s carriers ordered 133 commercial jets with more
than 100 seats, or 23 percent of the global total, according to Ascend
Worldwide Ltd., a London-based aviation forecaster and data provider.

“There will be a shortage of pilots, and this is going to last for a
while because it takes time to produce a good pilot,” said Elmer Pena,
president of the Airline Pilots Association of the Philippines.

Philippine Airlines Inc. canceled flights in July and August and
rebooked passengers after losing 27 pilots to higher paying jobs

Fleet Doubles

The demand in Asia contrasts with the 4,500 U.S. airline pilots on
furlough, according to figures compiled by Kit Darby, a retired United
Airlines pilot now running an Atlanta-based consulting firm.

That situation shouldn’t last long. The global fleet of cargo and
large passenger planes will double to nearly 32,000 by 2028 from
15,750 last year, according to Airbus.

The major U.S. airlines are expected to hire more than 40,000 pilots
in the next 12 years, said Louis Smith, president of, which
provides career counseling services and sponsors job fairs.

World passenger traffic is expected to increase an average of 4.7
percent a year between 2009 and 2028, according to Airbus.

“I believe one can expect serious shortages among the foreign carriers
who can’t afford to pay what it takes to attract qualified pilots,”
Smith said.

$28 Billion Expansion

Emirates is the largest Arab airline with more than 200 planes on
order. It aims to recruit 250 pilots this year and double that number
in 2011, it said in a statement.

The company, which needs more than $28 billion through 2017 for
expansion, sought to recruit in Houston, Madrid and Singapore.

Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong’s biggest carrier, will recruit 1,000
people, including crew, Chief Operating Officer John Slosar said.

PT Garuda Indonesia placed a newspaper advertisement last month
seeking pilots “fluent in English and of good character.” Jetstar, the
budget arm of Qantas, plans to recruit 120 more pilots by next summer.

Singapore Airlines Ltd. and AirAsia, based near Kuala Lumpur, set up
their own tuition-free training academies. Singapore Air’s flying
college graduates about 150 cadet pilots a year, while AirAsia’s
facility trains as many as 500 a year.

Graduates must stay with the budget carrier for five years, AirAsia
Chief Executive Officer Tony Fernandes said.

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Panglao International Airport still on???

There is still hope for the Panglao Bohol International Airport to be realized.

Thus declared Rep. Erico B. Aumentado (2nd District, Bohol) who, as
governor, led Boholano officials in pushing for the flagship project.

The solon made the statement after a series of moves to help the
Chatto administration save Panglao Airport.

Appropriation Committee member Aumentado solicited the assurance from
Budget (DBM) Sec. Florencio Abad and Transportation Sec. Jose de Jesus
that the airport is among those considered for funding either under
the public-private participation (PPP) scheme of build operate and
transfer (BOT), or official development assistance (ODA) concessional

The other source of funding being explored is a mix of Civil Aviation
Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) corporate funds and the national
budget with BOT on the terminal building, cargo and parking areas,
Aumentado said.

The congressman obtained Abad’s support during Aumentado’s
interpellation of the budget secretary in the national expenditure
program hearing by the Appropriations Committee on September 2. They
discussed intensively ODA and PPP sources of funding for on stream
projects with feasibility study, detailed engineering design and
National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) clearance such as
the Panglao Airport and the Malinao dam upgrading.

At one point, Abad stressed that ODA funding is beneficial because of
its long term payment and low interest.

In another development, the legislator conferred with de Jesus’
undersecretaries on Panglao Airport and Ubay Airport development as
directed by the transportation secretary – on September 3 in the

Usec Benny Reinoso, Usec. Glicerio Sicat and Usec. Mabini Pablo
reiterated the DOTC chief’s assurance that the Panglao Airport will be
included for PPP offer or ODA funding, whichever would be faster and
more favorable to the government. They said DOTC will conduct the
diligence review and validation in the light of some objections of the
project to be established in Panglao, including that of Dr. Ernesto
Pernia, University of the Philippines Economics professor.

But they said categorically that Panglao Airport is in the DOTC radar
after Aumentado informed them that all the issues raised against the
project have been addressed and that foreign tourists prefer to go to
destinations near the airport as in the case of Mactan island in Cebu,
Phuket in Thailand, and Penang Island City in Malaysia.

On the Ubay domestic airport, the undersecretaries said the project
needs a feasibility study which they committed to assist. The airport
is in the CAAP annual investment program (AIP).

To cap his moves, the solon met Friday night the Korea Export-Import
Bank (Eximbank) and Economic Development CooperationFund (EDCF)
country representative Man Hwan Park and Korean Embassy Counselor
Myoung Joon Kim on the possibility of tapping Korea’s ODA for the
Panglao Airport development project.

The Korean officials responded positively. They added that the Panglao
Airport is a vital support for Bohol’s Multi-Industry Cluster
strategy, tourism business and industry.

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Philippines' reputation takes a hit

The Philippines, with its 7,100 islands, has some of the best beaches
in Asia and some of the best diving spots in the world.

It has outstanding resorts, spas and eco-tourism spots – but it still
fails to attract the same numbers of foreign tourists as many of its
South East Asian neighbours.

Last year, slightly more than 3 million tourists visited the
Philippines while Malaysia had 23.6 million, Thailand 14 million,
Indonesia 6.4 million, Singapore 9.6 million and Vietnam 4 million,
according to statistics from the Association of South East Asian
Nations (ASEAN).

Terrorist bombings on the Indonesian island resort of Bali and Jakarta
this decade have not kept tourists away; nor has Thailand’s internal
political problems, nor the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004 in which more
than 200,000 people died.

So why is the Philippines different, even before the tragic events of
the Manila bus hijacking at the end of last month?

“Part of the problem is perception,” says a foreign former Manila
hotel manager who does not want to be identified.

“To many foreigners, the Philippines is seen as lacking
infrastructure, perceived as being too expensive when compared to
other regional destinations and, above all, not a safe place to spend
a holiday.

“The failed rescue of Hong Kong tourists in which eight died along
with their hijacker – a disgruntled, sacked policeman – did not help
the Philippines as millions watched it live around the world. The fact
that it was bungled so badly did nothing for the image of the

On the same day a minibus carrying South Koreans who had just arrived
in the country was shot at on a busy road and forced to stop just a
few kilometres from Manila’s international airport. When one tourist
refused to hand over his money and valuables, he was shot dead.

In June, a foreign senior manager at the five-star Shangri-la Hotel
was shot dead in broad daylight while walking to work in the business
district of Makati.

“I would expect many people who had considered the Philippines as a
possible holiday destination are probably looking elsewhere now,” says
the former hotel manager.

While its South East Asian neighbours pour billions of dollars into
their tourism sectors, the Philippines, despite much discussion on the
subject, does very little.

“The reality is that the vast majority of tourism destinations [in the
Philippines] are serviced by second and third-rate facilities with
poor maintenance regimes and sub-standard service offerings, not to
mention the time-consuming and cumbersome challenges of getting to and
from any of the country’s destinations,” the Manila-based economic and
political risk consultancy Pacific Strategies and Assessments (PSA)
said in a July report.

“There is little hope, even with the best promotional campaigns in
place, that the Philippines will improve its attractiveness to savvy
tourists when all of its South East Asian neighbours offer far
superior accommodation.”

PSA made the point that while the Philippine government allotted US$28
million (Dh102.8m) for its tourism agency last year, it spent only $2m
promoting itself overseas.

Thailand allotted $138m to its tourism authority and spent almost a
third of that on promotion.

Alberto Lim, the Philippines tourism secretary, said last week the
botched rescue of the Hong Kong tourists had probably cost the
Philippines about $70m in tourism revenue.

“The tension is still there and will probably take three months before
it finally dissipates and enables the industry to recover,” Mr Lim

He estimated more than 100,000 tourists from Hong Kong and China have
so far cancelled their bookings, hitting the revenues of the two main
local carriers, Philippine Airlines (PAL) and Cebu Pacific.

Tourists from Hong Kong and China comprise about 9 per cent of all
annual international arrivals and could pull down the number of
foreign visitors to the country this year by between 5 and 10 per
cent, some analysts have said.

The hostage drama on August 23 lasted 11 hours and ended when a police
special weapons and tactics team stormed a tourist bus in downtown

Eight of the 15 tourists held captive by the former policeman were
killed in the ensuing shootout. The policeman, who had been sacked
this year for extortion, was also killed.

The day after the bus siege, local stocks and the country’s peso were
hit. The main Philippine Stock Exchange index ended a six-day winning
streak by losing 2.3 per cent – its biggest one-day fall since June.

On the foreign exchange market the news was not any better, with the
peso retreating 47 centavos to close at 45.53 to the dollar.

The markets recovered by the end of the week but the tourism sector,
one of the weakest and least developed in South East Asia, continued
to take a battering with Hong Kong placing a “black alert” on the

The alert, the most severe of a three-stage system, suspends package
tours and advises travellers not to go to areas where their safety may
be at risk.

Last Sunday in Hong Kong about 80,000 residents took to the streets to
voice their anger at Manila and the administration.

Last Wednesday, the Hong Kong tourism chief James Tien said he was in
favour of continuing the black alert.

“Even if the alert were to be lifted, I doubt you will find many
people from here wanting to go to the Philippines,” Mr Tien said.

PAL said this week there had been a number of cancellations of flight
bookings for passengers coming from Hong Kong and other Chinese cities
bound for the Philippines. The airline said more than 1,000 tourists
from Hong Kong and China had cancelled their bookings.

Despite the reduced passenger load Jaime Bautista, the president of
PAL, says the airline will maintain its current flight frequency until
the situation returns to normal.

“We’re closely monitoring the situation and will decide soon whether
we will maintain or reduce flights,” Mr Bautista says. “We share the
grief and understand the Hong Kong people’s wrath. We are optimistic
that fears of travelling to the Philippines will be temporary.”

The worst-case scenario for the company, he says, would be the
reduction of flights to Hong Kong, from which about 6 per cent of
PAL’s revenues come. PAL flies to Hong Kong five times a day and also
flies to Macau, Shanghai, Xiamen and Beijing.

Direct flights from Hong Kong to Laoag City in Ilocos Norte, northern
Philippines, have been cancelled indefinitely, said Ronal Estabillo,
the manager of Laoag International Airport.

He told the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper last week he had
received a letter from executives of Hong Kong Express Flights
notifying the airport of the cancellation of the airline’s direct

The Hong Kong airline flies in twice a week to the home province of
the former president Ferdinand Marcos.

The city has become a popular destination for Hong Kong and Chinese
tourists as it is only 45 minutes’ flight from the former British
colony and has some of the country’s better golf courses, a resort
that caters to the Chinese and a casino.

Each month about 1,200 Hong Kong tourists visit the city for “rest and
recreation”, Milagros Gonzales, a provincial tourism officer, told the
paper. “This will hurt the local industry.”

The local budget carrier Cebu Pacific says several of its passengers
from Hong Kong have also asked to have their flights rebooked or

Meanwhile, the Philippine Travel Agencies Association says eight
hotels and seven resorts had reported cancellations by tourists from
Hong Kong and other parts of China.

That amounts to 300 rooms in popular tourist destinations such as
Bohol, Palawan, Boracay, Cebu and Manila.

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Saturday, September 4, 2010

All STILL NOT Well in Paradise ICAO tells RP to beef up aviation security measures

Despite previous reports where CAAP indicated that ICAO was happy with
the progress of the CAAP in meeting the recommendations to make the
aviation industry in the philippines on a par with world wide
standards, now we find out that ICAO is NOT happy ..

THE INTERNATIONAL Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) wants the
Philippines to hire more inspectors before upgrading the country's
aviation security status.

Roberto Kobeh González, ICAO president, told reporters in a briefing
on Friday the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) has
been doing its best to resolve 89 problems found in local aviation.

But he did not give a timeframe on when the safety tag on the
Philippines would be lifted.

The ICAO issued a Significant Safety Concern advice on the Philippines
in 2009 after a Universal Safety Oversight Audit inspection. ICAO’s
decision to downgrade the Philippines had to do with the "lack of plan
for certifying air operators in accordance with the Civil Aviation
Regulations of 2008, as well as the lack of surveillance inspections
of air operators and the aviation industry as a whole."

"As of Aug. 16, the CAAP has resolved 77 out of the 89 problems. But
definitely the main concern that the CAAP should address is the lack
of trained inspectors. We have talked about outsourcing some
inspectors for the meantime while the CAAP is training the local
inspectors," Mr. González said.

In January 2008, the United States Federal Aviation Administration
downgraded the Philippines to Category 2 from Category 1 following an
International Aviation Safety Audit in November 2007

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