Impasse at PAL remains unresolved


THE IMPASSE at Philippine Airlines (PAL) remained unresolved after yesterday’s talks with pilots did not yield concrete results.

Transportation Secretary Jose P. de Jesus told reporters yesterday after a meeting with pilots at the Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC): "We hope to meet with the pilots and the management [today]. The issue is more than a labor issue, the pilots also told us about their concerns on the working conditions in PAL."

He said four pilot representatives attended the meeting. "Some of them are active pilots."

Mr. de Jesus added the resigned pilots could still return. Thirteen captains and 12 first officers have quit from the flag carrier.

For his part, Edwin Lacierda, presidential spokesman, said the issue is addressed "day by day."

"The government is doing its best to solve the issue. We are positive about it," he added.

Meanwhile, PAL said that it will offer new flight schedules for three previously canceled destinations in an attempt to return flights back to normal.

Cielo Villaluna, PAL spokesperson, said in a statement that PAL’s average of 160 domestic and international flights daily will continue to operate as scheduled.

One flight each to Iloilo, Bacolod and Cagayan de Oro cities have been rescheduled while the rest of the flights to the three areas remain unchanged.

"All flights continue as scheduled except those to and from Bacolod (PR135/136); Cagayan de Oro (PR 181/182 except Thursdays); and Iloilo (PR147/148). Passengers booked on rescheduled flights are being advised accordingly to avoid any inconvenience or delays at the airport," she said.

Ms. Villaluna said PAL customers "have a wide choice of convenient flight schedules to choose from in all PAL destinations. PAL continues to have four flights a day each way between Manila and Iloilo, Bacolod and Cagayan de Oro."

No takeover

Earlier in the day, Mr. Lacierda told a Palace briefing that a government takeover of PAL was not discussed.

"We’re not at the point of discussing whether the president will step in. It’s being handled at the cabinet level. Hopefully, we will be able to come up with the resolution at the level of the cabinet," he said.

The government, represented by Mr. Lacierda, Mr. de Jesus, Justice Secretary Leila M. de Lima, Labor Secretary Rosalinda D. Baldoz, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines Director-General Alfonso G. Cusi and Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Jose Amor M. Amorado separately met last Monday with PAL management and pilots.

Also in attendance were PAL Chairman Lucio C. Tan, PAL President and Chief Operating Officer Jaime J. Bautista, and Cebu Pacific Air Inc. President and Chief Executive Officer Lance Y. Gokongwei, while Airline Pilots Association of the Philippines president Elmer F. Peña and Capt. Ismael Lapus, Jr. represented the pilots.

Ms. de Lima said in the same briefing: [What we are doing now] is moral suasion. An appeal to pilots. This is the minimum. The maximum will be an absolute takeover [of PAL]. Although we could also give mandatory directives to PAL through DoTC."

"If you can see, there is no legal dispute on this particular issue. The Civil Code will apply on this case, not Labor Code," she said.

The government owned and managed PAL since it reassumed control in 1977 before being privatized in 1992.

PR Holdings, Inc., the consortium which bought the airline, PAL faced differences until 1996 on how to manage the company. Mr. Tan became chairman and chief executive officer in January 1995.

The company’s woes were compounded by the Ramos administration’s adoption of an open skies policy and the 1997 Asian crisis. It exited receivership in January 2008.

In a related development, Ramon "Bong" B. Revilla, Jr., public service committee chairman, has called for a probe of the PAL case in aid of legislation.

"We must take immediate action to address the current situation and to prevent similar occurrences from happening in the future," he said. -- A. M. P. Dagcutan and A. M. G. Roa

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