May 26, 2018, 2:15 pm
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Alvarez threatens to revoke franchises of airline firms

SPEAKER Pantaleon Alvarez yesterday threatened to revoke the franchise of airline companies, particularly Cebu Pacific, if it fails to transfer some of its flights to Clark International Airport to help decongest airports in Metro Manila, in 45 days.

Alvarez was reacting to Cebu Pacific Inc. president Lance Gokongwei who told a hearing of the House committee on transportation that it might take at least a year for his company to comply with the transfer directive.

“Respectfully sir, given the way we sell tickets one year in advance and also the time it requires to move all our people and (do) the ground preparations, I think these drastic steps may take over a year of planning,” Gokongwei said.

Alvarez, however, insisted on the 45-day deadline and asked the committee to form an oversight body to evaluate what would be accomplished at the end of the deadline.

“Those who don’t want to follow the rules and regulations of the government, we can always cancel your respective franchises and we are not joking. We are not threatening, we are serious in promoting the safety of all and convenience of the public,” he said.

Cebu Pacific and its subsidiary CEBGO have been flying some domestic and international flights out of Clark, like from Clark to Caticlan in Boracay, Clark to Busuanga in Palawan, and from Clark to Hong Kong, Macau, Seoul, South Korea, and Singapore .

Alvarez, who served as transportation secretary during the Arroyo administration, gave Ed Monreal, general manager of the Manila International Airport Authority, 45 days to implement the directive.

He said MIAA should take steps to decongest passenger and air traffic, noting that it is only in the Philippines where airports designed for domestic traffic also handle international flights while airports designed for international flights also take in domestic flights.

Alvarez said the main concern of airport authorities should be the safety, comfort, and convenience of the riding public.

“That should stop now. Let’s do what’s right so if that airport is for domestic, use it for domestic flights. Now if it can’t accommodate all, transfer the other flights to Clark,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez said a domestic terminal has no provision for immigration and this is why the immigration lines are always long at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 2.

In contrast, he said, NAIA Terminal 3’s immigration is not being maximized because it is being used mostly for domestic flights.

“So if you can’t accommodate flights anymore, don’t accept it, stop it and that way, you will lessen traffic even on runways because no matter how we build terminals, if the runway cannot accommodate, it’s useless. So perhaps, we should reduce the flights,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez also hit the cost-cutting practice of airlines, like the refusal of Cebu Pacific to use the passenger bridges or tubes.

“They ask passengers to walk up and down. How about the disabled, the elderly, the sick? Instead of ensuring their comfort by allowing them to use the tube, which is connected to the aircraft, they have to go down only to climb again. Is that right?” he said.

Alvarez also accused Cebu Pacific of not refunding passengers who fail to board their flights.

“There are no refunds, even terminal fees, they don’t return it to you. Just try if they’ll refund it. Most of the passengers don’t know that their tickets are inclusive of terminal fees,” he said.

He reminded the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines and the Manila International Airport Authority that their primary concern is to safeguard the welfare of the passengers and not the concern of the airlines. – With Myla Iglesias
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