Alvarez threatens to cancel Cebu Pacific franchise

MANILA, Philippines – House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez renewed his threat to cancel the franchise of local budget carrier Cebu Pacific on Thursday, February 15, citing the airline's supposed faults in dealing with customers.

In an interview with broadcaster Ted Failon on Thursday, Alvarez lamented Cebu Pacific's alleged refusal to use airport tubes for disembarkation. He recalled an instance in Davao City where a mother and a month-old baby ended up soaking wet because despite the rain, the airline refused to use the airport tubes.

"My message to the management of Cebu Pacific is for them to stop looking merely at profit. They should also look into their responsibilities towards their passengers. They should run the company properly so that it's not just about profits or how much they make at the end of the year. They also have social responsibilities, they have to address it. They shouldn't be greedy," he said.

At a House hearing on Wednesday, February 14, Alvarez had berated airport officials and airlines over flight delays, long lines at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), and other issues that hound the country's main airport.

He had given Cebu Pacific 45 days to fix its issues, or face the threat of franchise cancellation.

Alvarez, in particular, wants the airline to transfer some of its flights to Clark International Airport in Pampanga in a bid to decongest air traffic at NAIA, where Cebu Pacific primarily operates out of Terminal 3.

Congress had granted Cebu Pacific a 40-year franchise to operate as an airline in 1991. Congress may amend or repeal the franchise "when the common good so requires."

Why was Alvarez singling Cebu Pacific out? When the House Speaker asked the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), it said that Philippine Airlines (PAL) was willing to follow directives to improve air traffic but Cebu Pacific was "hard-headed."

The MIAA, which operates NAIA, said its terminals are designed to accommodate 10 million people. Currently, over 20 million passengers are being accommodated.

Alvarez, who was transportation chief under former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, noted that airports' designs are specific to their usage – whether for domestic or international flights. A mismatch in purpose and actual use, he noted, results in redundant designs.

NAIA Terminal 3, for instance, was designed for international flights but also services local flights.

Alvarez himself was previously linked to controversy involving the awarding of the NAIA Terminal 3 build-operate-transfer (BOT) contract to Philippine International Air Terminals Company Incorporated (Piatco) when he was MIAA senior assistant general manager.

The Office of the Ombudsman eventually dismissed the case, citing probes done by the House of Representatives. –