CAAP Gone Haywire

Spends P14 million for Bible study
instead of hiring qualified personnel for safety standards

June 23, 2009

By Rainier Allan Ronda
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MANILA, Philippines – The newly created Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) is currently spending more than P14 million for a “values education” and “purpose driven life” seminar for all its employees.

Employees of the CAAP, who requested anonymity, told The STAR that retired Philippine Air Force (PAF) general Ruben Ciron, CAAP director general, has allotted a budget of P14,819,080 for a supposed “Spiritual Advancement Values Education” (SAVE) program that started in September 2008.

The program reportedly entails an employee attending “multi-level” 25-hour values education and “purpose-driven life” seminars supervised by Ciron’s consultant, Bishop Ernesto Sacro who, like the CAAP chief, is a retired military general or a Philippine Navy commodore.

So-called “organic” CAAP employees, or those that have been absorbed from its forerunner, the Air Transportation Office (ATO), characterized the SAVE program as a highly suspicious and unnecessary undertaking that uses up much of the agency’s funds and even diverts its focus as it tries to regain a Category I status with the United States’ Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) that it lost in December 2007.

“We should be focusing our resources and our energies towards satisfying the US FAA requirements so that we can regain Category I status which is the main reason why the CAAP was created,” a source told The STAR.

“But with this Bible study program of the CAAP leadership, we have wasted our funds as well as the precious time of our employees,” the source added.

The CAAP was formed upon signing into law of Republic Act 9497, otherwise known as the CAAP Law, in March 2008.

The passage of the CAAP Law was rushed as the country scrambled to regain Category I status with the US FAA.

The Philippines’ downgrade to Category II status particularly hit the country’s leading carrier, Philippine Airlines, since it was prevented from opening more routes to and from the United States and from upgrading its aircraft on these routes.

Organic CAAP employees had earlier aired dissatisfaction with Ciron’s appointment of numerous fellow retired military officials to key CAAP positions without the requisite civil aviation technical expertise and training.

To avoid questions on the appointment of these unqualified retired military officers, Ciron hired them as “consultants,” the sources said.

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