ATC woes threaten MNL airspace

by Recto Mercene
Business Mirror

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Manila - The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) on Monday assured that air operations in the country remain normal and dismissed talks that air-control tower personnel are mulling a walkout.

CAAP Director General Ruben Ciron made the statement to disabuse the mind of the flying public, which might be affected by the allegations that appeared in a daily newspaper, saying that the allegation is being floated by a disgruntled employee facing libel and administrative charges.

Ciron said the source of the erroneous information is not even an air-traffic controller but a low-level security personnel under the abolished Air Transportation Office (ATO).

“The source of the story is Cesar Lucero, who claims to be the CAAP Employees Union vice president, the same employee who had been consistently coming out with statements in the same newspaper that tend to undermine the credibility and integrity of the authority.”

“It is because of these acts inimical to the service that Lucero had been criminally charged with libel by CAAP…for spreading false information, and was consequently suspended for 90 days while his case remains under review,” Ciron said. He is also facing administrative charges before the CAAP’s hearing and adjudication board.

“Preventive suspension is not considered punishment but only as a deterrent measure to prevent him from tampering with CAAP documents, or influencing the outcome of the administrative investigation.”

Ciron said one of his first acts upon assuming office was to look into the welfare of the agency’s 3,500 employees, which is one of the first steps in the upgrading of the CAAP’s quality of service.

“For the first time, CAAP employees enjoyed receiving their 14th-month pay twice, on December 2008 and December 2009,” he said.

This is aside from their overtime, night-differential pay, medical and other benefits that had been immediately paid for. These are now part of the regular budget and no longer subject to availability of funds, unlike in the previous Air Transportation Office.

Ciron had since directed the CAAP finance department to process all 2009 financial claims of all its employees, including air-traffic controllers.

The CAAP has been trying to fast-track the appointment process within the allowable limits as evidenced by the creation of two-level selection boards.

As to the allegations that the country has scores of defective navigational aids (Navaids), this has long been categorically denied by the service chiefs who continuously monitor the performance of the equipment.

CAAP had even hired the services of Air New Zealand last year to augment the local capability for flight calibration of Navaids and related facilities.

“So far, there have been no adverse findings on the reliabilities of the Navaids, which otherwise would have been reported by pilots,” according to the chief of Air Navigation Service.

Ciron has been working to return the CAAP into Category 1 status. The remaining obstacle is the hiring of qualified technical personnel, now being fast-tracked by the CAAP, the Department of Budget and Management and the Civil Service Commission.

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