By Recto L. Mercene
December 22, 2010
FRUSTRATED by the constant pressure to evict him from his office despite a fixed four-year term, Alfonso G. Cusi tendered his irrevocable resignation as the director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (Caap) effective end of December to President Aquino.
“In spite of my four-year legal term, I submit my resignation for the sake of the Caap organization, the aviation industry and, ultimately, the country,” said Cusi in his letter. “This will give Your Excellency a free hand to choose a new director general who will continue to carry out the needed reforms in the Philippine civil-aviation industry and to whom the administration can give its full trust and confidence.”
“It has been an honor to work in government, and I will always be thankful for having been given a chance to serve the country,” said Cusi.
In Malacañang, Spokesman Edwin Lacierda issued a statement, naming Cusi’s replacement as acting OIC Ramon Gutierrez. “We welcome the resignation of Al Cusi. Now we can move faster in getting our country out of Category 2.” Gutierrez is a retired Air Force colonel and a former commercial pilot.
Cusi, since assuming the post on March 8, 2010, is leaving behind substantial progress in the government’s effort for the aviation industry to regain Category 1 status from the United States’ Federal Aviation Authority (FAA).
In 2007 the FAA downgraded the country to Category 2 status after the discovery of 89 “significant safety concerns” (SSC). Cusi had complied with the 87 SSC since taking over the post.
The last two items—organization and computerization—were within reach when the International Civil Aviation Organization (Icao) postponed its validation visit last month upon learning the Transportation and Communications department had appointed seven key officials, three of whom are outsiders, without Cusi’s knowledge.
Of the three outsiders, one voluntarily resigned, saying he is not fit for the office, while one of the remaining two had reportedly been booted out from an airline company where he used to be an executive.
President Aquino told reporters at Sofitel Hotel, where he attended the Christmas party of the Bulong Pulungan, that his choice for the next Caap director general “is qualified. He’s part of the Air Force; he’s part of the industry also. He is in private capacity already. I think he is very capable to advance the agenda as far as the air travel in the country is concerned.”
He added he wants to fast-track the resolution of the Caap problems.
But spooked by these developments, the Icao said it was postponing the visit, which would have removed Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific from the blacklist by the European Union, worried they would be dealing with a new set of officials.
This setback was also noted in the Icao Audit advice on their findings on the SSC and the EU blacklisting of all carriers registered in the Philippines.
Cusi has steered the Caap toward the right direction to regain Category 1 rating with no less than the president of Icao and the recent EU visit declaring that with Cusi’s leadership, the country is on the “right direction” and “it is only a matter of time” before we regain Category 1.
As director general, Cusi dedicated his efforts in transforming the Caap from a government line agency to a government-owned corporation as mandated by Republic Act 9497, otherwise known as the Civil Aviation Act of the Philippines.
A management expert, he was top honcho of the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) for three years before he was appointed general manager of the Manila International Airport Authority (Miaa). During his six years stint at the Naia, he steered the premier airport to a point where the three passenger terminals were awarded ISO 9000, a world ranking that testifies to their conforming to international standards.
Cusi said he is keen in professionalizing the Caap, which, up to his resignation, was already training scores of people in aviation high technology, pilots, cabin crew and other highly sensitive positions. Most of the trainees were former Philippine Airlines pilots, cabin crew and experts in several fields.
Under the guidance of foreign experts from the Icao, the pilots and crew members are scheduled to undergo training at the Civil Aviation Training Center in Bicutan near Merville Subdivision.