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Cartel? House to review franchise of Lucio Tan, Gokongwei airlines for costly airfare, delays


House Majority Leader Rodolfo C. Fariñas is pushing for a review of the franchises of Lucio Tan’s Philippine Airlines and John Gokongwei’s Cebu Pacific for turning blind and deaf to complaints of costly airfare and delayed flights.

“Every week kliyente niyo kami, at ang downtime ko sa PAL siguro weekly nasasayang mga minimum of two to five hours. Tell your corporate bosses that I will review your franchise. We can amend your franchise anytime. You make a killing, and we are at your mercy. Pinagsasamantalahan ninyo ang riding public,” Fariñas said in a statement.

Fariñas reminded PAL and Cebu Pacific Airlines that their franchise as public utility is not a right, but a privilege granted to them by the Filipino people through their representatives in the House.

“Kaya kayo naka-operate dahil pinayagan kayo ng mga boss namin — the sovereign Filipino people. Huwag niyo naman pagsamantalahan. Your enterprise is imbued with public interest. Wake up and shape up,” said Fariñas..

Fariñas and other lawmakers aired the warning during the recent hearing of the committee on transportation chaired by Rep. Cesar V. Sarmiento.

The committee summoned representatives of concerned government agencies and the private airline firms to explain the root cause of the unreasonable prices of airline tickets and the perennial problem of flight delays, which have long inconvenienced the public.

The hearing was based on House Resolution 267 filed by Rep. Ferjenel G. Biron, M. D. (4th District, Iloilo) and HR 723 filed by Reps. Vicente S. E. Veloso (3rd District, Leyte) and Victoria Isabel G. Noel (Party-list, AN WARAY).

The committee called for an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on what they call as “excessive and opportunistic” airfares collected by major airlines, particularly the PAL and Cebu Pacific.

The costly airline fares issue was compounded by numerous complaints from lawmakers and their constituents about long delayed flights.

Veloso said the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) has abandoned its duty to regulate airline pricing intended to benefit the people.

Veloso, a former Court of Appeals (CA) Associate Justice, reminded CAB Executive Director Carmelo Arcilla that the official might be violating the provisions in the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act if he insists on his views and continues to neglect his mandate under Republic Act 776 which reorganized the CAB and the Civil Aeronautics Administration

Arcilla told the committee that since the issuance of Executive Order (EO) 219 during the Ramos administration, the airline industry was already deregulated.

Biron said there seems to be a cartel running the whole airline industry.

The authors of HRs 267 and 273 detailed their share of “horror stories” that they personally experienced, such as costly airfares, especially for same day purchase and flight bookings, and flights delayed from two hours to as long as five to six hours, without passengers being compensated with even snacks or water for the inconvenience they bore.

“Riding an airplane is meant to be convenient and time efficient. Recent developments, however, show that air travel is not how it was envisioned to be. Today, it has become a reality for everyone, everyone who can handle the possibility of inconvenience; everyone who can face the risk of long delays; and everyone who can afford the high price of tickets,” Sarmiento said.

Sarmiento reminded anew the airline companies that before anything else, a public transport is first and foremost a public service, and a business venture second.

He urged the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA), Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), and CAB to address the real reason behind the flight delays.

The committee members expressed disappointment with Arcilla’s response that the industry was already deregulated. They also rejected the statement of the airline firms’ representatives that various reasons affect their pricing.

Lawmmakers reminded Arcilla that a mere EO cannot tramp on a law, such as RA 776, which gave specific mandate to the agency to regulate and consider all market forces, which refers to both the airline companies (supply) and commuting public (demand), before entering into agreements with airlines on ticket price matters.

Meanwhile, a technical working group (TWG) chaired by committee vice chairman Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento (1st District, Samar) was created to tackle the airline fare pricing and delayed flights issues.

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