Sunday, April 3, 2011

Philippine leader vows to open up aviation sector

SINGAPORE — Philippine President Benigno Aquino has vowed to open up his country's aviation sector to foreign competition in a bid to boost tourism, and appealed for greater Singaporean investment.
Speaking to business leaders in Singapore, Aquino said his government was finalising a decree that will allow foreign airlines to fly to major destinations in the country.
The executive order "will liberalise the entry of foreign carriers in a way that will not decimate our local carriers," said Aquino, who was elected nearly a year ago on promises to reform the economy and tackle corruption.
"Under this order, we will allow foreign carriers to fly into key destinations in the Philippines."
The Philippines has lagged behind Southeast Asian neighbours in the race to attract tourists despite boasting white-sand beaches, exotic diving spots and other natural wonders, partly because of poor transport across the archipelago of more than 7,000 islands.
Aquino also said he had given aviation officials one year to resolve issues that led Europe to ban Philippine carriers from flying to the continent and prompted a downgrade by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
"We are also addressing technical and regulatory issues that have been allowed to worsen in the previous decade. This led to the banning of Philippine aviation into Europe and the downgrading of Philippine carriers to category 2 under US FAA regulations," said Aquino.
"Once these bottlenecks have been resolved we will embark on an aggressive marketing campaign that will brand and sell the Philippines as a key tourist destination in the outside world."
Philippine carriers were stopped from expanding services to the United States in 2008 and banned from Europe in March 2010 over concerns airline safety was not in line with international standards.
Aquino also urged Singaporean businesses to take part in the Philippines' growth story.
"We invite all of you to be part of our own reconstruction. Your government has already signified its willingness to help a brother nation reach the same heights that you have reached," he said, noting that his country grew 7.3 percent last year.
Aquino is the son of Philippine democracy champion and former president Corazon Aquino. He won the May 2010 elections on a platform to fight corruption, which has plagued the Southeast Asian nation for decades.

PAL makes history in New Delhi

After 57 years of absence in the vast India market, Philippine Airlines on Tuesday resumed its flight to New Delhi, marking the start of a regular service to and from the capital city three times a week and another three flights weekly via Bangkok.

With 300 passengers, PAL’s Boeing 777 aircraft landed at the Indira Gandhi International Airport and made aviation history.

PAL President-chief executive officer Jaime Bautista said: “This time, India is no longer a stopover but a regular destination.”

PAL first flew to India in May 1947 when it made a stopover at Calcutta on the way to Rome, Madrid and London during PAL’s inaugural flight to Europe.

The flag carrier flies to India by availing of the entitlements granted in the 2005 RP-India air services agreement, Bautista said. This treaty allows PAL to fly to Mumbai,Calcutta and Chennai (Madras), with Bangkok as a stop-over point, he said.

PAL can fly seven times a week from any point in the Philippines to New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai and has allocated 188,000 seats annually for the Indian route.

The service to India has become more attractive by the Indian government’s easing the visa requirements for Philippine passport holders. Filipinos, along with residents of selected Southeast Asian countries, are granted visa upon arrival in India. Passengers arriving in New Delhi only need to present a passport valid for at least four to six months, a return airline ticket and two photos.

PAL will make available over 188,000 airline seats a year for Indian travellers.

PAL executive vice-president Vivienne Tan told Manila Standard during the formal launch of the services at the Taj Palace Hotel in New Delhi on Wednesday that the carrier’s target is to make the people of the two countries know, explore and learn from each other better through enhanced connectivity and ease of travel.

PALEA defies DOLE, set to go on strike

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Airlines Employees’ Association (PALEA) said on Saturday its members are ready to defy orders of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) concerning the nationwide strike planned by ground crew employees of Philippines Airlines (PAL).

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz barred the strike since there was no deadlock in the talks on collective bargaining agreement yet.

However, Gerry Rivera, PALEA President and Vice Chairman of Partido ng Manggagawa, called on its 3,700 members to be ready to go on strike any time, despite a certification order signed by Sec. Baldoz which was served on the union office as a mobilization of some 2,000 PAL employees and supporters.

“The order has not stopped a strike at PAL, it has merely postponed it to a date that PAL and the government cannot now know in advance,” Rivera said in a statement Saturday.

PALEA also criticized the government for its labor rights policies.

“PNoy has not only legalized the actions of Lucio Tan but also illegalized the action [of] PALEA through Baldoz’ order. But PALEA will resist being a victim of PNoy’s anti-labor policy,” said Rivera. 

PALEA said it is planning to stage protests next week against the DOLE order in coordination with a “labor unity coalition of moderate to militant workers groups.”

Case vs gov't at ILO 

PALEA also said it plans to file a case with the International Labor Organization against what PALEA called “government’s suppression of the conventions on the right to self-organization and collective bargaining.”

In the statement, PALEA said their complaint to the ILO will be stronger with the latest DOLE order as further evidence.

The Philippines is a member state of the ILO, a United Nations agency that draw up and oversee international labor standards. It brings together representatives of governments, employers and workers to shape policies and programs promoting decent work.

PALEA is protesting PAL's "refusal" to negotiate a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) "without preconditions" and its plan to outsource non-core operations, which would lead to the laying off of some 2,600 workers.

PAL earlier said it had contingency measures in place to minimize flight disruptions in case PALEA undertook a strike. 

The airline management maintained that the work stoppage had no legal basis, and would be "dealt with severely."

PAL said negotiations are still ongoing before the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB), where it filed its CBA counter-proposal last March 28.


PAL and its ground crew union have been in a labor row since last year.

PAL wants to outsource its in-flight catering, airport services and call center operations to third-party service providers to reduce its costs amid losses in the previous years. The move would result in the retrenchment of about 2,600 ground crew workers, who will then be hired as contractual employees with no or less benefits in the new firms.

MalacaƱang already gave its go-ahead signal to PAL's plan, affirming the Labor Department's previous ruling that said PAL was just exercising "management prerogative" as it suffers stiff competition in the aviation industry.

It noted that PAL has accumulated net losses and deficit due to surging fuel prices and the "ban of PAL's entry into 27 European Union member-states and the suspension of its remittance facilities by the International Transport Association."

Business sector hails 'open skies' policy

MANILA, Philippines – The business community has endorsed the Aquino government’s aggressive stance to liberalize the aviation sector saying the success of the tourism industry lies on the implementation of Executive Order 29, which authorizes the Civil Aeronautics Board and the Philippine Air Panels to offer and promote more liberalized international aviation agreements with foreign carriers.

In a statement, the Makati Business Club has called the issuance by MalacaƱang of EO 29 a milestone for the Aquino government.

“This policy development is a milestone for the Aquino administration, signifying the government’s determined commitment to attain sustainable and inclusive growth for the country,” the MBC statement said.

"We fully support this aggressive stance on liberalizing civil aviation," the statement said.

“Opening our major and secondary gateways to foreign carriers will boost tourism, bolster our competitiveness as an investment location, and open vast economic opportunities in every region in the Philippines,” the statement said.

Without this policy, the MBC said the targets of attracting six million tourists, collecting $18.5 billion in tourism receipts, and creating three million tourism jobs by 2016 will not be met.

According to the group, the economic potential of EO 29 especially in bringing in more tourists resulting in the generation of new jobs and the stimulation of the local economy, is the reciprocal benefit of the open skies policy that is expected to impact million of Filipinos.

“The success of the tourism industry lies in the realization of EO 29 together with the full implementation of the tourism infrastructure plans laid out by the Department of Tourism,” the statement said.

The issuance of EO 29, signed together with EO 28, which reconstitutes and reorganizes the Philippine Air Panels, is a clear indication of the government’s focus and dedication to strategic action aimed at direct economic growth.

Following the issuance of EO 29, the MBC said the next big step is the goal of brining back the country to the Category I by addressing the security risks identified by the US Federal Aviation Authority.

The MBC has also said the need to develop and improve the airports, attract investments in tourism establishments and upgrade the products and services.

Neha Jain

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Heroic yellow Lab helps save her pal from icy river

Lindsay Lohan didn't waste any time hitting up bars with pal Samantha Swetra though she's supposedly on a sobriety kick as of late.

TOPSFIELD — A dog named Fred was saved from a freezing death yesterday by a rescue team and the incredible actions of another dog named Ginger.

Both dogs belong to the Giraud family of Topsfield, both are yellow Labrador retrievers, and both danced into the same waters of the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary. Ginger, however, made a quick escape, while Fred was left immobile, front paws on the ice, the rest of him immersed.

It was then that events began to resemble an episode of the old television series "Lassie." Ginger remained on the bank, barking until she attracted the attention of nearby hikers and nature lovers. Once people began to respond to Fred's plight, telephoning for help, Ginger hurried home.

There, she behaved in a way that alerted Joy Howell, the mother of owner Joanna Howell-Giraud, that something was wrong.

"She was trying to tell us what happened," Howell said.

The family quickly set out to find Fred.

Meanwhile, Fred was the object of a rescue effort mounted by Topsfield police and fire, Environmental Police, the Wildlife Sanctuary, and Northeast Regional Ambulance. At first, fire Capt. Jen Collins-Brown said, the assumption was that two dogs were in the water with the second perhaps under the ice.

"It was a little sad," Brown said. "A lot of us have pets."

Moreover, they realized a survival suit would be needed in order to get out far enough to pull Fred to safety. Capt. Darrell Moore put it on and headed for the suffering animal.

"He was in a position where he couldn't get himself out," Brown said.

The water wasn't as deep as feared, and Moore was able to walk the distance to Fred, who reacted calmly to being pulled off the ice.

"Fred was a very cooperative victim," .

Moore was assisted by Capt. Chic Denault. The whole rescue took less than 30 minutes. Brown noted that it proved a good exercise for the team, preparing them perhaps for the day when they might have to rescue some stranded person.

A plan to bring Fred to the veterinarian was sidetracked when the ambulance neared the Giraud home and saw all the cars. They delivered the dog "none the worse for wear," according to Brown, to his owners instead. "They were very excited. Very relieved. And very grateful."

The rescuers were equally pleased to discover that both dogs were safe.

Retrievers like the water, so it wasn't surprising to find one in it.

"Fred was probably having a great time for a while,.

Lindsay Lohan returns to NYC, goes bar-hopping with pal Samantha Swetra while working on sobriety

Lindsay Lohan didn't waste any time hitting up bars with pal Samantha Swetra though she's supposedly on a sobriety kick as of late.
The Girl is Back
Do you think it's appropriate for Lohan to be bar-hopping even if she's not drinking?

Yes. If she can control herself, she has every right to be there.No, the temptation is too great and she'll be back on the bottle in no time.
I'm not sure.

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Ronald Zweibel has revised his recent decision about former Bloomberg campaign adviser John Haggerty. In a March 14 ruling requiring Haggerty to stand trial on charges he stole $1.1 million from Hizzoner's 2009 campaign,

Zweibel raised eyebrows when he bluntly wrote that "the evidence of guilt, whether admissible in trial or not, is overwhelming." The line was shortened in a number of press reports to "the evidence of guilt ... is overwhelming," which read like a pretty decisive stance in advance of a trial.

Perhaps Zweibel regretted his initial exuberance, because, while reporting our story on Haggerty in Wednesday's column, we learned that the judge has since issued an amended decision, which softens his original assertion. The line, which we've truncated to spare you a lot of legalese, now reads: "the evidence of guilt ... is certainly legally sufficient, if not overwhelming, based upon this Court's review of the Grand Jury presentation."

A rose by any other name ...

Jayson Blair: Disgraced reporter or MTV heartthrob? Both, it turns out! An actor on "The Hard Times of RJ Berger" shares his creatively spelled name with the journalist whose plagiarized and fabricated articles caused a scandal for the Gray Lady in 2003. After resigning, that Jayson Blair recast himself as a "life coach"; this one plays a character he describes as "the a—hole jock everyone loves to hate."

The handsome actor, who's now shooting an unnamed pilot with "Traffic" director Stephen Gaghan, admits he's got a bit of a Google problem, but tells us, "I never really considered using a different name."

Janet's star may be waning

Do Janet Jackson's fans like her better when she's "Nasty"? A source tells us the singer's March 19 book-signing for her self-help volume, "True You: A Journey to Finding and Loving Yourself," at the Fifth Ave. Barnes & Noble wasn't exactly mobbed. According to the insider, after Simon & Schuster's Gallery imprint shelled out $30,000 for a stylist to primp Jackson for the signing, she autographed only 200 copies. We initially heard that even fewer sold, but a spokeswoman for the book insisted our story was "false." She wrote that 475 copies of "True You" were sold and Jackson presigned another 200 for the store, making the event "a huge success."

 PAL employees prepare to strike

PHILIPPINE Airlines Employees Association (PALEA), which represents over half of the flag carrier Philippine Airlines' employees, said on Friday that it is "all systems go" for its first nationwide strike since 1998.
In a statement, PALEA said a nationwide strike would push through any day after today. 
PALEA filed a notice of strike on March 7. A strike vote among union members held on March 25 revealed that 95.44% of the employees were backing the proposed strike. 
PALEA said it needs to observe the seven-day "strike ban" period or a "cooling period", which means the labor union may strike on April 2 the earliest.
"The only thing that can prevent a strike is for PAL to heed the demand to stop outsourcing and open collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiations without preconditions," Gerardo F. Rivera, PALEA president, was quoted saying in the statement.
"PALEA is 100% ready for a strike that will paralyze the operations of PAL that in cahoots with the Aquino government wants to deny workers the right to regular jobs and a CBA," he added. 
PALEA, he added, is set to conduct a "dress rehearsal" today for its planned strike. 
"This mass action is an expression of the unity of the labor movement in the common fight for regular jobs and against the government’s policy of contractualization," Mr. Rivera said in the statement.
Last March 27, PAL said it wanted to talk with the labor union to ensure a smooth implementation of restructuring its workforce, following a Malacanang ruling last March 26 affirming the airline's plan to outsource some of its operations. 
But PALEA said then that it was not amenable to such talks, and insisted that CBA negotiations should be pursued first.

Neha Jain

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Computer glitch leaves hundreds of airline passangers stranded

It was a long day for passengers flying Alaska or Horizon Airlines Saturday. A computer glitch left passengers at a stand still.

A blown transformer knocked out service to the airlines' computer system which is used to plan all flights for the air carrier. As of noon Saturday, 15 percent of the airline's flights had been canceled nationwide, including those at the Rogue Valley International Airport where dozens of flights were delayed or canceled.

Stranded passenger Crystal Anajos and her family were trying to make it home to Illinois but they were delayed for more than six hours.

"They had to switch our flight so when we should have been home to Chicago at 11:55 tonight, now we wont be home until tomorrow morning," she said.

The company did issue a statement on their website updating passangers on the problem and reminding customers to check their flight status before leaving for the airport.

On Sunday, the presidents of both airlines took to YouTube to apologize to customers.

It took about nine hours to restore the system.

And things were back to normal at the Medford Airport Sunday with no flight delays or cancellations.

Neha Jain

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