In a monumental act of unity and proof of faith in government, five (5) Philippine-based airline operators committed to support the decongestion of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), develop other gateways in the country particularly Sangley Airport in Cavite, and improve the convenience of the air-riding public, through the signing of the Pledge of Commitment and Support today, 26 June 2019, in Pasay City.

The initiative proceeds from President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive to decongest the country’s main gateway and enhance the comfort and convenience of air passengers.

Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur P. Tugade and Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat led the signing ceremony, which was participated by Cebu Air President and CEO Lance Gokongwei, AirAsia President and CEO Dexter Comendador, Philippine Airlines Officer-in-Charge Vivienne Tan, PAL Express President Bonifacio Sam, and CebGo Vice President for Corporate Affairs Paterno Mantaring Jr., who attended on behalf of CebGo President and CEO Alexander Lao, as signatories.

Secretary Tugade commended the support of the airlines, noting their role in enhancing the travel experience of airport users.

“We thank Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, AirAsia, PAL Express, and CebGo for uniting in this goal of providing comfort to the Filipino people. This initiative is a testament to the many ways the government and private sector can work together to solve problems. However, I am expecting that this commitment will not just remain a piece of paper, but will be implemented effectively and felt immediately by our passengers,” Secretary Tugade expressed.

The transportation chief likewise expressed gratitude to Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Ed Monreal, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) Director General Jim Sydiongco, and Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) Executive Director Carmelo Arcilla for their relentless pursuit of improving aviation and airport service for the Filipino people.

“We would not be here today without the solidarity and hard work of our air sector. It is through their efforts that we are elevating the level of service to provide a comfortable life to Filipinos,” Secretary Tugade said.

The commitment aims to address the growing demands for air travel in the Philippines, particularly at the NAIA. Since prior 2016 until 2018, NAIA’s annual passenger traffic increased from 36.5 million to 45 million, which is 130% of its design capacity. Number of flights rose by 5.75%, resulting in an escalated utilization of airport slots per hour by 22.2%, or from 36 to 44.

In her message, DOT Secretary Puyat highlighted the importance of transport infrastructure projects and initiatives in tourism.

“We thank DOTr Secretary Tugade for making this signing of commitment possible. DOTr is a close partner of the Department of Tourism in our vision to improve the tourism sector. The life blood of Philippine tourism is accessibility and connectivity. Infrastructure is critical in the continuing growth and sustainable development of our country’s tourism. We believe that we need to match the excellent hospitality of the Filipino people with the same level of infrastructure and facilities,” Secretary Puyat said.

Improvement of On-Time Performance

Under the Pledge of Commitment, signatories committed to review the flight operations of their respective airline companies to rationalize flight numbers, aircraft movement and rotation, as well as the usage of slots and flying rights, to improve on-time performance.

Signatories also committed to support the development of mechanisms of discipline in the event of flight aberrations within their control. They will cooperate with government and other regulatory agencies that have the authority to determine actionable or punishable occurrences.

Development of other airports

Additionally, signatories pledged to support the development and promotion of other gateways especially Sangley Airport in Cavite for possible viable operations to decongest NAIA.

Secretary Tugade has ordered the accelerated construction of additional facilities at Sangley Airport to 24/7 to meet the operational timeline set by President Duterte for the military air base to commence general aviation and turboprop operations in November of this year.

Improved Passenger Convenience

To raise the level of comfort and convenience of passengers at the NAIA, signatories shall disseminate accurate and timely information to the public through all available avenues and platforms, including social media and public announcement systems inside terminals and even while inside the aircraft, in instances of flight delays and cancellations.

They shall provide and distribute meals, snacks, and refreshments to passengers, consistent with the Air Passenger Bill of Rights.

Likewise, signatories should endeavor to support the operation of DOTr Malasakit Help Desks in various airports, through the distribution of their own “Malasakit Kits” to passengers, whenever applicable. These kits contain essential travel items such as, but not limited to, drinks, light snacks, wet wipes, and hand sanitizers, among others.

Following the signing of the pledge, airline officials reiterated their commitment to help improve the country’s aviation and airport service.

“We thank everyone here for the collaboration and support to enable us reach the common ground and work towards a common goal, that is, to make the air travel convenient to all Filipinos. We accept responsibility and accountability to provide positive and collaborative solution,” Gokongwei said.

“We need to have a balance between safety and efficiency for full on-time performance. Too much of one will mean failure of the other. It is imperative that we not only do the right things, but we should also do things right,” Comendador emphasized.

“We lean to support each and everyone, not just in air transportation, but the rest of the nation. I hope that PAL will be part of the private entity that can help the government, including the President, in putting forward the Philippines and make a very good future ahead of us,” Tan added.