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BIZ BUZZ: PAL hits turbulence anew

/ 04:03 AM January 31, 2022

Local airlines are raring to take off following the government’s long-awaited decision to lift passenger caps and remove quarantine restrictions (with few exceptions) starting Feb. 1. And at flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL), there is suddenly a new guy in charge of the controls—Capt. Stanley Kua Ng.

Over the weekend, private chat groups were abuzz with rumors about the surprise departure (some say, firing) of Gilbert Santa Maria, president of PAL, and the takeover of the vacated post by Ng, who was senior vice president for Operations at PAL before he became the first pilot to be president of PAL since 1963.

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The Yale-and UP-educated Santa Maria assumed the post only in July 2019 and steered the airline through the COVID-19 pandemic—the worst turbulence in PAL’s 81-year history.

Talk within airline circles is that during his PAL stint, Santa Maria allegedly drew the ire of some “very powerful enemies” who want him out. His strategies and no-nonsense American management style apparently didn’t sit well with his detractors, who were said to have the ears of the airline owners.

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Santa Maria’s sacking or nonextension of his contract (depending on whom we believe) comes at a crucial time of reviving the troubled airline after its successful emergence from Chapter 11 proceedings in New York last December. The court-approved rehabilitation led to a streamlined fleet, stronger balance sheet, a $2-billion reduction in debt and additional capital to continue operations.

During his watch, he was also credited for his relentless lobbying efforts with the government’s anti-COVID-19 task force. He implored the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases members to lift severe flight restrictions and remove costly and often confusing quarantine policies killing not only PAL but the entire commercial aviation industry. Unfortunately, it seems he won’t enjoy the fruits of his labors with his alleged removal from PAL.

If the lively talk is to be believed, Ng is a welcome replacement, as he is not new to the pilots and the cabin crew.

As for Santa Maria, company insiders say that he is but one of the names on the supposed long list of key executives from various companies in the Lucio Tan conglomerate about to face the chopping block.

But that, folks, is best discussed in another Biz Buzz column. Abangan!

—Tina Arceo-Dumlao

Rating the presidential candidates

Philippine Business for Education, an advocacy group founded and led by top business leaders, seeks to help educate voters during the run-up to the May elections with the launch of Bet sa Balota, which aims to scrutinize candidates’ initiatives and platforms specific to improving the quality of education.

Candidates will be evaluated based on the 10-point education agenda of the Education Nation, a coalition of organizations and individuals that aims to elect leaders who will put quality education for all at the heart of the government’s development agenda.

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The coalition vows to track what presidential and senatorial candidates have said and done so far about education. For the next three months, EdukNaman’s social media pages will feature “Ansabe?” (what did he/she say?), “Anyare?” (what happened?), “Ano raw?” (what is he/she talking about?), and “Ano na?” (what now?)—a series of candidates’ past pronouncements and actions, assessment of their education commitments, plans (or the lack thereof) and monthly progress reports.

For the “Ansabe?” series, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., a.k.a BBM, the current front-runner in the presidential surveys, was first to be rated. BBM got a baseline score of six out a highest possible score of 10.

According to the group, BBM filed four bills relating to education when he was still a senator: First Class Public Schools and Libraries Act of 2010, Pag-asa ng Paglaya sa Pagbabasa, Upgrading Minimum Salary of Public School Teachers from Salary Grade 11 to 15 and Moratorium on the Creation or Conversion of State Universities and Colleges Act of 2010.

The group said BBM had signed the committee report on the K-12 bill in 2012, but in 2015 expressed concerns about the program and recommended greater focus on the needs of teachers.

During this run-up to the May elections, it noted that BBM had supported an increase in the government budget for education and recommended the establishment of a National Education portal.

Other candidates will also be rated in the coming days. The first monthly progress report for “Ano na?” is set for Feb. 28.

—Doris Dumlao-Abadilla INQ

Email us at [email protected]

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