MANILA , Philippines - Despite all the attendant problems associated with the attempt to bring back the country to Category 1 status, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) successfully gained the nod of the Commission on Audit (COA) to free them from the Salary Standardization Law.
Previously, the COA had said that the aviation body is 80 percent below industry standard in providing salaries for its personnel.
Credit should be given to Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Abner Bondoc, who was able to convince the COA that the CAAP is financially stable, especially with the added infusion of fresh capital from Philippine Airlines (PAL). PAL paid Php 283 million for navigational charges in 2011.
Today, PAL and the CAAP are in the process of coming to an agreement on how to settle the flag carrier's estimated R5.2 billion in navigational and landing charges.
With the recent changes in the leadership of the CAAP, we are once again on shaky grounds as far as the financial status of the aviation body is concerned. It is not clear whether Bondoc, a Certified Public Accountant with a Master in Management from the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), will stay put.
He has a Doctorate in a Special United Nations course on Peace and Security Administration under his belt. His work experience includes 20 years in the banking industry at the Philippine National Bank (PNB) and auditor at Asiatrust Bank. Bondoc is a former university professor at De La Salle University, La Consolacion College Manila, and special lecturer at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran.
President Benigno Aquino III appointed Bondoc as CFO with the rank of Deputy Director General.
By way of background, PAL incurred the navigational and landing charges when the airline was still in government hands. They argue that as an extension of the regime, it does not have to shell money to pay for those navigation charges and landing fees.
However, when PAL was privatized, starting with the acquisition by then PLDT Chairman Antonio ''Tonyboy'' Cojuangco in 1983, followed by tycoon Lucio Tan in 1998, the charges started piling in.
When the new PAL chairman and CEO, Ramon Ang, took over the helm of PAL, he promised to help the CAAP recover Category 1 status, first by providing funds by paying its back taxes.
With fresh capital infusion, the CAAP would be in a position to increase the salaries of highly technical personnel which have been the object of poaching by foreign air carriers.
Among the Significant Safety Concerns (SSC) noted by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and echoed by the European Union (EU) is the CAAP's lack of qualified personnel.
With more money in its coffers, Bondoc said that more technical personnel, such as check pilots, safety inspectors, air traffic controllers, communications specialists, and aircraft mechanics can be persuaded to stay.