Tempo - - News - (Ge­na­lyn D. Ka­bil­ing and Ariel Fer­nan­dez)

The govern­ment is call­ing on Lu­cio Tan-owned Philip­pine Air­lines to pay in full over ₱7 bil­lion in un­paid nav­i­ga­tional charges and other fees in­curred since the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions.

Pres­i­den­tial spokesman Ernesto Abella said the De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion in­tends to take le­gal ac­tion against the flag car­rier if the debts are not im­me­di­ately set­tled.

Abella ar­gued the flag car­rier no longer en­joys cer­tain nav­i­ga­tional priv­i­leges when it was pre­vi­ously owned by the govern­ment.

“The mat­ter of Philip­pine Air­lines’ un­paid charges has ex­isted in past ad­min­is­tra­tions. At is­sue is that then-govern­ment PAL en­joyed priv­i­leges namely waiver of land­ing, take­off, and other fees. How­ever, such priv­i­leges no longer ap­ply to the air­line as the fran­chise has been sold to the pri­vate en­tity,” Abella said dur­ing a Palace press brief­ing.

“As per De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion Sec­re­tary Arthur Tu­gade, they de­manded full pay­ment of all un­paid charges as early as Au­gust 2016,” he added.

Pres­i­dent Duterte has threat­ened to shut down the PAL ter­mi­nal if Tan, one of the world’s bil­lion­aires, re­fuses to pay his debts to the govern­ment within 10 days.

Duterte lamented that the air­line has been us­ing govern­ment ter­mi­nals and run­ways with­out proper pay­ment of fees.

“If you don’t pay, I will close it down. There will be no air­port. So what?” Duterte said in Filipino dur­ing an assem­bly of the Philip­pine Con­sti­tu­tion As­so­ci­a­tion at the Manila Ho­tel last Tues­day night.

“I do not mind. If we sink, we sink. But I said, ‘We have to en­force the law.’ So guys, you guys, if you are put into a great dis­com­fort, sorry. Wala akong ma­g­awa. The law is the law,” he said.

In the news con­fer­ence, Abella said PAL owes Civil Avi­a­tion Au­thor­ity of the Philip­pines ₱6.965 bil­lion as of July 30, 2017. The air­line must also pay ₱322.1 mil­lion to the Manila In­ter­na­tional Air­port Au­thor­ity, Abella added.

He said the DoTr has sent its fi­nal de­mand for full pay­ment of all un­paid charges to PAL. This was “in prepara­tory to the fil­ing of ap­pro­pri­ate le­gal ac­tion in or­der to pro­tect the in­ter­est of govern­ment,” ac­cord­ing to Abella.

Mean­while, PAL said it is ready to sub­mit a com­pro­mise agree­ment to set­tle the is­sue of al­leged un­paid nav­i­ga­tional charges.

In a state­ment, PAL said it is a man­i­fes­ta­tion of its con­tin­ued support for the CAAP and that com­mu­ni­ca­tions have been open be­tween the par­ties on the mat­ter.

PAL stressed that CAAP cre­ated an in­ter-agency panel of ne­go­tia­tors for the pro­posed set­tle­ment via CAAP Au­thor­ity Or­der 149-17.

PAL for­mally sub­mit­ted its of­fer to CAAP which is more than the amount cov­ered by the CAAP sup­port­ing in­voices re­ceived by PAL. To date how­ever, PAL has not re­ceived any of­fi­cial re­sponse from CAAP on its of­fer.

“We look for­ward to meet­ing the ne­go­ti­at­ing panel and we are ready to sub­mit a com­pro­mise agree­ment to set­tle this is­sue once and for all,” said PAL.

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