February 26, 2006

IN & OUT (2)
Steve T. Barreiro

To Be…Or Not To Be - lieve

In reaction to my previous article, former LC mayor Roger Farinas asked me to bring out his side of the PAL issue. Based on our telephone conversation Wednesday morning, the former city official downplayed the incident at the airport. Contrary to earlier reports, he was involved in a dispute with a male PAL employee (not a female as previously reported); further he stated that there was no serious altercation which could be attested to by numerous people present at the time, in particular referring to Batac mayor Nalupta who was present in the area.

Accordingly, he had sent an aide earlier to confirm their tickets and make the necessary arrangements for one of the tickets to be used by another passenger. He also stated that he had referred the matter to PAL president Bautista, who accordingly said that there should have been no problem in making an accommodation. However, when they arrived at the airport, PAL personnel stated that no arrangements had been made and that this was against policy. Queried by the former mayor, these people began passing the buck as to who could make the decision for the accommodations he requested which incurred his ire. He said that he had been assured that the arrangements had already been confirmed and that naturally when he found out that things were contrary, he as a paying customer had the right to complain.

He further stated that reports in a national newspaper are not true. He expounded on this by saying that if the incident as reported was true than why did it take a week for the issue to come out. Further, he insinuated that the issue could be politically motivated.

He concluded by saying “let the people decide” (as to what is the truth).

Pending an official complaint by PAL however, these reports are tantamount to hearsay. Previously, an SP member had stated that PAL management was asking for two conditions to be met as prerequisites for resuming service; first, a public apology from the person involved in the altercation must be made, and second was that an assurance be given that there would be no repeat of the incident. According to the SP member this conditions are not likely to be met. Former mayor Farinas confirmed this observation stating that how can an apology be made when there is no complaint in the first place, adding that perhaps this case should be resolved in the courts to settle the issue once and for all.

Whatever the arguments, there are salient, undeniable facts; one, there was an incident at the airport. No one is denying this; reports from both sides differ in the degree of the altercation. Two, PAL in their press release stated that PAL personnel are not willing to be assigned here in Laoag. PAL VP for Sales Estrada said that this development would compromise flight quality control and safety thus the decision to suspend flight services to Laoag. Is the unwillingness of PAL personnel to be assigned to the LIA a result of the incident?

As to the former mayor’s allegations that the issue is politically motivated? The previously scheduled GSIS board meeting on February 23 (cancelled) as well as the centennial INNHS celebrations were adversely affected by the cancellation of PAL service. Playing a pivotal role in these events, it is inconceivable for the congressman of the first district to undermine his own efforts. And the provincial leadership had even been lobbying for PAL to expand their services such as the provision of more flights to handle the multitudes expected to have come for both the fiesta and the INNHS centennial.

In fact, other sources stated that PAL had even purchased new conveyor belts to be installed at the LIA with a view to improving services in anticipation of the return of the direct Honolulu-Laoag flight route which was one of the moves being initiated by the Provincial governor. Thus, PAL obviously had plans to even expand their services here.

What caused the decision to cancel all these plans entirely and precipitously? That is the question.

In the interest of fairness I assured the former city mayor that I would bring out his side; I have honored that commitment. However, in light of all the information gathered, to believe in the veracity of this version is another matter altogether.

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