August 19, 2012

Life lessons

IN the past few days, Big Sister and I, as well as a niece, have been doing guard duty at the hospital where Mama has been confined due to a liver ailment that has caused her to turn yellow.

We consider ourselves still fortunate that despite her age of 84, Mama is still a sprightly old gal who dictates her own terms on life. Given that she acts her usual gregarious self even in the hospital, one could easily mistake her to be well, especially if you don’t look at her complexion too closely.

In fact, as we were waiting in the emergency room on Sunday for a hospital room to open up so she could move in, a fellow patient commented to me, “’Yung pasyente mo nagli-lipstick pa!” Mama had just finished eating her favorite mamon and had her compact before her as she gingerly applied color on her lips. The other patient, who had been complaining of a tummy ache all this time, was visibly entertained and at the same time incredulous at the sight before her.

Since I’ve been used to Mama acting this way in public spaces (and I must confess, I may have inherited the same mannerism), it was nothing extraordinary to me. But I suppose to other people this wasn’t normal behavior, especially for a senior citizen. All I could say to the other patient in reply was: “S’yempre naman. ’Di porket nasa ospital ka, pwedeng pangit ka na. E paano kung gwapo ’yung doktor n’ya? Dapat maganda s’ya at ready for anything.” The other patient giggled.

But this is one of the major lessons that Mama has imparted to me and my other siblings. We always need to be properly dressed and made-up anywhere we go. I’ve taken this to heart and to this day, I never leave the house without putting on at least some lipstick and eyeliner. One of Mama’s more famous but funny teachings is “to never go out with a butas na panty. What if you slip and fall? The entire world will see your puwet!” Or, “What if you get rushed to the hospital? Your doctors will see your old panty! Nakakahiya!”

Also, she always stresses that being appropriately attired speaks of your upbringing and your family background. What you wear and how you act in public is a reflection on your parents and your family. “Ano na lang ang sasabihin ng mga tao? Aarte ka ng ganyan tapos anak ka ni ganito or some famous person? What will the people say about how your parents raised you?”

My Mama is still somewhat old school in terms of being prim and proper, and trying to live a life of respectability. But she does have a liberal streak and a modern outlook on life, unlike her fellow seniors.

While she is generally outspoken with her views, she doesn’t pass judgement on a person’s religious beliefs, morals (or the lack of it), and lifestyle choices. In fact, I’ve always said that Mama would have been the perfect mom for any budding bading.

What does intensely ruffle her feathers are, without fail, the Japanese. I can’t blame her really, as she as a 13-year-old along with her younger cousins were almost shot to death during World War II by Japanese soldiers fleeing from the arriving Americans.

No matter how many times I tell her that I’ve met so many nice Japanese and that Japan is such a gorgeous and fascinating country, I cannot convince her to change her mind about the Land of the Rising Sun. (The only time she thinks about the Japanese in friendlier terms is when she goes to Muji or Saizen to shop. She hasn’t visited Uniqlo yet, so let’s see if that makes her let her guard down further, hahaha.)

Unlike my father, Mama hasn’t really been hospitalized for any illness except when she had to give birth. And even then, she didn’t spend more than two days in the hospital as she delivered all four us siblings naturally. The only time she had to go to the hospital was when either one of us kids or Pop had a medical condition that needed surgery.

But this is really the first time that Mama is in the hospital as a patient. So for someone who is used to going to the malls, or having lunches with her amigas, or playing mahjong with her buddies, lying in a hospital bed is extreme torture for her.

For the most part, we take turns in entertaining her as she is extremely upset that she doesn’t have her regular ANC programming on the cable TV service the hospital subscribes to.

We hope her condition improves immediately after she undergoes a medical procedure for her ailment. As I listen to her crabbing about her ridiculously bland hospital food incessantly while I’m writing this, I can’t help but be amused that despite this experience, she still has kept her spirits up.

Nothing defeats her. She is one awesome woman.


I’d like to extend my sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Rep. Salvador “Sonny” Escudero III, who recently passed away after a two-year bout with cancer.

I met Escudero when he was reappointed agriculture secretary during the time of President Fidel V. Ramos. Escudero was a kind, witty and definitely knew his stuff. Trained as a veterinarian, he was one of the very competent and professional government officials I knew.

As a member of the infamous Karambolistas on DWIZ, Escudero was typically the voice of reason and calm amid the often loud (and hilarious) opinions of the rest of gang.

Despite his slight stature, Escudero was a real giant of a man, and he served his country well. Thank you, sir, for all the good work you’ve done.

(My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life section of the BusinessMirror. This piece was originally published on Aug. 17, 2012.)

Tiger Airways completes purchase of 40% of Seair

SINGAPORE-based budget carrier Tiger Airways has completed the purchase of a 40-percent stake in a Philippine aviation firm, Southeast Asian Airlines, for $2.5 million.

In a disclosure statement filed on Tuesday morning at the Singapore Exchange, Tiger Airways Holdings Ltd. said it would also lend $40 million in working capital to Seair over a five-year term.

On Monday night Seair officials and their lawyers from the Romulo Mabanta Buenaventura Sayoc & de los Angeles Law Offices hammered out the final details of the Tiger Air investment with the latter’s lawyers from the Angara Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz Law Offices.

The meeting took place at the AccraLaw’s board room in its building at The Fort, Taguig City, and started at 5 p.m., ending past 10 p.m., according to sources.

At the meeting, elected chairman of the board of Seair was Koay Peng Yen, chief executive officer of the Tiger Group. Other members of the board are Patrick Tan, Chris Ward, Tomas B. Lopez, Geraldine Olivares and Olma Inocentes. The sources said the board seats “may be expanded to nine.”

Appointed new president and chief executive officer was Patrick Tan, Seair former vice president for marketing, and chief operating officer, vice Avelino Zapanta.

Patrick Tan, newly appointed president and chief executive officer of Seair. (Photo courtesy Patrick Tan)

“This deal represents a significant step forward for Seair and will allow the airline to continue its tremendous growth and job-creation drive for Filipinos, bringing increased prosperity, highly-skilled jobs and tourism to the country,” newly appointed CEO Patrick Tan said in a separate statement.

He added that Zapanta, who was “instrumental in helping Seair grow into the airline that it has become today, will continue to share his expertise and wealth of experience in his new position as senior adviser to Seair.”

Zapanta has contributed over six years of his career to bring this transaction to a close and secure a proper succession with the appointment Tan as Seair’s new chief.

According to Tiger Air’s disclosure statement to the SGX, “The purchase price of $7 million, which was agreed with the sellers, has been reduced by the liabilities determined in a due diligence review. The investment will be held through Tiger’s wholly owned subsidiary Roar Aviation II Pte. Ltd.”

The BusinessMirror sources said shares of co-founders Iren Dornier, a German pilot, businessman and scion of the historic Dornier aviation family; and Greek-American Nikos Gitsis were the ones purchased by Tiger Air. The rest of the Filipino shareholders led by Lopez will continue to hold their investments in Seair, representing a 60-percent stake.

Seair is helping promote the Philippines as a key tourism destination in Asia by painting two of its Airbus A320-232s with the Department of Tourism’s new campaign slogan “It’s More Fun in the Philippines.” (See “Seair takes ‘more fun’ to the skies” in the BusinessMirror, August 13, 2012.)

In its disclosure to SGX, Tiger Air said it “is committed to supporting the working capital needs of Seair, including pre-existing liabilities, with shareholder loans of up to $40 million. The loan tenure will be five years.”

The logo of Seair Inc.

Koay Peng Yen, chief executive officer of the Tiger Group said, “Together with our Philippine business partners, our immediate focus will be on scaling up the business through network expansion, building a strong customer base and establishing the airline’s brand presence.”

He added, “The Philippines has tremendous growth potential and we welcome the opportunity to be at the heart of it.”

Tiger said its investment in Seair is the Singapore firm’s second joint venture. In January 2012 Tiger bought 33 percent of Mandala Airlines of Indonesia. “The acquisitions are in line with Tiger’s strategy to expand and develop its business in the region.”

Seair will be adopting Tiger’s LCC (low-cost carrier) business model that includes “offering value fares to domestic and international destinations within a five-hour flying radius of the Philippines.”

Established in 1995 in Clark, Pampanga, Seair was one of the pioneers in the local aviation industry flying to Caticlan, Aklan, the gateway to Boracay Island and picking up a few of the missionary routes, which flag-carrier Philippine Airlines was forced to abandon when it underwent financial rehabilitation.

Under a strategic partnership agreement with Tiger, Seair is leasing two A319-200s and three A320-232s. “More aircraft will be progressively added to build Seair’s network,” as per Tiger’s disclosure to SGX.

Still branding itself as the “fastest flight to Boracay,” Seair now flies to Bacolod, Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Puerto Princesa, Tacloban, Batanes, and Kalibo, while its international routes are to Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, and Kota Kinabalu, and flying out of Clark.

The local airline is currently expanding its network domestically and internationally, and aims to fly some 2 million passengers this year.

According to its website, Seair has over 350 employees.

Former Seair president Avelino Zapanta will be retained as adviser to the flag carrier. He is currently helping set up another airline affiliate for Seair.

Established in 2004, Tiger Airways’ majority shares are held by Singapore Airlines Ltd. (32.84-percent) and Dahlia Investments Pte. Ltd. (7.37 percent). It currently has a fleet of 34 aircraft, mostly Airbus A319s and A320s located in Singapore, Australia, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

Operating from Singapore and Australia, Tiger Airways’ network extends to over 30 destinations across 12 countries in the Asia Pacific region.

In fiscal year 2011, Tiger recorded a loss (after tax) of S$104.3 million, a reversal from the S$39.9 million it posted in FY 2010. The loss was attributed to disruption in services due to the ash cloud in Chile, the suspension of the carrier’s operations in Australia due to a “violation of procedures,” and higher fuel prices, according to its annual report to shareholders.

Tiger was listed on the SGX in January 2010.

(This is the unabridged version of my piece which was originally published in the front page of the BusinessMirror, Aug. 15, 2012.)

Seair takes ‘more fun’ to the skies

Seair flight DG7792 (registered as RP-C6320) taxis toward the Budget Terminal of the Changi International Airport in Singapore, after arriving from Clark, Pampanga. Seair operates a once daily flight between Clark and Singapore. This aircraft was delivered to the airline just over a month ago as part of its partnership agreement with Singapore-based budget carrier Tiger Airways. This is one of the two Airbus A320-232s which sports the Philippines’s new tourism slogan “It‘s More Fun in the Philippines,” and is a way for the carrier to help promote the country as a key destination in Asia, officials said. (Photo courtesy Andre Giam/

NOT only is it more fun in the Philippines, but apparently, it’s also more fun to fly one local carrier, as well.

Two Airbus A320-232s of Southeast Asian Airlines are now sporting the “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” slogan, an initiative of the carrier to help promote the country as a key destination in Asia.

A photo of one of the planes repainted with the slogan and taxiing on the runway of the Changi International Airport in Singapore has been making the rounds of the Internet via the Facebook account of Tourism Paradise Philippines, a local travel guide web site.

Nikos Gitsis, Seair co-founder and incumbent vice chairman of the board, confirmed to the BusinessMirror the new livery on the carrier’s planes. “Two of our new Airbus A320s assigned to the international routes [are sporting the slogan]. Those two are doing the Singapore-Hong Kong-Bangkok-Kota Kinabalu routes [from Clark International Airport in Pampanga].”

Gitsis even reposted the “fun” plane photo on his Facebook wall on August 7, 2012, captioning it thus, “Seair is [a] pioneer in many ways—This is another first for us!” He disclosed that he hasn’t actually seen the planes yet because they’re in Clark. The A320s were leased from Tiger Airways Inc., which had purchased a 32.5-percent stake in Seair in February 2011 for $6 million. The Singapore-based low-cost carrier plans to raise its stake in Seair to 40 percent, paying up an additional $7 million for the additional shares. (See, “Tiger Airways eyes bigger pie of local carrier Seair,” in the BusinessMirror, April 18, 2012.)

“It’s been 17 years in the making,” said Gitsis about the carrier’s “long amazing struggle” in the local aviation industry. “But when I saw that pic [of the repainted plane], it all makes sense.” Established in 1995, Seair is a pioneer in the local airline industry, one of the first to fly to Caticlan, Aklan, the gateway to Boracay Island, and other missionary routes that had been earlier abandoned by Philippine Airlines.

(Nikos Gitsis, co-founder of Seair)

For his part, Tourism Assistant Secretary Eugene Kaw disclosed it was Seair “which came up with the idea [of using the slogan for its plane], and approached us.”

He said the Seair team met with DOT officials regarding the proposed use of the slogan “some three to four weeks ago…. They’re going to do it for free and DOT agreed, on a non-exclusive basis.”

By “non-exclusive,” this means other local carriers such as PAL, Cebu Pacific, and Zest Airways can use the slogan on their respective planes as well, if they also make a request to the tourism agency.

Kaw explained that Seair “shouldered the cost of the painting. No charge to DOT also for the placement,” adding that “it will be for an international flight as per our discussion. ”

He added that Seair had actually planned to use the old DOT slogan hatched under the term of former Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim, but this was eventually scrapped after the slogan was ditched following massive outcry from tourism stakeholders. “They’ve [Seair] allotted the space for it since ‘Pilipinas Kay Ganda’, but got deferred,” Kaw disclosed.

Meanwhile, the photo of the Seair plane sporting the “fun” slogan used by Tourism Paradise and Gitsis was taken from, a photo web site dedicated to aviation enthusiasts. The plane photo was captured by Andre Giam, a member of the Ninervictor Spotting Group, a group of aviation enthusiasts in Singapore.

In his caption of the plane photo posted on on August 5, 2012, Giam said: “DG7792 taxiing toward the [Changi] Budget Terminal after arriving from Clark. Seair, based in the Philippines, operates a once-daily flight between Clark and Singapore. This aircraft was delivered to the airline just over a month ago (leased from Singapore based carrier—Tiger Airways). First photo of Seair’s A320 in the database. Last but not least, this particular aircraft carries a special quote in order to promote Philippines as a ‘better’ holiday destination among the Southeast Asian countries, which says ‘It’s More Fun in the Philippines.’”

As per the photo, the plane sports a registration number of RP-C6320, with Serial Number CN 5194.

With its strategic partnership with Tiger Airways, Seair is currently expanding its network domestically and internationally. It recently acquired, via lease, from Tiger two A319-200s and three A320-232s. The carrier is targeting to fly 2 million passengers to its international destinations this year.

(UPDATE:) The Seair plane sporting the logo was inaugurated this Sunday morning, Aug. 19th, after the inaugural flight of the carrier from Manila to Davao. On hand was DOT Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. Will post the photos once they're in.

(My piece was originally published in the Aug. 14th, 2012 issue of the BusinessMirror. Photo of Nikos Gitsis from Routes News.)

August 13, 2012

Driven to succeed

GINIA R. DOMINGO, president of Columbian Autocar Corp. (CAC), has always loved a good challenge.

It is this trait that has marked her successes from her earlier days peddling pre-stressed concrete wire strands and then motor vehicles—both male-dominated industries.

Even her choices in the car industry have not really been conventional. After honing her selling skills at Toyota Shaw, she moved to an American firm—General Motors Corp.—at a time when its global leadership had already waned. She then went to Ford Group Philippines, another US brand, to help pave the way its re-entry in the local market, when sales in its home country had already stalled.

Widening the market share for CAC’s Kia brand poses a formidable task, but Ginia believes its “advanced design, superior technology, performance and, most especially, product reliability,” will help her drive the brand to new heights.

“In the first half of 2012, we are up 78 percent versus the same period last year. This is primarily because of our Kia Rio, which we launched last January. This accounted for more than 40 percent share of total Kia sales. This was followed by our second and third bestsellers, the Sportage and Picanto, respectively,” she enthuses.

She adds that CAC will be launching the Optima at the Phil International Motorshow this August, and “we will also be revealing the new look of the Sorento plus one other surprise attraction. The motorshow is open to the public from August 17 to 19.”

Ginia’s tenacity, which has made her a star in the local auto sales and marketing world, was most likely shaped in her formative years as she watched her parents drive their own careers.

Her father, Ramon Roxas, for instance started his career as a school bus driver in San Beda College. “The Americans at Sangley Point taught him how to drive and speak English,” Ginia narrates. He would leave home before 6 am every day to pick up students and bring them to school, then back again to their homes at the end of the day. He was then promoted to several positions until he finally retired as a liaison officer of the college.

Even though only a high-school graduate, Ginia’s mother, the former Virginia Vidal, was a schoolteacher in Bicol. But when she started working at the Insurance Commission in Manila, Virginia couldn’t get promoted to a higher post because she didn’t have a college degree. “So she went to night school at the Lyceum, and finished a degree in BSC Accounting. She graduated when I was in grade school and she became qualified to be a supervisor,” Ginia says, proudly.

So even at a young age, Ginia already knew that if she was diligent enough, and put in the hard work, she would get somewhere someday. At the University of Sto. Tomas where she studied from elementary to college, she was a remarkable student. She graduated with honors, and was either president of her class, the Student Council, or the Economics Society. “Ewan ko ba, bata pa lang ata ako, type A personality na ako,” the statuesque beauty says with a giggle.

Ginia also liked learning new things and abhorred boring desk jobs where one had to do the same thing every day—which was why she eventually quit her job as a financial analyst in a bank after three years.

So when her old boss Severino Lim told her to sell cars when he put up his Toyota Shaw dealership, she accepted and was unfazed that she had to start at the bottom as a sales agent, when she was already Lim’s executive assistant. “S’yempre pag-EA ka, right hand ka ng amo, maganda na stature mo, magandang sweldo mo, me driver ka pa, pasusundo ka pa. Eto hindi, balik ako dun, ahente ako, basic ka, may commission, which was hard,” Ginia recalls those early years.

But at 25 and at the peak of her career as a single woman, she found “a knack” for sales. “To me it wasn’t just selling. I found the exercise mentally stimulating.... I have the cars you, the head of purchasing, need. At the end of the day, it’s only the price we have to agree on.” She says it was also about creating relationships with the customers, which she enjoyed as she had an outgoing, friendly personality. Many of these clients have become good friends over the years.

“We develop friendships after a while. I know them. It becomes beyond the product.... The brand you’re associated with may change but the relationship stays. If I see the purchasing manager of Novartis who was with Ciba-Geigy before, we can still catch up and all that. Of course, at the end of the day in selling cars you had money in your pocket. Don’t get me wrong, it was really stressful, you’re only as good as your last sale. You have to like [the job].”

In five years, Ginia made sales manager. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Asked about car-buying habits among Filipinos, Ginia says more men buy cars than women. But she humorously narrates the differences in the buying styles of both. “Men have more brand loyalty than women. To women, a car is more about function, katulong sa buhay. Men will look at the size of the wheels, the speakers [‘maganda ba ang sounds?’], the engine and its power, the aircon, etc. Women will check if the seats are comfortable for their children—‘Can I fold the seat to put a crib or stroller in there; will the yaya be able to sit there,’ stuff like that. The brand is secondary to them.”

“’Pag pasok ng babae sa kotse, tapon ’yung gamit sa likod, alis na. ’Yung mga lalaki, hindi. Bubuksan nila ’yung trunk, lagay nila ’yung gamit nila doon. Walang nakalagay sa likod na upuan. Ang mga babae, ’pag bukas ko ng pinto, kailangan malalagay ko ’yung mga pinamili ko,” she continues.

A woman will also consider her friends’ opinions before buying a car, making sure that the vehicle will be roomy enough to accommodate them for their road trips, for instance, while a man, Ginia notes, thinks about his own preferences. A man will also spend more on a car purchase than a woman, she says, such that he will be able to justify an P8 million to P12 million car as a reward for his hard work. A woman would rather reward herself with a vacation—with the family. “But both of them go through the same methodical process in buying a car,” she stresses, “except that they have different priorities or reasons behind it.”

Columbian Autocar Corp. President Ginia R. Domingo with her sons, Francis Roy (left) and Ramon Manuel, on a recent vacation in the US. (Photo courtesy Domingo family)

Ginia lives in a modest home in Quezon City with her two sons—Ramon Manuel, 19, a college sophomore at the Ateneo de Manila University taking up literature; and Francis Roy, 17, a freshman also in the same school, taking up communications. She is thankful that her sons have not given her any cause for concern, even after her husband, Raymond Domingo, passed away in 2004. “They’re very good children; I don’t have any headaches with any of them. Walang girlfriend, walang bisyo,” she says of her pride and joy.

Both are extremely independent, she says. Her youngest, for instance, chooses to take public transportation despite having cars at home they could drive, and both are financially responsible. “They’ll save up to buy their stuff, or ask me to pay for it first, and then pay me back. Kasi they know naman na, yes, you will buy it because it makes sense. ’Pag luho, forget it; pag-ipunan mo. They know the value of money.”

She is happy that her sons are enjoying their college life. “After 12 years of just having boys for classmates, they are now benefiting from a coed class plus a more flexible class schedule. They also like going to class in casual clothes and enjoy the more informal setting in college.”

Ginia and her sons usually try to have one grand vacation every year just to bond and catch up with each other’s buys lives. “We finally were able to sneak in a summer vacation in the US in April. As expected, we had to fly in separately due to conflicts in our schedules, and just met up in Los Angeles.”

Ginia is extremely pleased that a year since her appointment as CAC chief, Kia’s sales have been moving at a rapid clip. “The year’s gone by so fast. I’m so blessed to have been given my extended family in CAC! Everybody has been very supportive and I have such a wonderful team.”

In Ginia, CAC employees can find an inspiring leader who has gone through the same challenging route they are on today. No doubt, that makes them all the more driven to succeed.

(UPDATE: In June 2012, CAC received the regional distributor of the year award in Asia Pacific from Kia Motors Corp.)

(My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life section of the BusinessMirror - unless it gets bumped off by an ad. ;p This piece was originally published on Aug. 10, 2012.. Photos of the red Kia Rio and silver Kia Sportage are from the Kia Phils. web site.)

August 02, 2012

Get rid of carriers’ taxes, Aquino prodded

THE 30-strong organization of foreign carriers with routes to the Philippines has urged President Aquino to put more teeth to his tourism advocacy and boost other economic sectors by certifying as “urgent” a new bill that will be filed in the Senate. The bill aims to eliminate current taxes that supposedly hamper the carriers’ operations in the country.

Steven Crowdey, first vice chairman of the Board of Airline Representatives (BAR), told the BusinessMirror, “The repeal of these taxes will help accelerate the development of the secondary gateways of the Philippines under [Mr. Aquino’s] ‘pocket open skies’ policy to benefit both tourism and trade investments. We hope that this bill will be certified as urgent by the Office of the President and that the legislative process will be completed within the year 2012 under the current 15th Congress.”

(Steven Crowdey, BAR First Vice Chairman, and GM for Australia, Micronesia and the Philippines for Delta Air.)

Crowdey said an instruction from the President to the Senate to pass the new bill quickly would help the foreign carriers “plan for capacity in the next three to five years to service the needs of the tourists, exporters, importers, overseas Filipino workers and the general riding public.” Crowdey is also general manager for Australia, Micronesia and the Philippines for Delta Air Lines Inc., a US carrier.

Sen. Ralph Recto, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, is expected to file a new bill soon that would reflect results of a public hearing held February 2 this year on his earlier proposed legislation to remove the 3-percent common-carriers tax (CCT) and the 2.5-percent tax on gross Philippine billings (GPBT) imposed on foreign carriers, which he filed in November 2011. Recto, however, could not be reached for comment as of press time.

The Aquino administration has been pinning its hopes on the tourism sector as a major driver of economic growth for the country. It aims to attract 10 million foreign tourist arrivals by 2016, the year the President steps down from office.

The BAR, in a press statement on July 25, commended the administration for the aviation reforms it has adopted, foremost of which is the “pocket open skies” policy, which “proves” the government’s “global openness.” The policy allows foreign carriers to land in provincial international airports, thus bringing more foreign tourists and businessmen directly to their intended destinations, instead of having to pass through Manila.

Sang Woo Noh, regional manager for the Philippines of South Korea’s Asiana Airlines, said, “The airport infrastructure backlog is now being addressed by the [Department of Transportation and Communications]. The Economic Development Cluster of the Cabinet has already approved the implementation of the 24/7 operations by [Customs, Immigration and Quarantine] personnel. Again, this is a landmark policy reform happening for the first time under President Aquino’s office. The tax issue is the remaining stumbling bloc to realizing the expected benefits of open skies.”

In a letter to Mr. Aquino on April 13, Anthony Tyler, director general and chief executive officer of the International Air Transport Association (Iata), also appealed to the President to certify the new Senate bill as urgent as doing so will “send the signal to the global airline community that the Philippines under the leadership of your administration is finally open to global business and investments.”

Citing studies done by economic think tank Oxford Economics and the Iata, Tyler said “the aviation impact in the Philippines is comparatively lower than many other countries in the region, thus indicating the untapped aviation and tourism potentials…. Abolishing these taxes will reduce the likelihood that additional airlines will remove the Philippines from their network or further downsize their operations.”

The Iata is an international trade body representing 240 airlines around the world, which account for 84 percent of global air traffic.

The House of Representatives approved on third and final reading House Bill (HB) 6022 on May 21, which also removes the CCT applied on passengers and cargo and eliminates the GPBT as long as the home countries of the foreign carriers do the same for the Philippines. Entitled “Rationalizing the Taxes on International Air Carriers Operating in the Philippines,” HB 6022, sponsored by Rep. Jerry Treñas of Iloilo, seeks to amend Sections 28 (A) (3) (a), 108 (B) (6) and 118 of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997, as amended.

Crowdey said the BAR was grateful that the President had certified as urgent HB 6022. Such certification, he added, pushed congressmen to speedily act on it.

(Qatar Airways terminated its Doha-Cebu flights in March, claiming it was burdened by Philippines aviation taxes. Photo from airline's web site.)

Meanwhile, Cees Ursem, regional manager for KLM in the Philippines, said in the same press statement issued by the BAR that recent developments on the airline-tax issue will “definitely help to reconsider our operations in the future and continue our 60 years of uninterrupted services to the Philippines.”

KLM stopped flying directly from Amsterdam to Manila in March this year, saying taxes were affecting the economic viability of the carrier’s operations in the Philippines. “There are no more direct connections [from the Philippines] to Europe today [compared to 22 frequencies per week a decade ago], and carriers with long haul and extensive global and regional connection have left the Philippines, citing these taxes as a major reason for their exit,” the BAR said.

Also in March, Qatar Airways terminated its Doha-Cebu connection for the same reason. The BAR, quoting Abdallah Okasha, Philippine country manager of Qatar Airways, said, “Cebu is a destination with tremendous potentials for tourism and trade. We closed our Cebu operations because our operations have become expensive relative to all other destinations where we have presence, particularly in emerging Asian markets where we are not burdened with such taxes.”

Crowdey said “there is no distinction between CCT for passenger and cargo on any passenger carriers’ financial bottom line. Removing CCT for cargo also goes toward the goal of easing connectivity for the Philippines for the betterment of tourism. The repeal of the CCT for both passenger and cargo will help improve our margins and therefore enable us to increase our capacity to the Philippines rather than to neighboring countries.”

He added, “Ease of access to a location is a critical factor in decisions about where to establish offices, particularly for shared services, and factories. Additional frequencies and capacity will be used by exporters and will tend to lower freight rates, thereby enhancing export competitiveness. Access to more non-stop destinations will provide new markets for exports, particularly for agribusiness and other time-sensitive commodities.”

(This piece was originally published in the BusinessMirror on July 31, 2012. Photo of Steven Crowdey courtesy Delta Airlines.)

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August 01, 2012

One perfect day

LAST Saturday I woke up to rain pouring in torrents, and bearing down on my neighbor’s newly extended roof like the thump-thump of a tin drum. I slowly got up after doing little cat stretches, even as my left shoulder slightly bewailed the sudden activity after an eight-hour lull.

I slowly turned open the vertical blinds on my window and peered out. The sky was empty of color, as if mirroring the equally bland wet pavement down below. Across my bedroom window, the trees and shrubbery in our subdivision’s mini-park were soaked to their roots; I imagined the soil trying to scream as it drowned helplessly in the downpour.

The swings and the seesaw in the playground stood mute and uncomplaining, even though they longed for the neighborhood kids’ regular playful abuse.

In a past life, I would probably dread days like these, which can be a tad depressing or, at the minimum, dull and boring. As children longing for sunshine and play, the rain presents a formidable enemy to our joyful outdoor engagements.

Now grown up and, ahem, older, the rain has become a calm and tender soundtrack to bedtime diversions with some significant other of the moment, or just a soothing lullaby that makes oh-so-precious sleep more possible.

“Bed weather!” as we like to call days like this. It was nice to lounge in bed a little while longer, with no pressing appointments, nor any story assignments needing attending to that day. Normally, I would switch on some Pat Metheny on my iTunes to provide some jazzy counterpoint to the sound of rain, but this time I turned to Rumer to paint the smile on my face which only then was just a thought forming in my head.

I had been thinking of him more often lately, and while it was an annoying inconvenience at first, I had begun enjoying it. Of course these were probably just foolish thoughts of a graying, middle-aged woman who has always looked for love in the wrong places. Nevertheless, in the realm of possibilities, the thoughts gave me some secret thrill. Did his hand just linger a beat longer than usual? Was that statement not quite so innocent, but really a pick-up line I should have taken advantage of? (When you’re out of practice in the dating game, it can be easy to misread the signals.)
From dreams I’ve seen you before
You’re so familiar
And everywhere I go
Hear me calling for your love
‘Cause if it’s you
I will disarm you
And if it’s you
Do you know how to calm me down…?”

I didn’t notice I had dozed off again.

It was close to noon when I finally hauled my carcass off the bed. I did a few exercises to give life to my pained shoulder and arm, and to cleanse my lungs and diaphragm of the stale evening air.

Leaving my bedroom finally, I called out to my mother’s caregiver, asking if we had any champorado in the pantry. Delighted with her positive response, I asked her to fry up some dilis, as well. Just the perfect combination to an increasingly perfect day.

As I sat at the dining table, mixing soymilk and coco sugar into the lumpy porridge sprinkled with crispy dilis, Joss Stone this time was picking up the pace, tracking my growing exuberance.

A spoonful of the warm comforting porridge and even my tummy was singing. As I read on my iPad, my usually chatty Mama was plunked lazily on the living room couch across to where I was, peacefully reading her newspaper. The caregiver, meanwhile, was going about her chores unobtrusively in the kitchen. Such calm.
“I was trying to protect you from yourself
‘Cause I respect you
And I feel like you just might
Be someone who I could get into.
But I never seem to catch your eye
And it’s been buggin’ me why I even try
Still you’re someone I’d like to get to know
Is there room for me in your one-man show?”
Perfect days are increasingly hard to come by. In fact, I notice that as I march toward impending senility, they come fewer and far between. The stress of daily living, and the growing weight of domestic burdens quickly sap my energy, unlike, say, two decades ago, when catching my breath was hardly something I worried about.

But when those perfect days do come, I discover it’s just the tiniest of ingredients that combine to make them so. A shy glance from a beloved, the crush of white cool sand underneath my toes, a gurgling water fountain feeding into a pond of colorful koi, or, yes, perhaps just that teeny ball of foie gras playing on my tongue.

You can’t stage them; perfect days usually happen unexpectedly, like an infant’s clumsy first kiss to his mother. It’s always a surprise. I think of them as God’s whispers, reminding us that whatever turmoil we’re experiencing, He is here, not in some far away palace above the clouds. We only have to be still, and listen.


SADLY, we can’t realize a perfect day if we don’t have the unpleasant ones in between.

On Tuesday I woke up at an ungodly 5:30 am and, for some strange reason, reached straight for my iPad and opened Facebook. There I saw posted on my wall was a message from Mr. Caps that our friend and media colleague Nixon Kua had already passed away.

It was an incredible shock…many of us had been fervently praying for his speedy recovery, even if we knew that the possibility was remote. But I had experienced a few miracles vicariously, so I had no reason to doubt He could make just one more. It wasn’t to be, however, in Nixon’s case.

As a journalist, I have practically become immune to acts of violence perpetrated on others. I read these stories of crime in the papers, or hear about them on the news, and I am hardly moved. But when it happens to someone you know, it lays heavily on the chest. I couldn’t help but weep, as I fingered the beads on my rosary, praying for the repose of Nixon’s soul.

It was a senseless killing. A sudden cruel punishment for his family and friends. What did this kind and generous man ever do to deserve to die the way he did?

My shoulder started aching more intensely than usual, screaming at the incredulity of it all. It was such an incredibly depressing morning, and one I would probably be hard-pressed to forget in a long time.

My sincerest condolences to the Kua family. We stand with you in your time of grief.

(My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life section of the BusinessMirror. This piece was originally published on July 27, 2012. Blogger owns the copyright to these photos.)