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Birds of the same feather

HEADLINE: “LAKAS Party may support Binay.”

That’s an inaccurate headline. The correct one should be: “Ex-Rep. Danilo Suarez and family to support Binay.”

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Because it was only Suarez who said that former president Gloria Arroyo, head of the Lakas Party, may support Vice President Jejomar Binay in next year’s presidential election. Suarez is not the Lakas Party although he pretends to be its personification. But Lakas is in rigor mortis. Its leader, Arroyo, is herself half-paralyzed by a spinal injury and has to wear a neck brace or collar, is pushed around in a wheelchair, and she is detained in a room at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center while being tried in the Sandiganbayan on corruption charges. Many Lakas leaders have joined the administration and other parties, a characteristic of political butterflies. Its presidential candidate, Gibo Teodoro, was soundly defeated in the 2010 elections. All that is needed is to bury the corpse.

On the other hand, Binay does not have a party of his own (he was kicked out of his party, PDP-Laban) and the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) is not his party. It is a coalition formed by former president and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, and Binay but it is 90 percent made up by Erap’s Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino. Enrile and Binay brought only themselves and their families to the coalition. After leaving PDP-Laban, Binay said he would form his own party and join the coalition but he has not done that.

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But Lakas (or what’s left of it besides Suarez) and Binay joining forces is to be expected. That is an example of birds of the same feather flocking together.

The Lakas administration of Arroyo is saddled with graft cases. Many of its lawmakers have been linked to the pork barrel scam of Janet Lim Napoles, for which a Binay partner in UNA, Enrile, is also detained and is being tried by the Sandiganbayan. And if the testimonies of the whistle-blowers are true, Binay may turn out to be the biggest plunderer.

Besides, Lakas has no choice but to coalesce with Binay. It cannot coalesce with the Liberal Party because its head, President Aquino, is going after corrupt Lakas leaders. The other major parties have already coalesced with the LP. Binay has long been courting Lakas by saying that the administration should grant

Arroyo’s request for house arrest. Well, he has gotten his fondest wish. Lakas, or more accurately, Suarez may support him.

* * *

Practically no airliner now lands on time at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Most of the planes arrive on time over the airport but have to circle around for hours before they are allowed to land because of the traffic jam on the runways. Naia is now as crowded with planes as Edsa is crowded with motor vehicles. It is said that a plane lands and another takes off at Naia every five minutes.

So why is the Philippine air negotiating panel going to Doha, Qatar, next week to discuss with Qatar Airways the latter’s request for an additional 13 weekly flights to Naia from the current eight flights a week?

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Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) executive director Carmelo Arcilla has been silent on the panel’s stand on the request. According to news reports, he said that it would depend on the market and that the trip is needed to assess the (local) stakeholders. Arcilla is the negotiating panel’s vice chair.

The CAB had earlier rejected Qatar Airways’ similar bid for additional flights last year, citing insufficient market demand to warrant an expansion of traffic rights.

It would be interesting to know if the current number will justify Qatar Airways’ persistent request for additional landing rights on Naia.

There should be one stakeholder that should not be left out in the talks: Clark International Airport. Clark risks losing the long haul route should our negotiators give in to Qatar’s demand.

Granting additional flights to Naia will likely result in Qatar’s withdrawal from Clark as happened in the past.

When the borrowed Dubai-Clark rights of Emirates were expiring in 2014, it petitioned for new talks on extending landing permits on Naia, and when it was granted, Emirates cancelled its Clark operations.

In 2008, the government of Kuwait promised that its airlines, Kuwait Airways, would fly to Clark and make substantial investments here if the Philippines granted its request for additional Manila entitlements. When that was granted in 2009, Kuwait enhanced its Manila flights but never flew to Clark again.

Similarly, Hong Kong Express Airways launched regular flights to Clark in March 2008. However, soon after the Philippines granted Hong Kong Express an increase in landing rights on Naia in June 2008, it transferred its Clark operations to Naia.

Malaysia’s AirAsia Berhad was one of the first airlines to take advantage of the pocket open skies opportunity and launched regular flights to Clark. It eventually set up a Philippine subsidiary, AirAsia Philippines (AAP), with its Clark-based aircraft flying routes to Asian countries from Clark. When Manila entitlements on several Asia flights became available in the last four years, AirAsia scaled down its Clark operations, merged AAP with Zest Airways and transferred AAP’s entire Clark operations to Naia.

Obviously, we can’t afford to assume such risks again which would adversely affect Clark and the region’s long-term development flights.

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TAGS: 2016 Elections, Jejomar Binay, Lakas-NUCD, nation, news, politics
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