Gov’t ‘studying’ rescue options after meeting with airline industry

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THE GOVERNMENT has met with airlines and is “studying various alternatives” for reviving the industry, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said.

He did not elaborate about the options for the industry, which was among the hardest hit during the pandemic because of the idling of their fleets due to international and domestic travel restrictions, as well as a general reluctance to travel on the part of consumers.   

Mr. Dominguez said the exact content of the bailout remains fluid pending Congressional approval of economic recovery measures.

“We are studying the transportation industry and the conditions of the companies, (as) well as various alternative approaches, so as to be ready if, and when the law is passed and the IRR (implementing rules and regulations) prepared,” Mr. Dominguez said via Viber.

Officials of Philippine Airlines (PAL), Cebu Air, Inc. (Cebu Pacific), and Philippines AirAsia, Inc. said in early July that they were hoping for the prompt passage of the P1.3-trillion stimulus package, known as ARISE (Accelerated Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy).

The proposed measure sets aside about P70 billion to aid the transportation sector this year.

The bill was approved by the House of Representatives last month but its counterpart measure is still awaiting committee-level approval at the Senate.

A separate piece of legislation, the P140-billion Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan II) bill, provides for a P17 billion rescue package for the transportation sector. The measure cleared the Senate on third and final reading Tuesday.

Bayanihan II was among the priority bills that President Rodrigo R. Duterte identified during his State of the Nation Address Monday.

In May, the Air Carriers Association of the Philippines (ACAP) appealed to Congress that the aviation industry might need around P8.6 billion per month to help them surive the crisis.

Their proposal involves P1.3 billion in wage subsidies, P500 million in foregone fees due to the government, and P6.8 billion in working capital.

Airlines have started to lay off employees, with PAL cutting 300 jobs in February after reporting losses in 2019. AirAsia Group was expected to reduce its workforce in the Philippines by 12%, while Cebu Pacific is looking at 800 jobs cut next month. — Beatrice M. Laforga