Revamp at Philippine Airlines continues
EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) - August 22, 2019 - 12:00am

Out with the old, in with the new.

Lucio Tan-owned Philippine Airlines, Asia’s oldest airline, will continue to see more personnel movements following the entry of its new president Gilbert Sta. Maria, so say insiders.

Such changes aren’t surprising, of course, especially when a new boss comes in. We’ve seen it happen in many Philippine companies, including the taipan’s very own Philippine National Bank.

Over at PAL, insiders say that around eight to 10 ranking officials of the four-star airline may be leaving the company soon for various reasons. The officials include senior vice presidents and other ranking officers handling various aspects of the airline such as human capital or human resources, corporate development, planning and operations.

Some of the officers – together with former PAL president and COO Jaime “JJB” Bautista – have been credited for steering the airline through turbulent skies.

The changes come on the heels of the departure of JJB, who retired in July after serving as PAL president and COO for 13 years.

JJB, an old guard at the Lucio Tan Group of Companies which he joined more than three decades ago in various capacities, stepped down on July 30 with Tan’s daughter Vivienne Tan taking over as officer-in-charge.

But prior to JJB’s retirement, a number of key ranking executives of PAL have already left the company as I reported last July.

They include Stewart Lim, the executive vice president, treasurer and chief administrative officer of PAL since 2014. Lim was also treasurer of PAL from 1994 to 2014.

Vivienne Tan, the COO or Child of Owner

Vivienne, a US-educated entrepreneur who was recognized in 2006 as one of the country’s Ten Outstanding Young Men for business education and entrepreneurship, replaced Lim as executive vice president, treasurer, and chief administration officer.

In a 2006 interview with The STAR I unearthed from the archives, I read that Vivienne once sheepishly described herself as a COO or child of owner when she did special projects for PAL at the time, as instructed by her father.

An excerpt of the interview by Joy Subido:

“My dad made me his assistant for special projects. I handled projects (such as) making feasibility studies for acquiring new Boeing 747s, bidding for the new airport, all the way to the new uniforms of the flight attendants. In the Philippines, I was COO – not chief operating officer, but instead, a Child of Owner,” Vivienne rues.

Now she is back in PAL and has since been instituting key reforms in the airline, as I earlier reported.

Other senior executives who have left PAL are vice president Kevin Hartigan-Go and chief customer experience officer Jessica Abaya.

But while some have left, there are also new hires that have joined the company.

Last month, PAL announced the appointment of its new president Sta. Maria, who was formerly with Ibex Global as its COO.

Lucio “Bong” Tan Jr., the son and namesake of the taipan and the vice chairman of PAL shared with me the news of Sta. Maria’s appointment after the meeting of the board of directors last July 29.

“Gilbert Sta. Maria  will work closely with the Corporate Governance Group headed by former Bangko Sentral governor Amando Tetangco and with competent and reputable members in the likes of Johnip Cua (former country head of P&G),  former SGV chairman Cirilo Noel, CATS Motors ex president Greg Yu,  Davao business magnate Sammy Uy,  new partner/director from ANA Ryuhei Maeda, lawyers Bunkie Herrera, Estelito Mendoza and Lolong Lazaro...They will report to me, the vice chairman of PAL,” Bong said.

Other newcomers

Other new officials in PAL include Eugene Go, the new chief commercial and marketing officer; Rose Katalbas, senior vice president for human capital department and ex-PAL official Russel Jao who rejoined the company as chief advisor to the chief executive.

Colorful history

Changes in PAL are nothing new. Throughout its colorful history, it has seen a lot of management and even ownership changes.

In 2012, for instance, conglomerate San Miguel Corp. bought a 49 percent stake in PAL. Ramon “RSA” Ang became president and COO of the airline and also handpicked his team.

In 2014, when Kapitan bought back PAL from San Miguel, RSA resigned and JJB was back as president and COO.

Today, PAL’s board of directors is a mixture of old guards and new names. Kapitan remains as chairman, while his son Bong is the vice chairman.

Other members of the board, according to PAL’s website, include Tan’s daughter Rowena Chua, lawyers Florentino Herrera III and Estelito Mendoza, Cirilo Noel, Carmen Tan, Michael Tan, Ryuhei Maeda, Johnip Cua, Justice Manuel Lazaro, Amando Tetangco Jr., Samuel Uy and Gregorio Yu.

Indeed, revamps in PAL are nothing new, but only time will tell if the current changes will help the four-star airline soar to greater heights or bring it to a complete ground stop.

Iris Gonzales’ email address is Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at

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