Change is also coming to PAL Express

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

PAL Express, the low-cost subsidiary of Philippine Airlines, is also expected to name a new president soon to succeed Bonifacio Sam who is set to retire supposedly in March, industry sources tell me. Depending on new developments, his retirement may come earlier. Or later.

A member of the Tan family may succeed Sam, sources also say. Sam, an auditor, is an old guard in the Lucio Tan Group of companies. He was a long time auditor at parent firm PAL and before that, in Fortune Tobacco in the early days. PAL or PAL Express has not made any announcement on Sam’s retirement, so as it is with anything in the Tan empire, anything can still happen.

Under Sam’s leadership, PAL Express focused on efficiency and improving service to customers. In 2019, the low-cost brand was awarded one of Asia’s Top 100 Employers during the 10th Asia’s Best Employer Brand Awards held in Singapore. It was given by the Employer Branding Institute – India.

PAL Express, formerly branded as Air Philippines and Airphil Express, is PAL’s regional brand, servicing the Manila, Clark, Cebu, and Davao hubs. It is PAL’s answer to Cebu Pacific’s dominance in the low budget market.

Whoever Sam’s successor will be, for sure, he or she will work closely with Capt. Stanley Ng, the newly appointed OIC of PAL who, in turn, succeeded Gilbert Santa Maria.

Over at PAL, employees welcomed the appointment of Capt. Stanley who assured them that his “immediate goal is business continuity.”

“I affirm the importance of building on the results of our recently concluded financial restructuring of the company,” Capt. Stanley was quoted as saying by his fellow pilots who look forward to his stewardship.

“In everything we do, we remember the reason for our continued existence after nearly 81 years of flying the flag: We have a nation to serve. We have an industry to revive and protect. Our mission lives on,” he was also quoted as saying.

Duterte on  Malampaya deal

President Duterte has defended Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi amid controversies surrounding the sale of Shell’s Malampaya stake to Dennis Uy’s Udenna, slamming the “political antics… political intrigues and innuendoes” of some members of the Senate.

With this, I wonder what the Office of the Ombudsman will do after Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian urged it to formally investigate and file the appropriate charges against Cusi and other DOE officials over the Malampaya deal.

Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy, last week transmitted his Chairman’s Report to the anti-graft body, recommending the filing of criminal and administrative charges against Cusi and others for allegedly violating the law.

Reacting to the Senate report, Duterte said in a statement: “I view with grave concern an apparent effort at the Senate to put in bad light recent developments involving the Malampaya Gas Field.”

An elated Cusi thus said: “I would like to assure the public that I remain committed to discharging my duties as secretary of energy to the best of my abilities.”

I wonder what happens next. As we wait, I heard that Shell, the seller, and PNOC remain in talks as to how to move forward with this matter.

Shell, of course, is keen on pushing through with the sale of its stake to the winning bidder, Udenna.

The scenario I imagine is that PNOC will eventually clear the sale, with President Duterte issuing a powerful statement on the issue.

But another scenario is that PNOC can cancel the sale altogether and ask Shell to do another bidding. Such a  move may finally put the issue to rest and erase all legal doubts on the Malampaya sale.

But then again, this administration isn’t really wary of legal issues, is it?

Cigarette prices

Smokers somewhat got a reprieve from tobacco companies, which apparently have not raised retail prices of cigarettes despite the tax increase that was supposed to take effect at the start of 2022.

Cigarettes are still sold using their 2021 prices, which is perhaps a big relief for smokers.

Since the new Sin Tax Law was passed, tobacco tax has been increasing at P5 per pack every year – except on its first year of implementation in 2019 when tobacco excise tax was increased by P10 – until it reaches P60 per pack in 2023. Post-2023, the tobacco tax will increase by five percent every year.

Cigarette companies are probably selling old inventory or they have decided to do a price freeze to give consumers a reprieve. Or they are perhaps reluctant in passing the additional P5 per pack tax burden to their consumers considering the raging pandemic that has eroded a significant pie of the monthly income of every household.

But smokers shouldn’t rejoice for long. Eventually, cigarette companies will have no choice but to implement the price increase and pass on to consumers the latest round of tax hike, as provided in the law.

This is because while the landmark Universal Health Care seeks to benefit all Filipinos, it is smokers who, ironically, fund the health program through their steady consumption of cigarettes. In its first year, the UHC required a funding of P257 billion.



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


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