CAAP needs new leadership

THIRD EYE - Ramon J. Farolan - The Philippine Star

Sometime in 2010, Yukio Hatoyama, who co-founded the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), was elected prime minister in a landslide victory. One of his election campaign promises was to move the US Marine Airbase Futenma on the island of Okinawa to another place. But after winning, he came under pressure from Washington to keep the base on Okinawa. He decided to backtrack on his position and maintain the status quo.

Immediately after, his poll ratings dropped from a high of 70 percent to below 20 percent, with demonstrations and protest rallies breaking out nationwide. Mindful of the public sentiments and the criticism among his own partymates,

Hatoyama, a grandson of former prime minister Ichiro Hatoyama, announced that he was resigning from his office, barely nine months after being elected. In his tearful apology he said, “I have caused trouble for the people of Okinawa. We made efforts to move the US base outside but the result was we could not deliver.”

The highest official of the land stepped down because he failed to deliver on a promise he had made. This shows how deeply traditional values such as honor and self-sacrifice continue to be part of Japanese culture and society.

Last year, after the assassination of former Japanese PM Shinzo Abe, the head of Japan’s National Police Agency Itaru Nakamura resigned to take responsibility for “inadequate police protection” needed for Abe. In his letter, Nakamura cited the need for new leadership and a fresh start in the organization.

Here in our beloved country, some 65,000 travelers are stranded, unable to proceed to their destinations, over 300 flights cancelled with incoming international flights being diverted back to points of origin or elsewhere, most likely carrying tourists wanting to visit the famed beaches in our country – all because of a power failure at the Air Traffic Management Center of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) – and on the first day of the New Year at that!

Some comments about the disastrous event were “a national humiliation, an international embarrassment completely unacceptable, a disgrace.” But nothing has happened. No one has been sacked. No one has been held responsible and no one has offered to resign. The Senate will conduct an investigation, and the House its own probe. Transportation Secretary Jimmy Bautista said, “Heads to roll for NAIA mess. Aviation officials responsible for the Air Traffic Management System breakdown must be held accountable.” That doesn’t sound too good for the small fish in the pond.

So, everything is normal in a situation all fouled up. SNAFU is a military acronym (of US Marine Corps origin in World War II). It means the situation is bad but this is the normal state of affairs. There are calls for a back-up for the system, for an upgrade of the present equipment or even getting a completely new one, hinting that obsolescence is catching up with the current facility.

Let us look at the situation from another angle. As someone put it, there was “a high level failure of leadership.” The current acting head of the CAAP is Capt. Manuel Tamayo. “Skee” Tamayo, as he is known in aviation circles, graduated in 1975 from the PAF Flying School in Lipa City. After finishing, he served as a flight instructor in the school, later occupying squadron level positions. His biodata found in the official CAAP website mentions that in 1986, he served as a presidential escort to president Corazon Aquino to the USA, and in 1988 he was Chief of Intelligence (G-2) of the Presidential Security Group, the unit in charge of protecting the commander-in-chief.

He left the military service in 1989, joining Philippine Airlines where he stayed for more than 25 years, serving mostly as a pilot or in flight-related activities. Skee was an excellent pilot and from 2013 to 2016, became CAAP-designated check pilot, a very important position in the organization and holding the title of vice president for Flight Operations Department.

In 2016, he left PAL and was appointed deputy director general of CAAP in the Duterte administration. After a year, he moved up to undersecretary of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) for Aviation and Airports, serving here for three-and-a-half years. From this brief resumé, one can see that his record as a pilot was quite impressive. But it also indicates the lack of executive experience in the management of organizations like the CAAP.

We should also take a look at the composition of the CAAP board of directors. The chairman is the Secretary, Department of Transportation, Jaime Bautista. The vice chairman of the board is the acting director general, CAAP, Manuel Tamayo. The other members are the Secretary of Justice, Jesus Crispin Remulla; the Secretary of Finance, Benjamin Diokno; the Secretary of Tourism, Ma. Esperanza Frasco; the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Enrique Manalo; the Secretary of Labor and Employment, Bienvenido Laguesma and the Secretary of the Interior and Local Government, Benjamin Abalos Jr.

Of the six principal members from outside, four are lawyers and two are economists. Is there anything wrong with non-Cabinet members holding seats on government boards? Why not some with an engineering background or management expertise, even from the private sector? Very often, Cabinet members are too busy to devote much attention to or contribute ideas for the improvement of organizations that they are tasked to supervise.

If this New Year fiasco took place in Japan, you would be sure someone high up in their transportation department would be stepping down – and taking responsibility.

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