Sep 192014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2005/08/05MANILA3760.html#

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
05MANILA3760 2005-08-15 08:58 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Manila
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 003760

SIPDIS

SINGAPORE FOR FAA – DAVID A. SMITH
TOKYO FOR FAA – CHRIS METTS
DOT FOR FAA – MICHAEL DANIEL

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/15/2015
TAGS: EAIR PREL RP
SUBJECT: LOOMING AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL STRIKE POSES RISKS FOR
PASSENGERS AND PLANES

Classified By: Economic Counselor Robert P. Ludan, 1.4 b and d.

——-
SUMMARY
——-

¶1. (C) The Air Transportation Office (ATO) and the
Philippine Air Traffic Controllers Association (PATCA) appear
locked in an on-going dispute about overtime pay that erupted
into several recent work slowdowns last week and the imminent
threat of a strike. If the accusations of undermanned
control stations and overworked controllers are true and a
strike or further slow-downs are looming, the situation poses
enhanced risks in flight delays and passenger safety.
Embassy will be meeting with the ATO and Department of
Transportation and Communications this week for a read-out on
the purported labor problems and efforts to ensure the safety
of all planes into and out of the Philippines. End Summary.

¶2. (U) The Manila Bulletin reported on August 12 that the
air traffic controllers (ATC) in the Philippines are planning
an imminent strike to underscore their demand for higher pay
and additional personnel. The Philippine Air Traffic
Controllers Association (PATCA) claimed many experienced
flight controllers have left the country and are now making
the equivalent of their former annual salary each month
working as air traffic controllers abroad. The head of the
Philippine Air Transportation Office (ATO), Assistant
Secretary Nilo Jatico, downplayed the potential for a strike

SIPDIS
but warned flight controllers not to take drastic action that
could compromise the safety of planes and passengers. He
said the ATO has contingency plans to ensure the continuation
of safe aviation operations in the country.

¶3. (C) Embassy substantiated the seriousness of this labor
dispute between the Philippine Government and the air traffic
controllers. Econoff obtained a confidential letter from ATO
A/S Jatico to Secretary of Transporation and Communications
(DOTC) Leandro Mendoza dated August 7. In the letter, Jatico
informed Secretary Mendoza that the air traffic controllers
(ATC) initiated a work slowdown at 0715 on August 6. All the
controllers on duty, including one supervisor, “absented
themselves without prior notice.” Forewarned, Jatico said he
pre-empted the action by calling a safety and security alert
and augmenting the controllers with volunteers and retirees
from the provinces, members of the Philippine Air Force, and
select ATC students. Jatico successfully pre-empted the
controllers again when they tried to delay local flights
early on August 7 and promised that “those involved and
liable will be immediately investigated and sanctioned within
the full force of law.” He requested a DOTC order giving him
blanket authority to deal with “strikers and destabilizers in
the ATO.”

¶4. (C) Embassy recently received another confidential
letter from Senator Francis Pangilinan to DOTC Secretary
Mendoza, dated April 20, 2005, noting complaints of “undue
delays in departures and arrivals of all airlines operating
in Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).” An attachment
to the Senator’s letter blames these delays on inadequate
staffing and inefficiency in air traffic control. Although
the control stations must be manned 24 hours a day, the
“already limited staff refuses to work extra hours because of
NAIA’s failure to pay overtime.” The attachment complains
that the high workload and the lack of air traffic
controllers has caused not just inconvenience and delays but
has placed passengers and planes at risk. For example, the
letter cites cases in which insufficient staffing resulted in
unmanned controller stations, caused several flights to run
low on fuel while waiting for landing clearance, and led to
“instances of near misses due to lack of sufficient
monitoring.” Senator Pangilinan asked Secretary Mendoza to
“submit a report on the alleged incidents and a plan of
action” to address these urgent concerns.

——-
COMMENT
——-

¶5. (SBU) If the accusations of undermanned, overworked, and
disgruntled air traffic controllers are true, the country may
face potential safety hazards and an interruption in its air
operations. Embassy officials will be meeting this week with
Assistant Secretary Jatico from the Air Transportation Office
and Undersecretary of Air Operations Pagunsan at DOTC for a
read-out on the labor situation and status of plane and
passenger safety.
JOHNSON

   

 

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