Congress won’t hastily revoke the franchise to operate of Cebu Pacific Airlines even if the carrier messed up schedules and bookings on Christmas Eve, leaving thousands of passengers stranded and exhausted, Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento of Western Samar, vice chairman of the House transportation committee, said on Friday.
The franchise that Congress granted to Cebu Pacific states that “except in cases of force majeure and whenever weather conditions permit, the grantee should maintain scheduled and/or non-scheduled and/or chartered air transport services between any and all points and places throughout the Philippines and other countries at such frequencies as traffic needs may require, provided, however, that at least 25 percent of all its frequencies shall be for the domestic market.”
“Revocation of the franchise can only happen if there is gross violation of the terms of reference given them. We cannot afford to arbitrarily revoke it without looking at the overall picture of the industry and the possible effects on connectivity, especially in an archipelago like ours that might lead to further chaos,” Sarmiento said in a text message.
He, however, clarified that Cebu Pacific will certainly face sanctions but the gravity of the penalties as well as recommendations would depend on findings of congressional probers.
“To protect the riding public, a warning with a corresponding penalty should be given. A low-cost carrier airline should not provide a shabby service,” Sarmiento said.
Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon also deferred judgment on the revocation of the Cebu Pacific franchise pending results of the probe and submission of official documents.
“We will have to receive official reports on delayed and canceled flights not due to air traffic congestion, as well as reports on whether there exists an adequate personnel to passenger ratio competent to service the public especially during heavy passenger traffic,” he said.
“Finally, we will have to determine whether Cebu Pacific continues with its practice of overbooking leading to forced offloading of passengers,” Ridon, a lawyer, added.
It was Sarmiento’s partymate under the ruling Liberal Party, Rep. Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar, who had filed a House resolution calling on Congress to inquire into the Cebu Pacific Christmas fiasco.
Cebu Air Inc. is a subsidiary of JG Summit Holdings that operates under the name Cebu Pacific Air.
“There (was) no weather disturbance in Metro Manila on December 24, 25 and 26, 2014 that would excuse Cebu Pacific from its mandate to transport goods and passengers. As grantors of the franchise, it is incumbent upon this august body to check on the conduct of Cebu Air Inc. as grantee and terminate the franchise for the common good,” Evardone said in his House resolution.
Congress will be back in session on January 5, Monday.