MANILA, OCTOBER 29, 2003 (BULLETIN) By Lynda B. Valencia - “There’s no merger, if at all, there will be an alliance.” This was disclosed by PAL Vice President for Corporate Communications when interviewed by PNA on the alleged merger of PAL with Air Philippines.

Estabillo said “we are on the discussion stage. But it is still up in the air. We are not looking at laying off workers. Air Philippines will still be there. It will not fold.”

“We are looking for ways to come in which the operations of both will be efficient,” Estabillo said.

He said the details are still on the discussion stage to firm up whatever is to be discussed.

He said the trend now in the United States or even Europe is to consolidate because of the state of the aviation industry. We have to stay afloat and retain its viability.

He said that Fiesta Air is one of the brand names that the company is looking for if at all there is an alliance.

On the other hand, PAL President Avelino Zapanta said “Air Philippines was just exploring ways to be more competitive, to better cope with setbacks in the airline industry.

“Not only (are we on slump) but globally there is really a market for low-cost airlines… We are only exploring possibilities, but there is nothing official yet,” Zapanta said.

Zapanta declined to comment on the retrenchment plan, noting that it was an “internal matter” that Air Philippines management must address.

Earlier, Patria Chiong, Air Philippines Senior Vice President said that Air Philippines was to merge with PAL in line with efforts to cut costs and ensure Air Philippines’ survival amid the slump in the airline industry worldwide.

“It is not true that we are folding up. We will be implementing measures and offer retirement packages to those who want to avail of them.” Chiong said..

Air Philippines is 70 percent owned by Lucio Tan. The remaining 30 percent belongs to William Gathchalian and his Wellex Industries, Inc.

Tan acquired a majority stake in the airline in 1999, when it was only on its third year of operation.

The airline serves 18 domestic destinations through more than 60 flights daily. It flies to Manila, Cebu, Iloilo, Cagayan de Oro, Zamboanga, General Santos, Bacolod, Cotabato, and Baguio.

It has also permit to fly to Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the United States. To date, it flies abroad only to Hong Kong.

In May this year, the company has plans to embark on its expansion plan, particularly the acquisition of new aircraft to add to its fleet of Boeing 737 jets.

With four new aircraft, it now has 14 Boeing 737’s in its fleet. (PNA)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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