CAAP confirms Roxas pal can rent out planes

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

MANILA – A Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) official on Thursday said the firm which presidential candidate Mar Roxas got his campaign jets from is allowed to rent out aircraft.

Beda Badiola, CAAP's Flight Standards and Inspectorate Service chief, told dzMM that Air Juan Aviation Inc., owned by billionaire Eric Gutierrez, is one of 36 firms issued an Air Operator Certificate (AOC) by CAAP.

''Iyung napabalita na kumpanya na ginagamit, meron talagang AOC 'yun. So kung ano man ang usapan nila nasa kanila na iyon,'' he said.

''Ang katungkulan ng CAAP is siguraduhin na mapangalagaan ang kaligtasan ng mga gumagamit ng eroplano."

Badiola explained aside from CAAP's AOC, the Civil Aeronautics Board handles the economic franchise of an aircraft.

He said the CAB issues the so-called Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, ''a permit issued by the Board authorizing a domestic person or entity (60/40 equity) to engage in international and/or domestic, scheduled and/or non-scheduled air transportation services."

''Sila (CAB) ang nagfi-fix ng pwede mong i-charge sa pasahero,'' he said.

In a February 12 column, Philippine Star columnist Jarius Bondoc said Roxas has 8 jets, with a total value of P2.3 billion, at his disposal.

The jets were traced to billionaire businessman Francis Eric Gutierrez. Roxas admitted he is friends with Gutierrez.

Roxas has said he is paying for the use of the jets for his campaign sorties. 

"Hindi iyan hiniram, hindi inutang, hindi ibinigay na pabor at lalong hindi ninakaw. Binayaran ko iyan to be used in my campaign," he said.

"Kilala ko, kaibigan ko si Eric Gutierrez. Sa pagkakaalam ko, siya ay isang winner sa mga contest both international and local sa maayos na pamamahala sa kanilang kompanya. Kaibigan ko siya at-anong masama doon?" he added.

In his column, Bondoc said Gutierrez partly owns SR Metals Inc. (SRMI), and its subsidiaries San R Minin and Galeo Mining Equipment Corp. which operate nickel quarries in Tubay, Agusan del Norte.

Bondoc said LP stalwart Edgar Erice, a staunch ally of Roxas, is a partner of Gutierrez in the mining firms.

''The firms gained notoriety for pretending to be small-scale, that is, using only shovels, pick axes, and wheelborrows. In actuality they employ heavy equipment and barges,'' Bondoc said in his column.

Bondoc said after a legal battle that reached the Supreme Court, the three firms were ordered close by the high court due to over-extraction.

However, Bondoc, citing reports coming from Agusan, said due to the mining firms' strong ties with MalacaƱang, the firms continue their operations.

A February 15 column of Bondoc also said two of the 8 jets being used by Roxas were exempted from the 12-percent VAT and one-percent import duty. The rest also enjoy tax-free privilege, Bondoc said, citing sources.

Gutierrez reportedly owns the helicopter used in getting aerial shots of the so-called Hacienda Binay, a 350-hectare estate in Batangas allegedly owned by Vice President Binay.

In an interview with reporters in Negros Occidental earlier this week, Roxas denied Davao City Mayor and presidential aspirant Rodrigo Duterte's claim that he is using Gutierrez's jets for free.

"'Yan ang kalokohan. Tulad ng sinabi ko kanina, ang paggamit ng eroplano, binayaran ko 'yan. Walang utang, walang pabor, walang arbor, at hindi libre. Binayaran ko 'yan kaya wala akong pinag-uutangan ng loob sa paggamit ng eroplano na 'yan. At higit sa lahat, ang perang na ginamit sa pagbayad niyan ay hindi ninakaw," he said.

He said the media should ask the same question to other bets who use private jets in their respective sorties.

"I have answered that question. What about the other candidates?" he said.