Opinion

Feeling rich?

Feeling rich?

The AFP recently revealed that the Philippine Air Force (PAF) has put in an order for two brand new luxury series business jets one of which cost a whopping $36,999,916 or close to  P2 billion. Identified as the Gulfstream G280 and G295, the luxury jets will be used essentially as service aircraft for high-ranking officers of the AFP beginning with the Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of National Defense and presumably the President of the Philippines who relies mainly on special charter jets or “loaners”. From the start, the idea of buying such high end luxury business jets is disturbing given there are many other options, bigger spending priorities that could benefit uniformed members of the AFP and their dependents and the fact that buying and owning the two business jets does not end with forking over P2 billion per piece.

Once the PAF takes delivery of the business jets, they have to have the compatible hangar and not just any old air force hangar will do. Either they have dedicated aircraft technicians trained by and for Gulfstream or the AFP will have to secure a maintenance agreement with a locally based certified service company. Pilots assigned to fly the Gulfstream jets will have to undergo training and familiarization and annual “recurring” training that cost thousands of dollars. On top of that, the jets will require annual servicing and scheduled checks that makes ownership of a Ferrari cheap! Generally this requires flying the aircraft to Singapore or the nearest service facility for Gulfstream Jets. In other words, the two jets will be a bottomless pit of expenses, just so 8 to 10 armchair officials can enjoy leather seats and plush carpeting. Sorry but P2 billion is too much just to get a bunch of generals or ex-generals to a destination 30 minutes faster.

By the way, the Gulfstream might be able to land on a shorter runway, but it requires a real and well-maintained runway! Business jets don’t take kindly to flying debris or foreign objects that can get sucked into their engines. If you think I’m just being bitchy, go ask anyone who has owned, flown or maintained a business jet. A veteran pilot I spoke with also pointed out that the choice of aircraft is dependent on the purpose or application and for the AFP  a multi-role plane would be smarter or useful than a “luxury jet”.   

Aside from the prohibitive cost of ownership, the global trend in business is towards scaling down the luxury and perks for company executives so much so that many companies worldwide not only ditched their private jets and hangars they have gone as far as implementing a “No Business Class” bookings for short trips. Even local companies have scaled down their expense and standards from three- to four-star hotels down to no-frills business hotels. The AFP can put P2 or is it P4 billion total, to better use by investing on a trust fund where profits can be used for housing, better medical facilities, education for dependents and over-all better quality of life for our men and women in uniform. With all due respect, 10 generals and the President won’t be extremely inconvenienced or uncomfortable riding “commercial” and if they needed to get somewhere locally at speed there are enough loaners or leasing companies with jets. While DOF Secretary Sonny Dominguez is making enemies raising taxes and finding ways to raise funds, the AFP and PAF should not go around “Feeling Rich”.

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The last big target we had in this space was the issue or the need for the oil companies to “unbundle”, explain, or itemize their over-all expenses in the transport, processing, handling and marketing of fuel products and how they arrive at the pump prices they announce with regularity. After several opinion writers and media outlets carried the story and addressed the issue, the oil companies suddenly became generous and announced a couple of rounds of price reductions only to be found inconsistent with the comparative computation and analysis of the DOE. While we are all waiting for the oil industry to shape up and comply with the move for unbundling, someone pointed out another area that media should check on: highly inefficient or wasteful government offices and buildings that use up so much electricity that we the taxpayers pay for.

There was a time when Meralco, the electric company, spent a lot of money reminding and promoting to their customers and the public, the need for energy conservation and it was a highly effective campaign. But nowadays it not simply a matter of saving money of cutting down electric bills, the discussion has shifted to “Efficient Buildings” meaning buildings that are built or retrofitted so that the system uses the least amount of electricity, water, air-conditioning, has efficient waste management, security system and a comprehensive building management and computerized management program.

Any and all buildings that operate at the expense of taxpayers, customers or users should now be audited and checked if they are “efficient”, if they have modern and computerized building management systems because monthly and annual costs for building operations and maintenance costs billions of pesos in Metro Manila alone and no one seems to be on top of this concern. We all go ape shit and scream at everybody at home when the electricity or water bill doubles but we the Filipino people never get to know if Cabinet officials are minding their “building costs”. Whether you are part of a private organization or a government office, any and all utility costs affect you or your pocket directly or indirectly. Time to rim the fat and campaign for efficient buildings and building management!

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