Cebu Pacific pays passengers in Davao airport accident

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DAVAO CITY, Philippines—Did Cebu Pacific enter into an out-of-court settlement with a group of passengers of a plane that missed the runway on landing at Davao’s Francisco Bangoy International Airport here last June 2?

Members of a group demanding that Cebu Pacific pay them P1 million each in damages said they had received compensation but an official of airline would not categorically say there had been an out-of-court settlement.

On Thursday, Robert de Leon, legal counsel of the 42 passengers who call themselves “The Victims,” told several reporters here that each of the group’s members got “reasonable compensation.”

Rumors circulating here indicated each of the 42 complainants got P100,000 in compensation.

“I have no details,” Michelle Pestaño-Fojas, Cebu Pacific’s corporate communications manager, told the Inquirer by phone. But even if she had information, Fojas indicated she was not ready to tell it all, especially to the media.

“Communications to passengers are confidential. We need to respect the privacy of the passengers,” she said.

“We are not allowed to divulge (the amount) out of respect for the agreement we made with Cebu Pacific,” De Leon said, adding that the victims were asked to “keep quiet” upon receiving their share.

Andrew Bautista, leader of “The Victims,” said all 42 of them got the money by Wednesday evening.

In a later interview with a local news outfit, De Leon admitted that claims of “psychological injuries” did not constitute enough ground for compensation “and is potentially unprecedented in our jurisprudence.”

However, he said, Bautista’s group was “happy this is finally over” and that they commended Cebu Pacific for “its willingness to negotiate and settle” the issue without court intervention.

“The airline’s representatives have listened to our concerns about passenger service and handling, and recognized specific points for improvement, and we have also agreed to accept their very reasonable offer of financial assistance to cover passengers’ expenses related to the incident,” Bautista said in a media statement.

He said what was more important than the money they got from the Gokongwei-run firm is “the respect that Cebu Pacific has given us” because it “is unquantifiable and is worth more than P1 million.”

“It was enough to clear the trauma we experienced,” Bautista added.

In demanding payment of damages, the group insisted that the two pilots and the crew of Flight 5J-971 committed lapses, such as failure to evacuate them from the plane even when smoke was beginning to fill the cabin.

The plane came in from Manila but the pilots, according to the investigation of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippine (CAAP), made errors and missed the runway in the process. The CAAP said the pilots obviously failed to follow the “minimum descent altitude” rule in landing a plane.

As to the group led by Ateneo de Davao University Prof. Jess Delgado, Bautista said he was not aware if they had also received any form of compensation from Cebu Pacific.

Delgado had made it clear early on that his group, known as “The Survivors,” was not asking for monetary compensation but for reform in the way the airline handles passengers in emergencies.

“I really do not know about the other group. What I know from Mr. Lance Gokongwei himself is that they are settling with our group based on what we have negotiated and agreed upon. Anything beyond that is up to those who have other demands, whether or not they will pursue their issue or go to court,” De Leon said.

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