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Capt. Jim’s flight through turbulent skies

Under DG Jim’s stellar leadership, CAAP has since been working toward improving the agency’s services and facilities



A career in aviation is undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable as it involves having to fly around the world and having a demanding but rewarding profession at the same time. These are probably some of the reasons why people give pilots high regard and respect as they perform very challenging jobs.

A pilot is in charge of making final decisions about whatever may happen on board the aircraft. And in case of an emergency, it is the pilot’s ultimate job to land the plane safely. Hence, he must be prepared to deal with rapidly changing situations.

Being part of the Department of Transportation (DoTr) for quite some time now, I have come to realize this truth altogether. I have witnessed this firsthand by discovering how a seasoned pilot can navigate through turbulent times. I am talking about none other than the Director-General of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), Captain Jim Sydiongco.

A veteran in the aviation industry, DG Jim flew all over the world as a commercial pilot for the country’s flag carrier — Philippine Airlines — and for EVA Airways. With over 35 years of flight experience tucked in his belt, he also served as a safety consultant and later became the Vice President for Flight Operations of Cebu Pacific airlines before joining the ranks of the CAAP, and finally taking its helm in 2016.

Under DG Jim’s stellar leadership, CAAP has since been working toward improving the agency’s services and facilities. Reforms were implemented, safety in navigation has been intensified, the digitization of frontline services was carried out, and improvements in the numerous gateways across the Philippines have continued to enhance the country’s mobility and connectivity.

When I first wrote an article about DG Jim, titled “The Fearless Captain,” sometime in 2019, the CAAP at that time completed a total of 13 airport projects, with 36 more ongoing. Now, in just a little over two years, this accomplishment took a great leap as the DoTr and CAAP have already completed a total of 233 airport projects nationwide.

In just two years, despite hurdles and setbacks, big-ticket airport projects were inaugurated and are now operational. The promise for Bicolanos to have a new international gateway was fulfilled with the completion of the Bicol International Airport. The Mactan-Cebu International Airport is also continuously being developed. And airports — big or small — have been getting major facelifts to better serve air passengers.

Perhaps the most pressing issue that the good captain has to deal with recently is on the crippling impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on commercial aviation.

Although beset by the turmoil of global health crisis, the CAAP has braved adversities to continuously improve itself, adapt to the changing times, and help the entire aviation industry recuperate.

And to help cushion the impact of Covid-19 on the industry, CAAP moved to waive the payments of airport concessionaires and to defer the payments of local carriers for parking, landing and take-off fees.

Now, the flight through turbulent skies continues. However, the aviation industry is surely getting back its wings, and I am certain that the impact of these meaningful initiatives, the airport projects that have been completed, and the changes made in the CAAP under DG Jim’s watch will resonate for years to come.

I have always likened DG Jim to my grandfather. Whenever I look at him, it’s like seeing my dear lolo, who made such a great imprint in my life and career. Perhaps, like my grandfather, DG Jim stands with authority. They are both persons that are ripe in experience and have overcome the test of time. Most importantly, they are both remarkable men from whom I gain inspiration and constant motivation to do better.