Duterte wishes Lucio Tan ‘a thousand more years’

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte yesterday greeted Philippine Airlines (PAL) chairman and chief executive officer Lucio Tan on his 83rd birthday.

“May God grant you a thousand years more of your life. Happy birthday, Mr. Tan. You are 83 years old and still a success story on all fronts,” Duterte said.

“I wish you a happy birthday and may you continue to be endowed with good health, countless blessings and greater success in all endeavors,” he added.

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Duterte said Tan’s “decisive leadership” made the rollout of two new aircraft possible.

“Today marks a momentous achievement not only for PAL, but for the entire country as well. I commend the airline for its efforts to deliver quality flight experience to all its passengers by modernizing its fleet, expanding its reach and providing wholehearted care that is distinctively Filipino,” he said.

Duterte said he has been a customer of PAL since his college days or about 50 years ago.

He said PAL’s accomplishments and existing initiatives would encourage more people to travel to the Philippines and boost the tourism industry.

“I assure you that you will have my full support as you realize your vision of becoming a world-class airline. I urge you to join me in bringing real and lasting change for the benefit of our country and people,” he said.

Meanwhile, Duterte thanked PAL and Cebu Pacific for helping repatriate distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) during what he described as the government’s “stressful” episode with Kuwait.

“Let me just express my profound gratitude to the two airlines that helped government during the Kuwait stressful moments – not a crisis,” the President said during the rollout of PAL’s Airbus A350 and A321 Neo in Pasay City yesterday.

“I requested, though we had the money then, (PAL) and Cebu Pacific to fly to Kuwait and bring in some of our countrymen who were there in distress.

I hope that somehow government can return the favor in the days to come. Thank you for everything you have done for our countrymen,” he added.

Last February, Duterte enforced a ban on the deployment of workers to Kuwait following the death of eight Filipinos who were allegedly maltreated by their employers.

A diplomatic row erupted in April after videos showing Philippine embassy staff rescuing Filipinos from their employers circulated on the internet. The rescue prompted Kuwait to expel Philippine ambassador Pedro Villa and to declare him persona non grata.

A month later, Malacañang said the ties between the Philippines and Kuwait normalized because of the signing of an agreement that would provide additional protection to OFWs in the Gulf state.

Last year, Duterte threatened to shut down the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 if PAL failed to pay its P6-billion tax liabilities.

PAL has been using the terminal since 1999.

But last February, Duterte promised not to talk about the issue anymore after PAL offered to help repatriate distressed OFWs from Kuwait.