PAL is forecasting a continued improvement in profits this year despite a downturn that has been hitting some of its Asian competitors.

President and chief operating officer Avelino Zapanta says the carrier expects net profit to more than triple this fiscal year, to around 1.5 billion pesos ($29 million). "The market environment is not very encouraging, but I think PAL's recovery is now a matter that can be sustained."

The airline is reporting a 436.5 million peso net profit for the year ended 31 March, representing a more than eight-fold leap on the previous year's net income, which was its first in seven years. Operating profit amounted to 5.74 billion pesos "which is better than many other airlines in the region," Zapanta says.

PAL has been working hard to reduce its debt, which he claims now stands at under $2 billion, compared with around $2.2 billion when it entered into receivership in mid-1998.

Zapanta says that, while PAL is not as affected as some Asian carriers from declining exports to the USA, the Philippine national carrier is being affected by recent incidents in which separatist rebels have taken foreign tourists hostage. "There have been cancellations but we hope it will blow over quickly," he says.

Source: Flight International