Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Monday, October 09, 2006

‘Open skies’ policy looms over Subic, Clark

Plans are afoot to re-impose the open skies policy in Subic and Clark economic zones, without lifting the restrictions on non-official carriers including “budget airlines.”

Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza said he endorsed to President Arroyo the policy as contained in a draft EO 500-B prepared by Narzalina Lim, a board member of the Pacific Asia Travel Association and a former tourism secretary.

The DoTC supports fully this draft order so that it may amend whatever disadvantageous provisions that was contained in EO 500-A, Mendoza said.

EO 500-A was supposed to lift restrictions imposed on air carriers designated to the Diosdado Macapagal and Subic Bay international airports, but it did the opposite, Lim said.

“There was a provision there that only designated airlines of their country of origin can avail of entitlements, but some of the carriers operating in Subic and Clark are not designated and we will be forced to renegotiate air services with their countries of origin,” Lim said.

She cited the cases of “budget airlines” such as Tiger Airways and Air Asia, which operate in Subic and Clark although they are not designated by their country of origin as official carriers.

“This provision will eliminate the opportunity for Clark to be a regional hub and will potentially reduce passenger traffic to a trickle if not amended,” Lim said.

But Mendoza remained firm in upholding President Arroyo’s earlier order requiring airlines to be designated first to enjoy unlimited capacity in Clark and Subic.

“We cannot support the call to remove the provision requiring airlines to be designated. All the other recommendations can be acted upon positively except for this one,” the transportation chief said.

Lim also lamented that the fifth freedom granted to airlines has been effectively removed with EO 500-A.

Fifth freedom allows airlines to pick up passengers in either Clark or Subic, proceed to a third country before returning to their home country, such as a Clark-Macau-Singapore route.

The President signed Executive Order 500-A to delineate territorial and jurisdictional coverage and the type of services available to foreign carriers that have signed an Air Services Agreement (ASA) with the Philippines.

“All grants of civil aviation entitlements and other forms of air traffic access, both passenger and cargo or a combination, shall be geared toward the development and enhancement of these airports as new international gateways of the country,” Mrs. Arroyo said.

Under EO 500-A, the President also ordered the country’s air negotiating panel to start talks with Malaysia, Thailand and Korea within the next 20 months to ensure the continuity of flights in the Clark-Subic area as an international aviation and logistics center.

“The Philippine Air Negotiating Panel may use any negotiating or diplomatic options to give meaning and positive results to the envisioned objectives of this issuance,” the President added. Joyce Pangco Pañares - Manila Standard Today


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