CLARK FREE PORT—Subic Clark Alliance for Development Secretary Edgardo Pamintuan yesterday urged President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to sign Executive Order 500-B which would effectively implement an ‘‘open skies’’ policy over the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport here.
In a memorandum for the President dated May 9, Pamintuan urged the Chief Executive to “approve, sign and issue the proposed EO 500-B so that we can finally proceed with our plans toward the full development of DMIA as a premier international gateway.”
Pamintuan said the Philippines is lagging behind neighboring countries, such as Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Cambodia, in tourist arrivals due to the delays in the approval of the order which would allow more foreign airlines to operate in the airport.
Pamintuan cited Cambodia which declared a unilateral open skies policy in 1999 effectively increased tourist arrivals from 24,000 in 1999 to 1.5 million in 2006. A total of 170 intra-Asian flights now serve the Siem Reap International Airport.
Pamintuan also said that the equally war-ravaged Vietnam is now attracting 3.5 million visitors per year while both Thailand and Singapore are attracting 10 million visitors per year.
The airport posted 7,880 passengers only in 2003 and the number increased to 49,500 passenger in 2004 after the entry of Asiana Airlines of South Korea. In 2005, the airport posted 225,000 passengers and in 2006 the number rose to 471,000 international passengers.
In 2006, the airport was averaging 39,000 passengers per month but for the current year, the airport was already posting 45,000 passengers per month. It is expected that over half a million international passengers will pass through the airport in 2007.
Other countries that have declared unilateral open skies policies include Bahrain, Chile, China, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Lebanon, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates. Japan, which has a strict air policy, will also undertake the most radical liberalization of its highly regulated skies with Asian Gateway Plan. Local carriers of these mentioned countries prospered after undertaking air liberalization.
“May I now urge the President to decisively and positively act on the matter,” Pamintuan said in his memorandum. “The issue of reciprocity has already been defined by your administration as one that is, in essence, beyond the mere interests of the carriers, but to cover national interest.”
“The benefits of a liberalized and competitive regime have already been proven in many industrial and economic sectors. Our local airline industry is an example. It thrived when it opened up to competition,” he said.
Pamintuan further said that the “issue of security and safety, as propounded by the Department of Transportations and Communications and the Civil Aeronautics Board, is totally unrelated to the liberalization of the air traffic and entry of more players.”
Local groups that have supported Pamintuan’s position are the Clark Investors and Locators Association, Makati Business Club, American Chamber of Commerce, Bulacan Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc., Bataan Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc., Angeles Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc., Philippine Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc., Metro Angeles Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc., Pampanga Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc., San Fernando Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc., Advocacy for the Development of Central Luzon, North Luzon Chambers, Chamber of Real Estate and Builder’s Association, Task Force on Transport and Logistics Export Development Council, the Philippine Travel Agencies Association and the Pinoy Gumising Ka Movement.
EO 500-B was drafted by local leaders after the President signed EO 500-A in August 2006 which practically rescinded the ‘‘open skies’’ policy set out by the original EO 500 issued early last year.
EO 500-B makes the entry of foreign airlines, particularly low-cost carriers, into Clark and Subic easier and will supercede EO 500-A. Most of the provisions contained in EO 500-A are practically the opposite of what have been spelled out in the original EO 500.
EO 500 allowed foreign carriers to fly to the airport without limits to traffic rights, capacity and air freedom rights, except for cabotage or the right to fly or operate within the domestic boarders of another country.
By Rendy Isip - Manila Standard Today