By Henry Empeño - Business MirrorSUBIC BAY
FREEPORT—The Philippines and Kuwait have begun bilateral talks on liberalized civil-aviation policies that would entitle designated airlines of both countries to operate from the free ports of Subic or Clark to any point in Kuwait and vice versa.
Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Administrator Armand Arreza said the broad terms of discussions included provisions for “Fifth freedom rights” that essentially allows an airline to carry passengers from intermediate points between the two contracting countries.
“This will be a big shot in the arm to both the local aviation and tourism industry,” Arreza said on Thursday, pointing out that airports in both Subic and Clark could accommodate passenger and cargo flights.
“The Diosdado Macapagal International Airport [DMIA] in Clark would probably benefit the most because it’s already established as a commercial airport, but our own Subic Bay International Airport [SBIA] could still play catchup,” Arreza added.
Arreza said the initial round of discussions for the prospective Kuwait-Clark/Subic routes was concluded during the visit to the country of Kuwait’s Prime Minister Sheik Nasser al-Mohamed al-Alhmed al-Jabber al-Sabah from August 14 to 16.
Secretary Edgardo Pamintuan, chairman of the Subic-Clark Alliance for Development Council, and Fawaz Alfarah, president of the Kuwait Civil Aviation, signed the record of discussion on August 15.
A copy of the record of discussion showed that the two parties agreed to specifically entitle designated airlines of both countries to operate air services from Clark/Subic to any point in Kuwait, and from any point in Kuwait to Clark/Subic, “with any number of frequencies and with any type of aircraft.”
The two parties also agreed that such air services along these routes “shall enjoy unlimited frequencies with Fifth freedom traffic rights both for passenger and cargo flights.”
The Fifth freedom rights as discussed, however, specifically provided that any point in the United States “shall not be served as an intermediate or beyond point of destination.”
The discussion also provided that Kuwait shall grant designated Filipino airlines serving the Kuwait-Clark/Subic routes a 10-percent discount on fuel and 15-percent discount on ground-handling services.
Arreza said formal negotiations for these agreed-upon items are expected to be held soon between the respective civil-aviation authorities of the two countries.
Once the agreement is sealed, the SBMA “expects to better market Subic as a destination for international tourists, as well as a logistics hub,” he added. While Clark has lately attracted several airlines flying international routes, the Subic airport has been used mostly for domestic flights and logistics operations by FedEx.
SBMA records indicate that from January to July 2008, a total of 57,998 domestic aircraft and 6,840 FedEx flights used the SBIA.
The Subic airport, which has a 10,000-sq-m passenger terminal and is equipped with an upgraded instrument landing system, now serves as a secondary airport and a main diversion airport of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila. It can accommodate as many as 41 passenger planes at a time, including wide-bodied aircraft like Airbus A340-200s and Boeing 747-400s, SBMA airport officials said.
Arreza said the SBIA could expect more international passengers once the Kuwait-Subic route is established.