MANILA, Philippines – Air Asia Group chief executive officer Tony Fernandes believes that “hidden barriers” that are hindering the potential of Philippine aviation are starting to break down because of the government’s campaign on good governance.
Fernandes is pushing for “open skies” in the ASEAN region, but noted that there are still invisible barriers in some countries that hold back the liberalization of the region’s aviation industry.
“[Hidden barriers in the Philippines] are breaking down. You have a government that’s very determined and secretaries who really want to do right for the people,” he said on ANC’s “Inside Business.
Fernandes holds a positive outlook on Philippine aviation as his company waits approval from the Senate on the acquisition of local budget carrier Zest Airways.
Changes in the carrier’s ownership have to be approved by Congress.
“We have battled through lots of bureaucracy and it’s not over yet. We’re still waiting for the Senate approval on the acquisition of Zest, but I begin to sense the Philippines is rising to the challenge of being one of the leaders of ASEAN and realizes that it has to open up its markets to be one of the leaders,” he said.
He believes that AirAsia’s international name can help develop new destinations in the Philippines outside of Manila.
“There are a lot of places in the Philippines that are hidden jewels that we are going to open up,” he said.
He said the Philippines is still behind its ASEAN neighbors in terms of infrastructure, but he has faith in government that it will deliver on its promise of building and expanding airports.
“Philippine government is accessible, down to earth, approachable, honest, but it has a lot of history to clean up. It has a lot of bureaucracy, lot of legal issues to sort to get things done,” he said, adding that he is confident that growth will be sustained even after President Aquino steps down in 2016.
“People want good governance…The days of inefficient governments are coming to an end. President Aquino has put a high standard which I think many will want to emulate,” he said.