MANILA, Philippines - Transportation and Communications Secretary Mar Roxas said Wednesday "many" foreign airlines were still interested to set up shops in the partially operational Ninoy Aquino International Terminal (NAIA) 3.
"There are many foreign airlines. Jet Airways is interested. There are others that have indicated as well," he said.
In March, Japanese airline All Nippon Airways (ANA) began operations at NAIA 3, becoming the first foreign carrier to fly out of the terminal, which has been subject of an ownership dispute for several years now.
Japanese contractor Takenaka Corp., which has yet to complete an unfinished section of NAIA 3, gave the go signal for ANA to operate in the terminal.
Takenaka is the primary subcontractor of the Philippine International Air Terminals Co. Inc. (PIATCO), the consortium that built NAIA 3.
The Philippine government and PIATCO have been in a legal battle over the ownership and operation of NAIA 3.
NAIA 3 was supposed to have been opened in 2002, but this was delayed when the Arroyo government cancelled PIATCO's contract due to alleged irregularities.
The Supreme Court declared PIATCO's contract null and void in 2003, prompting the government to take over the airport terminal a year later.
PIATCO was seeking over $842 million compensation for the expropriation of the terminal, but was only awarded a fraction of the amount by a local court early this year. PIATCO elevated its case to the Court of Appeals. In the meantime, a separate arbitration case filed by PIATCO and its German partner Fraport AG was still ongoing.
Currently, NAIA 3 is being utilized by Cebu Pacific and Air Philippines.
President Aqunio wants the terminal to be fully operational by the end of this year to cope with growing passenger traffic and soothe investors' concerns over legal uncertainties in the country.
Category 2 status
Roxas, meanwhile, hopes that the Philippines' aviation safety status will be raised by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) soon.
"There will be an interim review in December. We hope to get a good indication by December what else we need to do so when the final review happens next year we will be ready," he said.
The US FAA downgraded the Philippines' safety status to Category 2 in January 2008. Category 2 prohibits local carriers from expanding their operations in the US.
Philippine Airlines, for instance, can only fly 33 times a week to various US destinations, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu, Guam and Las Vegas via Vancouver.
"The basic challenge here has to do with rigor and comprehensiveness on our regulation. For example, not having a manual or checklist for all these regulations, is really something that has to be addressed," said Roxas.