MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines is set to pursue a series of air talks with several countries particularly major and new destination markets in the government’s efforts to lure more tourists into the country.
Carmelo Arcilla, executive director of the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), said talks would be held with several countries including China, Japan, Taiwan, Brazil, Canada, Australia, and even Europe as early as the first quarter of the year.
“We will start negotiations in the first quarter. Major markets and new markets are targeted for new rounds of talks,” Arcilla stressed.
President Aquino has signed Executive Order 29 authorizing the CAB and the Philippine air panels to pursue more aggressively the international civil aviation liberalization policy.
To boost the country’s competitiveness as a tourism destination and investment location, the government decided to pursue more aggressively a liberalization policy in international aviation through the grant of third, fourth and fifth freedom rights and unrestricted capacities and frequencies to foreign air carriers, among others.
This year, the Philippines successfully held air talks with the various countries. These include the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Australia, Singapore, and South Korea.
Under the “pocket-open skies policy” of the Aquino administration, the country concluded four successful air talks in 2011 including that of Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea, and Vietnam.
The CAB also had inconclusive air talks with Indonesia and Taiwan in 2011.
There are about 10 million Filipinos working and living abroad. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) sees OFW remittances rising five percent this year from the record $20.12 billion booked last year.
Arcilla said the Philippines is also looking at holding air talks with several countries in Europe that is being targeted by major local airlines include national flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) and Cebu Air Inc. (Cebu Pacific) of taipan John Gokongwei.
“They have expressed new interest in the Philippines. PAL wants to return to Europe and other local airlines also want to operate in Europe,” he stressed.
PAL, for one, is asking the European Union for an exemption from a ban on Philippine carriers from European airspace by using its certification from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) as well as its connections with European companies.
In April 2010, the 27-member European Commission decided to impose a ban Philippine carriers including PAL from European airspace for the failure of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) to reform the country’s civil aviation system.
In 2008, the safety rating of the Philippines was downgraded by the US Federal Aviation Administration upon the recommendation of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to Category 2 from Category 1.
Category 2 indicates that the FAA had assessed that the Philippines’ civil aviation authority had failed to comply with ICAO safety standards for the oversight of air carrier operations. While in Category 2, Philippine air carriers are permitted to continue current operations to the US under heightened FAA surveillance.
Both decisions made by the European Union and the FAA prevents airlines from the Philippines to mount additional flights to the US and Europe.