‘Open skies’ urged by Cabinet execs

BusinessWorld

Posted at Oct 25 2010 01:28 AM | Updated as of Oct 26 2010 02:05 AM

 MANILA, Philippines - Cabinet officials have recommended adoption of an open skies policy and President Benigno C. Aquino III is open to considering the proposal.

"We recommended it to the President and he wants to see a road map of the full implementation of the liberalization of civil air policy," Tourism Secretary Alberto A. Lim told BusinessWorld during the weekend.

Approval, Mr. Lim said in a phone interview, will streamline the process for foreign airlines wanting to increase seat capacity.

"The consequence [of easing policy] is that instead of the government panels having to negotiate increase in capacity, foreign airlines may apply for a waiver or an air service agreement with the CAB (Civil Aeronautics Board)," Mr. Lim said.

A requirement is that there should be a bilateral agreement with the country where the foreign airline is based, he added.

"That’s the consensus because we want to send the signal that we are open for business," Mr. Lim said.

The tourism chief did not say when open skies could take effect but said the Cabinet secretaries comprising the economic cluster -- Mr. Lim, Finance’s Cesar V. Purisma, Budget’s Florencio B. Abad, Socioeconomic Planning chief Cayetano W. Paderanga, Transportation’s Jose P. de Jesus, Public Works and Highways’ Rogelio L. Singson, Energy’s Jose Rene D. Almendras and Trade’s Gregory L. Domingo -- submitted the recommendation on October 15.

Mr. Lim, citing the experience of Vietnam which he described as "ahead in terms of foreign visitors," said open skies would benefit not only the tourism sector but also overseas Filipino workers.
As for trade, with more carriers [there will be] more capacity for our exports," he said.

Presidential Communications Group secretary Ricky A. Carandang said that in studying the liberalization of air services, concerns such as "airports being put up, increase in traffic and implication on the economy are being considered."

Local carriers have spoken up against adoption of an open skies policy. Back in 2006 then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued a "pocket open skies" directive covering Clark and Subic but reversed it following an outcry.

At the House of Representatives, a similar measure has been filed by Valenzuela Rep. Rex T. Gatchalian (1st district). House Bill 1601 underwent one committee hearing before the chamber took a recess last Oct. 15.

Sought for comment, Cebu Pacific vice-president Candice A. Iyog said, "Our position has been the same which is we are for open skies that is reciprocal and fair, meaning any entitlements given out should [also] be accorded to the Philippine carriers. In short, [there should be] no unilateral open skies."