Trade, tourism take center stage in PH aviation policy

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Trade and tourism, two of the main focus of the recently issued open skies policy of the government, will take center stage in Philippine aviation policy, which used to be dominated by local airlines' interests

MANILA, Philippines – Trade and tourism, two of the main focus of the recently issued open skies policy of the government, will take center stage in Philippine aviation policy, which used to be dominated by local airlines’ interests.  

Citing the open skies policy of the Aquino government, Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) executive director Carmelo Arcilla told reporters that the government panel that pave the way for airlines to fly into different destinations is making changes in its approach in negotiating for bilateral air rights with other countries. 

President Aquino signed Executive Order no. 29, the policy implementing open skies, in mid-2011 to focus on other stakeholders of the aviation industry, especially tourism and trade. The hike in tourism targets is hinged on improved air access and increased flights to and from tourist destinations such as Palawan, Bohol, among others.  

Under an open skies policy, foreign airlines can mount flights to and from any airports in the country except at the congested Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

The open skies policy does not restrict the frequency, capacity and type of aircraft–elements that the air panel has been negotiating on in previous government-to-government bilateral talks.

Under the current set up, a local carrier can seek the panel’s assistance if it wants to add more frequencies and explore new destinations. The panel then seeks for a meeting with its counterpart of another country. The same assistance is extended by the panel to a foreign airline seeking a similar.
“Before, we negotiate on the basis of a renewal request or new routes from an airline, whether local of foreign. Also, if a country asks for the same for its carrier then we schedule the meeting,” said Arcilla.
This year, it is the goal of the panel to veer away from such “requests” and instead focus on which route should be prioritized.  “We are coming up with a negotiating program in which we have to analyze the market, come up with how to prioritize which routes should we ask for more frequencies and which new destinations should be explore,” said Arcilla.

The CAB is part of the panel which negotiates for traffic rights with other countries. The other panel members include the Department of Transportation and Communications, Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Tourism, Department of Trade and Industry, and representatives from the airline companies.

“We are not after the quantity of the number of air pact to be sealed this year. What we are after is to ink agreements that are consistent with our aviation objectives. That’s why we must have a more rational program,” said the CAB official when asked if the panel has identified the number of air talks slated for 2012.
In 2011, the panel amended air services agreements with Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, and Japan, among others.
Arcilla said the panel is on its second planning meeting. “It’s still ongoing and we may finish it by early February. After which, we will announce the schedule for this year,” added the CAB official.
The aviation industry, he added, is seen to grow by at least another 10% this year, owing to cheaper air fares, more seat capacity fielded by airlines and also as a result of amended air pacts sealed in 2011. “Traffic will continue to grow this year. There are more aircraft, even newer ones. Budget airlines are here to stay.” –

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