Iloilo to open its skies to foreign airlines

Rappler.com
Iloilo's addition to the open skies policy will bring to 6 the total number of airports that allow unlimited rights to foreign carriers to fly in and out of the country

MANILA, Philippines – To help the country meet its tourism arrival targets, another provincial airport will open its skies to foreign carriers soon.

Transportation Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas said President Aquino has ordered the Iloilo airport be included in the list of secondary airports covered by the open skies policy under Executive Order 29.

Kumpleto na lahat ang airport na ito, kulang na lang ‘yong pagka-international. Ibig sabihin direkta na flights mula sa labas. Kaya iniutos ho ng Pangulo ’yong tinatawag na open skies,” Roxas told reporters on the sidelines of the First Philippine International River Summit in Iloilo City on Friday, June 1. (This airport is already complete, except it’s not international. That’s why the President has ordered to include it in the open skies policy.)

Roxas said for starters, Iloilo will cater to flights coming from neighbors in the region such as Korea, Singapore and Bangkok. “Open skies means the flights can directly land in Iloilo.”

The new addition will bring to 6 the total number of airports covered by the open skies policy. The original 5 include Clark, Cebu, Davao, Zamboanga and Ilocos Norte.

President Aquino signed EO 29 in March last year, easing restrictions on foreign airlines in the select airports.

Under the EO, foreign carriers may increase their frequencies and/or capacities in Philippine airports other than the main gateway, Ninoy Aquino International Airport, subject to the conditions required by law. The EO however did not give foreign carriers “cabotage” traffic rights, which means they cannot transport passengers or cargo between two or more points within the country.

Aquino said the long-contested policy was necessary to boost tourist arrivals and investments in the Philippines.

Aquino, who was also present in the Iloilo summit, said opening the province to foreign airlines will help the Philippines meet its tourism arrival targets. His administration is eyeing to attract 10 million foreign tourists when its term ends in 2016.

“We need to do this. We’re hoping to do 10 million tourist arrivals by the time I step down in 2016. So be assured that Iloilo, which is the gateway also to another gateway, Boracay, amongst other places, will really be upgraded and improved,” he told reporters.

Asked how they plan to sustain the Iloilo airport’s operations, Aquino said: “This is a necessary infrastructure. Iloilo is the center of this particular region. This is a necessary facility and government will find a way to sustain its operations.” – Rappler.com

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