Lawmakers, regulators, local airlines welcome open skies policy
by Abe P. Belena
Cagayan de Oro City (4 December) -- Major players in the aviation industry including regulators and domestic airline companies now welcome Congress proposals opening other international airports in the country to foreign carriers besides that in Manila.
This surfaced during a public hearing called by the congressional committee on transportation chaired by Congressman Roger Mercado held last Wednesday tackling two bills liberalizing air transport to and from international airports outside of Manila.
Bill no. 1601, filed by Congressman Rex Gatchalian, seeks what he calls pocket open skies policycovering Laoag, Clark, Subic, Cebu and Davao.
Meanwhile, bill No. 1352 authored by Congresswoman Aurora Cerilles recommends a comprehensive open skies policy that seeks opening up all airports for direct flights to and from other countries by both domestic and foreign airlines. It also includes the upgrading of those airports as precondition to air travel liberalization.
The committee devoted the whole session to getting the views of main stakeholders in the country's aviation industry and government regulatory agencies.
In the course of the public hearing, the lawmakers and the airline representatives arrived at a consensus that the proposed open skies policy, when finalized, should be anchored on the principle of reciprocity.
This would mean that for every nation that will be granted rights for their air carriers to land and take-off from Davao or Cebu from a city in that country, should also grant the same privilege to Philippine-owned air carriers.
Two major hurdles, however, surfaced. An executive of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines ((CAAP), the agency that replaced the defunct Air Transportation Office, revealed that the ban on local airlines to and from the United States and the European Community may be lifted only by the middle of next year.
A ban was slapped by aviation authorities in the US and Europe after inspection teams found that the country failed to comply with 58 international safety standards.
In response to the ban, Congress replaced the ATO with CAAP. The new agency said that as of this week, they have corrected 85 out of the 89 deficiencies. It will take up to the second quarter of next year to get the Philippines reclassified as a category one country whose carriers will be allowed to travel to US and European destinations.
The downgrade, it was explained, was the fault of government, not the local airlines which are compliant with international standards.
Another identified hurdle is the bad reputation of the country as a dangerous destination. (PHILEXPORT) [top]