Airlines protest Gloria order, CAB on open skies

Published online on the April 4, 2007 issue of The Daily Tribune

Local airlines, in a rare move, banded together yesterday to protest plans by the government to grant foreign airlines full access to two international airports.

Flag carrier Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific Air, Air Philippines, Asian Spirit and Pacific East Asia Cargo Airlines called an executive order issued by President Gloria Arroyo, yet to be signed, a “threat to the national interest.”

The Fair Trade Alliance (FTA), meanwhile, urged the Civil Aviation Board (CAB) to defend the country’s patrimony and sovereignty by resisting pressure tactics from foreign airlines.

In a statement, the FTA said it fully supports CAB’s strong position of carefully studying and weighing applications for increased air access to the Philippines.

“Since the country’s skies is part of our sovereign territory and national patrimony, flight entitlements by foreign carriers must be evaluated on the basis of reciprocity, the welfare of the local aviation industry and national interest,” the group stressed.

As this developed, the FTA chided budget carrier Tiger Airways for resorting to arm-twisting tactics in pressuring CAB to grant its request for a longer extension of its operating permits for its Singapore-Clark-Macau flights.

The local carriers said the executive order would give foreign airlines “full access” to the Subic and Clark international airports, a privilege they claimed no other country would grant Philippine carriers.

The order also permits foreign airlines to pick up passengers at the two airports for onward flights to third country destinations.

This would allow foreign carriers to “operate their own network of international flights from bases in Diosdado Macapagal International Airport at the former US military base at Clark, north of Manila, and the Subic Bay International Airport, making them equivalent to Philippine air carriers in all but name.

“By bestowing a favored competitive position on foreign airlines, the (order) would have a serious adverse impact on other routes operated by Philippine carriers,” the airlines said.

They charged that the change would put some P150 billion in investment and 15,000 jobs at risk and also imperil the long-term growth of the tourism sector.
“The envisioned unilateral grants force the nation to give up valuable bargaining chips and put the government in a weak negotiating position” in any aviation talks with other nations, they warned.

The carriers called on President Arroyo to “refrain” from passing the executive order and proposed a dialog with her to thresh out the issue.
Spokesmen for the President or from the Civil Aviation Office were not immediately available to comment.

“Tiger Airways’ media pronouncements that it will downsize and unilaterally reduce flights are veiled threats meant to pressure CAB to accede to its request. We support CAB’s strongly worded letter to reminding Tiger Airways of legal prohibitions against any person or entity who wish to sway CAB’s judgement through media or via paid advertisements,” FTA said.

The group said the budget carrier has not learned its lesson even after CAB slapped it with a P720,000 fine in January last year for operating in Clark without the necessary permits from the agency.
Tiger Airways was earlier found in violation of CAB regulations for advertising, marketing and charging tariff for its services on the Singapore-Clark-Macau route without prior CAB approval from July 25 to Oct. 30, 2005.

“For this serious breach, Tiger Air got away with a fine — a mere slap in the wrist considering the gravity of its offense. If it happened to Philippine carriers in a foreign land, it’s not likely that it would be given the same ‘kid glove’ treatment, the FTA stressed

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  1. The government of Gloria Arroyo is plaqued by corruption, we hope that the new government under Aquino would be much better.’~:

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