Battle over ‘open skies’ heats up

By Ding Cervantes
Published on the Philippine Star

The battle for “open skies” continues to heat up as petitioners and counter-petitioners besiege President Arroyo.

The Fair Trade Alliance (FTA), after publishing full-page advertisements in leading newspapers, urged the Civil Aviation Board (CAB) to defend the country’s patrimony and sovereignty by resisting pressure from foreign airlines.

On the other hand, Clark Investors and Locators Association (CILA) president Frankie Villanueva squeezed through birthday well-wishers at the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) to hand the President a petition for her to repeal Executive Order 500-A.

The President was at the Clark Freeport Wednesday to activate the $9.3 million state-of-the-art radar system at the DMIA.

CILA and other petitioners have urged the repeal of EO 500-A and crafted EO 500-B which they want Mrs. Arroyo to adopt in its place.

“One of the centerpiece reforms of this (Arroyo) administration that is highly acclaimed by development experts throughout the world is the liberalization of the Philippine aviation sector,” the petition said, noting that “the full utilization of the country’s extensive network of airports… is a vital element for the country’s economic development and the fulfillment of the vision to make the Philippines a transport and logistics hub for the Asia-Pacific region.”

The draft EO 500-B is proposing that open skies be declared in Clark and Subic.
The FTA, in opposing EO 500-B, said it supports CAB’s strong position of carefully studying and weighing applications for increased air access to the Philippines.

“Since the country’s skies are 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 said in a statement.

They stressed that they are not anti-trade liberalization per se but are for calibrated protection and calibrated liberalization.

“There must be agreements of reciprocity and the domestic aviation industry must benefit from any possible opening up of Philippine skies,” they added.

CILA’s petition countered that such reform “is being opposed by special interest groups that favor an environment of protectionism.” It also belied the claim that the reform is a threat to national interest, saying rather that it is a threat to “vested interest.”

They noted that “reciprocity since the ’90s has been defined in a broader sense to mean the exchange of rights, freedoms, and opportunities of equal or equivalent value.”

“The entry of low cost carriers (LCCs) at the DMIA has led to enormous opportunities and economic value to Central Luzon,” the petition said.


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