Strategic aviation, tourism dev’t urged

Published on the July 13, 2007 issue of the Manila Bulletin

The multisectoral Fair Trade Alliance (FTA) yesterday called for a strategic development plan for the aviation industry, tourism and other ancillary industries rather than a unilateral opening of Clark to foreign carriers even as it warned that a wholesale opening of Clark contradicts the Constitutional mandate.

Speaking at a recent forum on Open Skies sponsored by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, FTA lead convenor Wigberto Tañada stressed that their alliance is not against economic liberalization per se but stressed, “We are for an economic liberalization that is calibrated, measured, progressive and synchronized with our own development priorities and the capacities of our industrial and agricultural producers.”

Tañada pointed out that under Article 2, Section 19 of the Constitution, it is expressly provided that the “State should provide a self-reliant and independent national economy effectively controlled by Filipinos.”

He said that FTA is pushing for calibrated protection because that is what our neighbors like China, Japan, Vietnam and South Korea are doing rather than opening up the economy in an accelerated, one-sided and even lazy and reckless manner.

“Thus, in the Clark’s open skies issue, we are shocked to hear outright proposals for the Philippines to unilaterally open up our skies and abandon the globally-accepted norm of aviation trade negotiation, which is bargaining bilaterallly for equal or reciprocal flying rights,” Tañada said.

He branded some foreign carriers arrogant for wanting to have more rights than Filipino air carriers such as the privilege of operating even without any permit from the Civil Aviation Board (CAB) and the privilege of using Clark as a hub to fly to other destinations.

This unfairness was most evident when Macau denied the application of Asian Spirit to fly from Clark to Macau and back, whereas Tiger Air of Singapore has been allowed to fly freely from Clark to Macau and Singapore, he pointed out.

“A unilateral aviation liberalization policy clearly contradicts the Constitutional mandate that the ‘State shall protect Filipino enterprises against unfair foreign competition and trade practices,” he said.

The FTA noted that all local carriers are now privately-owned and do not get any assistance from the government and yet most of the foreign airlines are supported by their respective governments.

For instance, Singapore Air is majority-owned by Temasek, a government investment corporation, while Thai Air is 70 percent owend byt he Thai government.

“Now, who is rent seeking? Who is protectionist? And, yes, who is the antiFilipino,” Tanada said.

On the argument that the entry of the foreign carriers in Clark has been a boon to tourism, the FTA argued that on the contrary many of the tourists are flying outward, not toward the Philippine islands.

To really pursue the development of tourism and the calibrated liberalization of the aviation industry, the FTA stressed the need to come up with a national blueprint of the aviation industry and the related tourism industry and the ancillary industries.

“Where is the Road Map that will strengthen these industries and create more and better jobs for all,” he said.

The FTA wants to bring back the old bilateral air talks as in the case of the RP-US Bilateral Air Talks wherein the US panel was composed of government and private sector representatives, which is also their practice in the WTO and other trade negotiations.

On the contrary, Tañada said the Philippines is not only pursuing unilateralism in policy formulation on domestic producers and traders unfairly but the locals are also being excluded from any consultation, much less negotiation.

“That is why we are alarmed when some government factotums have even the temerity to propose the outright exclusion of the Philippine aviation industry representatives in the air negotiation panels,” Tañada lamented.

Instead, the FTA has urged government to come up with a strategic development of the aviation industry, tourism and other ancillary industries to determine what is best for the country and the Filipinos.

In response to allegations that those who opposed Open Skies are being labeled as supporters of a failed Filipino-First policy, Tañada countered, “Our unilateral economic liberalization of the last three and a half decades is what has failed this country” as he ennumerated what the government technocrats had done to both the manufacturing and agricultural sectors.

He said the manufacturing sector was opened up in a wholesale manner resulting in the decimated local industry and the influx of cheap imports and smuggled products. The same was done to the agricultural sector making the Philippines a net agricultural importer.

“From unilateral liberalization and unilateral agricultural liberalization we want to open up unilaterally our skies, our aviation market, without any equal reciprocity. My God, what is happening to this country?”
Tañada concluded.

  1. Ted

    It’s sad to hear protectionist virews being aired here. If a nation like the Philippines unilaterally opened up its skies to foreign airlines, the resultant investment and local jobs would give currently unemployed Filipinos hope and a vision for the future. Why do these non-government organisations such as so-called ‘FairTrade’ think that they know what is best, when a free market approach works better than that of any bureaucrat? I am sorry to say it, but protectionism has held the Philippines back and been a key reason why Singapore has long overtaken it in the income and other stakes that measure quality of life. The Philippines has so much potential with its many English-speakers: it just needs to follow what Singapore and other progressive nations have done.

  2. It doesn’t sound like a good news. What is FTA doing?

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