CAB set air talks with Mideast and Europe in 2009

Business Mirror

Written by Lenie Lectura

THE Philippine air panel is arranging a number of meetings with representatives of various countries, mostly in the Middle East and Europe, within the year in the hope of sealing more air agreements.

First on the list is Qatar. The air panels from both countries are scheduled to meet on January 14 and 15 at the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) office.

“We already have an existing air agreement with Qatar, but [it] would want to have more flights to the Philippines. Qatar recently promised to provide jobs to Filipinos,” said CAB Deputy Executive Director Porvenir Porciuncula in a phone interview.

Philippine carriers, however, are not keen on acceding to Qatar’s request.

“While Qatar wants more access, our carriers do not want to even launch flights anywhere in the Middle East because of very stiff market competition. Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific do not have immediate plans to mount flights there. Instead, they want to deploy their new planes in lucrative routes,” said Porciuncula.

There are 11 flight frequencies a week under the existing air services agreement (ASA) between Qatar and Manila.

“We have not received Qatar’s proposal yet so we do not know how many they would like to add,” added the CAB official.

Spirit of Manila is the only local airline mounting flights to the Middle East from the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) in the Clark Special Economic Zone.

“Right now, it is the only Philippine carrier granted rights to fly there. They will surely ask for entitlements,” said Porciuncula.

Passenger traffic at the DMIA was expected to grow to 2 million by end of 2008 from 533,000 in 2007.

After Qatar, the Philippine air panel has scheduled a meeting with its counterpart in the United Arab of Emirates by the end of the month, followed by a discussion with Kuwait in February and with Brunei in March.

“The impending air talks are mostly focused on Middle Eastern countries because these were the countries which have not been part of last year’s discussions. We want to reach the countries where we have no presence yet,” added Porciuncula.

The Philippine air panel is composed of officials from the Departments of Transportation and Communications, Foreign Affairs, Tourism and Trade and Industry, CAB and representatives from the airline companies.

After the Middle East, the panel will explore the holding of air talks with European countries in the second or third quarter of the year. The CAB is hoping it can successfully seal more ASAs this year compared with that of last year.

“Of course, we would want more agreements signed this year. Most [ASAs] are only amended but we also have plans to seal new agreements, particularly with Turkey, Libya and Peru this year,” added Porciuncula.

In 2007, the country’s air panel clinched agreements with Russia, Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Macau, Canada, Finland, Cambodia, Iran and the Netherlands.

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