Local Airlines hit SEAir, Tiger partnership

Deal seen violating Constitution
By Paolo Montecillo

December 20, 2010

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines’ top airlines are protesting the allegedly illegal “partnership” between Singapore’s Tiger Airways and local Southeast Asian Airlines (SEAir).

The arrangement between the two airlines, wherein SEAir flights—using aircraft leased from Tiger Airways—will be sold on the latter’s website, allegedly skirts a constitutional restriction on the foreign ownership of companies in vital industries.

In a letter to the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), copy furnished the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), Philippine Airlines (PAL), Cebu Pacific, Zest Airways and Air Philippines called for an investigation of the operations of SEAir and Tiger.

“We earnestly request that the board launch a full and exhaustive investigation into the matter for the purpose of ascertaining, among others, that the marketing agreement entered into between SEAir and Tiger is in strict compliance with the terms of the CAB,” said the joint letter obtained from the CAB.

In its own letter to DOTC Undersecretary for Civil Aviation Glicerio Sicat, PAL said, “It is becoming apparent that Tiger has a direct stake and participation in the success of the new venture.”

“It is noted that all four Philippine international air carriers took the unprecedented step of filing said consolidated opposition, in which we jointly requested the [CAB] to issue a cease-and-desist order directing SEAir and Tiger to stop selling and promoting the planned Clark-Singapore flights,” the letter dated December 9 said.

The Constitution prohibits foreigners from owning more than a 40-percent stake in companies in industries such as transportation and telecommunications.

The four airlines in their letter asked the regulator to investigate “the matter to determine if the SEAir and Tiger activities and operations fully comply with Philippine laws, rules and regulations.”

The airlines added that Tiger Airways’ plans to put up an operating base in Clark Freeport in Pampanga, through SEAir, would disregard and undermine Philippine laws, to be achieved through a form of “regulatory sleight of hand.”

SEAir officials could not be reached for comment as of press time.

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