Philippines enjoys Open Skies

But no Foreign carriers in Sight!

December 3, 2010

The Aquino government faced its first rebuke in its proposal to open more of its Philippine airspace after the Civil Aviation Board (CAB) informed the House of Representatives’ transportation committee that foreign carriers already enjoy adequate access to Philippine skies but no foreign carriers are operating on them.

Liberalized Skies

CAB deputy Executive Director Porvenir Porciuncula told the House that civil aeronautics in the country is already under a liberalized status because global leaders in commercial aviation have free access to the country.

“Our air agreements already allow flights to most of the points outside Manila. The big markets, Japan, US, China, South Korea, they can operate in Cebu, Davao but what they are looking for is profitability,” said Porciuncula.

The CAB official stressed that the open skies policy should not be taken as a “cure all” to the government’s need to lure more travelers, particularly tourists, to the country.

Philippine Airlines (PAL) also debunk claims that there is lack of airline seats to accommodate tourists as the open skies advocates insists that the lack of airline seats is the principal reason for low tourist arrivals in the country prompting the government.

47 Million seats

In a statement, PAL said that “It’s not the number of airline seats that is the behind the lack of tourist interest in the Philippines but the country’s negative image abroad, specially in the area of peace and order and security,” this according to Ma. Socorro Gonzaga, PAL senior assistant vice-president for external affairs.

“It’s not the number of airline seats that is behind the lack of tourist. Its about the image of the Philippines” Ms. Gonzaga said, saying that there are 47.4 million seats available to foreign and local carriers at present.

“However, of these 47.4 million available seats, only 10.97 million seats -- or 23% of total entitlements -- were used by foreign and local carriers last year. ”

Of the 10.97 million passengers that came to the country by air in 2009, only 2.9 million were foreign tourists,” she said.

25 million seats for Clark

Clark airport already enjoys 25.6 million in seat entitlements yearly but manage to attract only less than 200,000 foreign tourists out of the more than 600,000 that uses the airport for international destinations. Cebu got 20.7 million seats but registers only less than a million foreign tourists; while Davao has 20.3 million and manage to fly only less than 100,000.

Of the more successful international gateways are Kalibo and Laoag at 19.6 million but with greater foreign arrival ratios than major international airports outside Manila.

In Manila, there are 21.2 million seat entitlements available yearly, and almost all of them are taken, which only mean that passengers wanted to get out of the country at the NAIA airport complex.

Tagbilaran and Puerto Princesa also have 19.6 million seats on offer but none has availed a single seat.

According to the PAL reprsentative, “The sum is more than 47.4 million seats because many of the entitlements may be used for different airports, hence the overlap,” she said.

No Foreign Airlines

Meanwhile, CAAP representative Atty. Joseph Ray Gumabon told the House committee on transportation chaired by Leyte Rep. Roger Mercado that foreign airlines are free to include the country in their routes but they do not fly into the Philippines because there are not enough passengers along the open routes particularly to Cebu and Davao.

Last month, the government said it would further liberalize the civil aviation industry to increase tourist arrivals.

Reps. Ben Evardone (Lakas-Kampi, Eastern Samar), Rene Relampagos (LP, Bohol) and Magtanggol Gunigundo (Lakas-Kampi, Valenzuela) admitted in Wednesday’s public hearing they are not totally convinced an open skies policy is what the country needs to invigorate the tourism industry.

Both however agreed to give their principal authors, Reps. Rex Gatchalian (NPC, Valenzuela City) and Aurora Cerilles (NPC, Zamboanga del Sur), the opportunity to defend their proposals in the next hearing.

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