The French Lobby for PAL Exemption to Europe

October 23, 2012

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault of France addresses French and Filipino businesspeople prior to witnessing the formal signing of contract for the purchase of 64 new Airbus passenger planes worth US$7-billion by Filipino flag-carrier, the Philippine Airlines, Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012 in Manila, Philippines. Ayrault is here for a three-day official visit, the first by a top French official since establishing diplomatic relations in 1947.

It took a US$ 7 billion Airbus order for the French to return to the Philippines with no less than their Prime Minister witnessing the signing of the purchase contract between Philippine Airlines (PAL) and Toulouse-based Airbus Industrie in a deal marked by diplomatic lobbying for European investments in the country.

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault arrive in the country for official visit to the Philippines in October 19 to 21 with 130 delegations comprising Ministers, Parliamentarians and businessmen.

Prime Minister Ayrault's visit marked the first ever visit of a French leader to the Philippines since the formal establishment of diplomatic relations in 1947.

Philippine Airlines President Ramon Ang, center, addresses French and Filipino businesspeople shortly after formally signing a contract for the purchase of 64 new Airbus passenger planes worth US$7-billion by Philippine Airlines, and witnessed by visiting Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault of France. At left is Airbus Asia-Pacific Vice President Jean Francois Laval and at right is Philippine Airlines Vice President and Treasurer Harry Tan.

The contract signing for 64 planes was confirmed by PAL and Airbus representatives at the Manila Business Forum on Saturday October 20, 2012.

The three-day visit was highlighted by a meeting in MalacaƱang between the French Prime Minister and President Benigno S. Aquino III, who exchanged views on moving bilateral relations forward, as well as on regional and multilateral issues.

One of the pressing issues discussed were the fate of its aviation rating by the European Union (EU), and the desire of Philippine Airlines to fly to Europe next year.

The country is blacklisted by the European Union and has a Category 2 rating from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.

The French said that it will rally support for PAL's eventual return to Europe. The next day, Ayrault met with Ramon Ang briefly at the Hotel Sofitel in Pasay City before the ceremonial signing was held.

“We’re hoping the prime minister can help us lift the EU ban,” Ang said during the signing of the deal with Airbus.

PAL likewise hope that with its recent selection of the Rolls Royce engines to power the new A330 and its new deal with Lufthansa Tecknik for maintenance, UK and Germany would also support the Philippines in its quest to lift EU's ban. Countries France, Germany and United Kingdom have vast influence in the European Union.

The first 10 Airbus planes of the 64-strong order is scheduled for delivery in 2013 as the flag carrier plans to buy up to 100 new jets in total within the next five to seven years.

Philippine Airlines (PAL) said in the business forum that it was still in talks with both Airbus and Boeing for its next tranche of aircraft orders to comprise its long haul fleet. It has six (6) existing  orders for B777-300ER planes from Boeing, where 3 has been delivered, and with the fourth order to arrive by November this year. 

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