Manila, August 9, 2003 (STAR) Major aviation stakeholders supported yesterday the position of senators to subject the 1980 RP-US Air Transport Agreement (ATA) to concurrence by the Senate as provided for under the present Constitution.

Robert Lim Joseph, president of the Save Our Skies (SOS) Movement, said, "We laud the senators, particularly Senators Aquilino Pimentel Jr., Joker Arroyo and Sergio Osmeña III, for upholding the Senate’s power to ratify treaties or international agreements.

In published reports, the senators said the 1980 RP-US ATA needs to be concurred in by the Senate pursuant to its treaty-concurring powers under the 1987 Constitution, specifically Sec. 21, Art VII.

Although the RP-US ATA was forged in 1980, it shall only come into full effect on Oct. 1, 2003. Thus, the senators believed that the present Senate still has the right to review the document. Likewise, the agreement was not submitted to the then Batasang Pambansa for concurrence.

"We support the position of the senators that the agreement will have to be reviewed by the Senate to enable them to determine if there are provisions inimical to Philippine interests," said Joseph, whose group is made up of travel and tour operators, cargo forwarders and other airline stakeholders.

He said the Philippines could not afford to give away its resources without fair and equitable exchange.

"We can’t give away anything for free. What we just want is a fair and equitable exchange under a spirit of cooperation. There should be an equal playing field," he stressed.

Joseph lamented the fact that there is no level-playing field between Philippine and American carriers under the 1980 RP-US ATA.

He also pointed to the continued exercise of 7th freedom privilege by US cargo carriers Federal Express (FedEx) and United Parcel Service (UPS) despite its not being allowed under the RP-US ATA.

"How can we justify something (exercise of 7th freedom privilege by the US cargo carriers) that is unconstitutional," he said.

He wondered why the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), which is supposed to protect and promote the interests of the local aviation industry, is allowing this continued violation by FedEx and UPS.

"The CAB should act on the violation. It should be on top of the situation. It should not be a party to an illegal operation," Joseph pointed out.

"It’s good the Philippine panel to the recent talks with the US on the RP-US ATA stood its ground and rejected the Americans’ proposal to grant 7th freedom rights to FedEx and UPS," he said. He added that Vice President Teofisto Guingona and former Sen. Wigberto Tañada, chairman of the Free Trade Alliance (FTA), should also be praised for warning against the perils of open skies.

Joseph also wondered why President Arroyo continues to be silent despite all the publicity surrounding the issue.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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