Manila, July 10, 2003 By Lynda B. Valencia (BULLETIN) Officials of the United States negotiating panel will be in Manila on July 16-18 to hold meetings for the second round of air talks.

The US negotiators and the RP panel will discuss on the all-cargo open skies and the possible postponement of “open skies” policy on passengers between the two countries.

Also to be discussed during the meeting with US Ambassador Francis Ricciardone is the security to be given when US President George W. Bush visits the country in October this year.

It will be noted that nothing was finalized during the first round of talks in February in Washington D.C., USA.

Franklin Ebdalin, Foreign Affairs Secretary and one of the negotiators said the talks held in the USA was a “stalemate” as each of the negotiators from the Philippines and the United States didn’t agree on the definition of open skies.

Transportation and Communications Undersecretary Arturo Valdez, who headed the delegation during the talks asked their US counterparts to fully liberalize their air industry by allowing local carriers to fly to any state. However, the US did not want “real” open skies.

Yet the US wants to exercise a seventh freedom right by picking up passengers from Manila, which has practically become its carriers’ base, and fly them to any country destination. This technically opens up Philippine skies to all American carriers.

Valdez stressed that “progressive liberalization” is the aviation policy of the government as indicated in Aviation Policy 219.

“We are not comfortable to fully open skies for passengers. At present, the best we can have is the opening of all-cargo, but the passengers, there’s no way we can really go towards that direction,” he pointed out.

Under the Air Transport Agreement (ATA), restrictions on capacity, frequency and route of flights will be lifted on Oct. 1. However, the provision for “open skies” regime has been deferred several times owing to the government’s admission that Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific cannot compete with their giant American counterparts.

The US has been granted free access to any destination in the country with the right to pick up passengers and bring them to a third country whereas the Philippines was given access to only nine entry points in the US.

He stressed that the government agreed to an all-cargo open skies talks because of the entry of giant US freight carriers to the Philippines — Federal Express (FedEx) and the United Parcel Service (UPS).

The US also wants to be given seventh freedom rights in Clark Special Economic Zone where the American courier service providers have set up their operational hubs in Asia Pacific.

At present, as the law provides, the US has fifth freedom right in Clark. But they are exercising the seventh freedom already with the setting up of their base in Clark and dispatching the goods to other countries without passing the US mainland.

In civil aviation, the fifth freedom allows an airline to carry passengers for cargo from its home country to an intermediate country and then fly on to a third country, with the right to pick up passengers or cargo in the intermediate country.

On the other hand, the seventh freedom right means an airline has the right to carry traffic from a foreign country to another foreign country, without having to pass through its home country. (PNA)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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