Manila, July 19, 2003 (Star) The Philippines has failed to convince the United States to delay the start in October of their bilateral "open skies" air services agreement, Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas Ople said yesterday.

The two governments ended talks here this week without an agreement, he said in a statement.

Under the bilateral aviation pact signed in 1982, the two countries committed to an "open skies" policy that would remove frequency, capacity and destination restrictions on each countries’ carriers from Oct. 1, 2003.

Manila fears putting the accord into effect this year could sink its airlines, principally the flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL), and has sought a 15-year deferment.

"The Philippine panel fought hard to extend the deferment of the open skies policy, but the US imposed rather difficult pre-conditions to accepting our proposals," Ople said.

He said US negotiators demanded "seventh freedom rights" or the right of American cargo carriers to operate in the Philippines as if it were part of US territory. In the Philippines, US courier service companies Federal Express and United Parcel Service (UPS) are covered by this arrangement.

The foreign affairs chief said that would have violated the 1987 Constitution, which limits the operation of public utilities to Filipino entities.

Ople expressed hope "there will be no adverse impact for us" in the immediate term, even if the open skies accord takes effect in October because US carriers currently fly only 25 times a week to the Philippines, way below the limit of 38 flights per week under the current air services agreement.

He expressed hope "that we can still renegotiate for a deferment even after the first of October," when the open skies pact takes effect.

The air talks between the United States and the Philippines collapsed after both panels refused to budge from their respective stances.

Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) sources said the Philippine panel, led by DOTC Undersecretary Edward Harun Pagunsan, rejected US demands for a "third country code-sharing scheme" and an "all cargo open skies" or "seventh freedom" policy for American carriers in the Philippines.

The US panel rejected Philippine requests for the deferment of the implementation of the open skies policy in Philippine skies and commercial agreements and concessions for local carriers in exchange for the possible granting of the "all cargo open skies" policy sought by US negotiators.

The possibility a third round of talks will take place is now uncertain, due to the collapse of the negotiations at the Hyatt Hotel in Pasay City. The first round of air talks took place in Washington in February.

It was pointed out in the course of this round of air talks that the United States does not have an open skies policy within the US to protect their local aviation industry, though the US is demanding that the Philippines open its skies and allow American passenger and cargo carriers access to any point in the archipelago.

The US panel said it would pursue the so-called "seventh freedom" on cargo traffic and has relaxed its stance on a proposed country code-sharing scheme among airline companies.

US panel head Laura Faux-Gable said they consider the seventh freedom rights on cargo an important element of the negotiations. Faux-Gable is the deputy director of the Office of Aviation Negotiations under the US Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs.

At the same time, Faux-Gable said they will be more flexible in the third-country code-sharing scheme, an arrangement that would allow an airline company to piggyback on another airline’s connecting flights.

"The code-sharing scheme is a reciprocal thing, both sides are on a win-win situation," she said. For example, a passenger from Manila bound for Minnesota can take a Philippine Airlines (PAL) flight to Los Angeles and hop on to a Northwest Airlines flight to Minnesota using a single ticket, with PAL "sharing" the Northwest flight.

The seventh freedom and code-sharing scheme are the most contentious issues in the discussions, which seek to amend a 1995 memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the US and the Philippines for the implementation of an open skies policy.

The two panels are attempting to patch up their differences before Oct. 1, 2003, when the 1995 MOU lapses, paving the way for the lifting of restrictions on flights, routes and size of craft. The bone of contention is that this policy is seen as more advantageous to US carriers, rather than the far-smaller Philippine airlines.

"It is a frequent apprehension that an open skies policy will displace the national carrier. We’ve had more than 60 agreements with other countries, some of them for over 10 years and so far, no one has asked for modifications," Faux-Gable said. — Conrado Diaz Jr., Marvin Sy, Rainier Allan Ronda and AFP

Open our skies and kill our airlines BUSINESS & LEISURE By Ray Butch Gamboa (Star) 

It is a known fact that the airline business worldwide is not at all in the pink of health. Of course the primary cause was the devastating 911 experience that totally changed the traveling landscape especially into the US. Then there is still the SCARS scare, though admittedly reduced, but still menacingly lurking.

Faced with this scenario it can already border on subversion for any Filipino to allow, especially during these trying times, foreign airlines additional landing rights to the detriment of our flag carriers, which are currently facing their crossroads of survival.

Our sources in the local airline industry say that all the claims of those pushing to open our skies to more flights from foreign countries in order to bring in the tourists are a lot of hogwash, a lot of bull. They volunteer that the obvious target of these airlines are our OFWs, most of who are still very much partial to fly foreign airlines if only for the Pinoy’s colonial mentality. And there are a lot of them, if you didn’t know. One airline industry observer was quick to say that if only all Pinoy overseas workers would patronize our local flag carriers wherever in the world they were, our local airline industry would be one of the soundest in the world.

On one hand, having open skies can really help in spurring tourism in a country, that is when world tourism is on its heyday – but is it? Maybe now is not the right time. Let’s probably wait when our local airline carriers have recovered and local tourism has finally gotten it act together. Another BPI ATM scam victim emerges

As other victims suffer in silence we have one of our readers, Mr. Gideon V. Taglucop, a BPI depositor and ATM scam victim, standing up to be counted and even including his tale of woe in a book he’s writing entitled "All The Way".

To further caution our readers about the perils of the ATM machine, I have here a full account of another victimized BPI depositor of his own ATM scam experience.

1. At exactly 12:46 noon last June 13, 1995, I was at the BPI-FAMILY Taytay branch trying to withdraw some lunch money from my ATM, but was denied three times allegedly due to wrong PIN.

Now, at exactly 12:22 noon that same day, somebody had withdrawn P10,000 from my ATM account in the San Juan branch of the BPI-Family Bank (my home bank). Said withdrawal appeared in the anytime bank statement, which I got days later.

Now again, notice the time frame. It was only 24 minutes. If I was in San Juan BPI-Family branch and withdraw the P10,000 (that’s what the bank insinuated), how can I be in Taytay BPI-Family branch in 24 minutes?

San Juan Metro Manila to Taytay, Rizal is quite far and cannot be traveled in 24 minutes time. The traffic that day (Tuesday June 13, 1995) was heavy considering that it was the first working day of the week because Monday was a holiday, being the Independence Day. Well, traffic or no traffic, nobody could travel that fast even if he took a helicopter!

2. The Bank claimed that I was using Card No.1 (the one I reported lost a month before) at Taytay branch when my efforts to withdraw was denied three times.

Now, granting without admitting that I was using Card No. 1 at Taytay, how come the branch manager did not interrogate or apprehend me for using a lost card? She should have called the police. Is it not against the law or illegal to use a lost and invalid ATM card? Nothing of that sort happened. She just told me to come back at 3 p.m. to retrieve the captured card.

3. That very same afternoon (June 13, 1995) and into the evening, I went to Cainta-Ortigas, Masinag, Antipolo and San Juan branches to check why my PIN was wrong. All these branches declared that indeed my PIN was wrong.

Observe closely. If the transaction record slips of those BPI-Family branches indicated that wrong PIN was the cause why my withdrawals were denied, then it would follow that I was using Card No. 2 all along. Only the PIN was wrong and the Card used was the right and legal card, the card No. 2.

If I were using Card No. 1, the notation would have been LOST or INVALID CARD, and not wrong PIN.

4. On June 22, 1995, the San Juan branch manager convinced me to have my card punctured allegedly for security reasons. I agreed, but few minutes before it was punctured, I was able to test withdraw P1,000 from the ATM inside the bank using Card No. 2. The branch manager gave the go signal and witness the said test withdrawal of P1,000.

If I were using the invalid Card No. 1, how come I was able to make the withdrawal, which was duly witnessed by the manager?

5. I had P169,164.51 bank balance before the illegal withdrawals began, and there is no point of messing up my day using a lost and invalid card.

There must be some truth to the ATM scam you wrote about. It happened to me and it also happened to your friend. I do not know the actual number of unreported victims of the scam. In your column you stated that, "Inadvertently, the victim was also apprised that that was the fourth reported case on the same machine on that particular weekend."

I used to think that my case was just an ATM malfunctioning case, but your article has changed that thought. There must really be some ATM scam already known in the banking circle. In the article you said, "But by the way it looks, together with the countless depositors of BPI, it seems that I will be disappointed. It looks like the BPI will just leave the victim by the wayside.

You’re right Mr. Gamboa, and I believe you. Ang sabi ko nga, palihim akong umiyak noong mapagtanto kong di na nga maibabalik yong pera ko. Goodbye P28,000. Goodbye."

Thank you for writing Mr. Taglucop.

And how about you, Mr. Reader? Have you also been a victim? Don’t suffer in silence, stand up and be counted.

BPI and some other banks may presently turn a deaf ear to the pleadings of their depositors who may have fallen victim to this scam, through no fault of their own but due to the bank’s poor security measures and inadequate equipment. BPI and these other banks will not go on spending millions of pesos to build their image and maintain a socially relevant corporate citizenship, just to see such image will crash and crumble when the public starts to see that behind all the trappings is a heartless management whose paramount concern is only to make money.

Mabuhay!!! Be proud to be a Filipino.

For Comments: (e-mail) bl-star@sunshine-tv.com

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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