'SAVE OUR SKIES' (SOS) CITES DE FACTO OPEN SKIES IN CLARK

PAMPANGA, September 19, 2003  (MALAYA) A total of 50 foreign airlines have rights to fly to the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) in Clark Airbase, Pampanga, belying some government officials' claim on the need to declare an open skies policy in the airport purportedly to perk up business and travel to the Philippines.

Sources said the government plans to allow open skies for cargo in DMIA to expand the foreign cargo carriers' access to the country. Under the proposal, the government can unilaterally grant without any restriction or limitation on capacity and type of aircraft to any foreign airline the right to operate at the airport.

It was learned that Rizalino S. Navarro, chairman of the Clark Development Corporation, has recommended to President Arroyo "the expansion of air services to DMIA" or the adoption of open skies for cargo.

Navarro justified his recommendation on the need to achieve "a desirable economies of scale and make the DMIA commercially viable," noting that "securing more passenger and cargo air entitlements for the DMIA appears to be slow."

"This is hogwash," Robert Lim Joseph, president of the Save Our Skies (SOS) movement.

"How can Navarro say securing more passenger and cargo air entitlements for DMIA is slow when there are already 50 foreign airlines that have rights to operate to DMIA," he pointed out. "How can they justify the need for open skies?"

Joseph said the President is again being misled by Navarro and other government officials, including Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri, who earlier mentioned the plan to declare an open skies policy for cargo in DMIA.

"It is not the number of foreign airlines that will make DMIA commercially viable but the attractiveness of the Philippines as tourist destination and investment area," Joseph said.

He said even though 50 airlines have rights to fly to DMIA, only 2 or 3 carriers are actually operating for lack of passengers.

He said of the 50 foreign airlines, 10 have rights to operate cargo service.

The 10 foreign carriers authorized to operate pure cargo flights are Federal Express, United Parcel Service, Polar Airways, Malaysia Airlines, Thai Airways Intl., Cargolux, Lao Aviation, Singapore Airlines, Royal Brunei Airlines and Myanmar Airways. At present, only UPS is operating cargo flights out of Clark.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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