MANILA, September 27, 2003  (MALAYA) IF PAL, Cebu Pacific, Air Philippines and all other domestic carriers think they can turn their fortunes around soon, They have another think coming.

That turnaround will not happen at all unless they can persuade the authorities to suspend implementation of the 1982 RP-US Air Transport Agreement (ATA) and, more importantly, have it ratified by the Senate in keeping with the Constitution.

The 1982 air agreement more commonly known as the "open skies" pact with the United States provides for the unlimited and unrestricted entry of US carriers into the country within a specific period of time but not later than five years after the signing of the agreement.

Ideally, the pact was supposed to be fully reciprocal with the same unlimited and unrestricted entry privileges afforded our own designated carriers. In retrospect, at the time the pact was conceptualized and inked we had very high hopes for the industry since government was heavily involved in its workings serving as both the regulator and principal owner of the national flag carrier.

Unfortunately, like all well- intentioned plans, that was not to be the case. The country got into a financial crunch and the airline industry suffered heavily in the process. Thus, we had to turn PAL over to the private sector and had to scramble to renegotiate with the US for the proper and responsible implementation of the agreement, saying our carriers needed more time and opportunity to get their footing back and nursed to a viable and competitive health.

Despite early signs of goodwill from both sides, however, the last formal negotiations conducted this year ended without any agreement at all as the US side took advantage of our weakened position and insisted on having the pact implemented by October 1 without any kind of concessions at all. Worse, they had the gall to insinuate that they were prepared to concede somehow if we agreed to reconsider including the highly iniquitous "7th Freedom" rights now being afforded to US cargo giants FedEx and UPS as part of the quid pro quo. That was a deal breaker, of course.

Now we are faced with the prospect of having our aviation industry wiped out.

We can save the industry and maintain our dignity and sovereignty by urging the authorities for once to come around and stand up for what is proper and just by letting the Senate ratify the agreement as provided by our laws.

This is the one and only respectable way to proceed.


OVERHEARD: Apart from the Kris-Joey camps with their phalanx of surrogates there are amany who may become heavily involved with this national tele-novela. We are told legal and show biz types are now hovering over the ex-lovers' previous liaisons such as Alma Moreno and Brenda del Rio, both of whom have children with Joey Marquez, and Philip Salvador and Robin Padilla, known close friends of Kris, who were also mentioned in unsavory terms in this tragic-comedy. Then there are reports of alalays of both personalities getting "briefed" in preparation for a long battle ahead...

Is it true that BSP Governor Paeng Buenaventura and Finance secretary Lito Camacho were chided by their colleagues during the recent WB-IMF Annual Conference in Dubai about the seeming selectiveness in the implementation of the anti-money laundering law and the loopholes in the monitoring of currency flows and financial transactions within the banking industry? ...

We are also told that Swiss and Hong Kong representatives had talks with our top finance officials on certain suspect accounts and transactions involving persons and institutions close to the powers-that-be. There was also another tete-a-tete with the German delegation on yet another matter... Maybe the Piatco-DOTC deal?...

It's going to be a three-cornered fight for Valenzuela City political supremacy. Second term congressman and Lakas maverick Magi Gunigundo is expected to fight it out for mayor with his first-termer colleague, Sherwin Gatchalian, and outgoing Mayor Bobit Carlos' wife. How the battle will look like depends in large part on the make-up of the national tickets since Raul Roco is reportedly getting involved with one of the parties concerned.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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