GOVT AGENCIES, PRIVATE SECTOR TO STUDY CARGO OPEN SKIES

MANILA,  March 9, 2004
 (STAR) By Mary Ann Ll. Reyes - Concerned government agencies and the private sector are meeting soon to discuss more thoroughly the implications of entering into an ‘open skies’ cargo pact with other ASEAN nations.

The Philippine government has deferred signing an agreement to liberalize air cargo services with Singapore, Thailand and Brunei scheduled last Feb. 26. Nevertheless, the three other countries proceeded with the signing.

Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) executive director Tomas Manalac told The STAR that members of the air panel, including representatives from the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Tourism (DOT), and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), will have to review the implications of the agreement further, in consultation with the industry and other stakeholders, including business organizations.

"We will have to work out a process on how to review the agreement," he told The STAR.

The CAB earlier recommended further study and talks on the matter before the Philippine government joins the three other countries in liberalizing air cargo services.

The agreement will allow foreign carriers to pick up cargo from the Philippines and fly to a third country like the United States. While the deal is applicable to all parties concerned, PAL said it was disadvantageous to Philippine carriers.

PAL said the deal would automatically grant Singapore, Thai and Brunei airlines unlimited cargo capacity rights to and from the Philippines, and Philippine carriers would "bear the negative impact of a sudden surge of excess cargo capacity fielded by subsidized, government-owned carriers like Singapore Airlines."

It noted that the deal would give Singapore Airlines extensive open skies privileges "in one stroke and on a silver platter."

The country’s biggest flag carrier issued a statement saying the multilateral air policy offered reciprocity, but in reality, the Philippines does not get anything in exchange. "Singapore and Brunei, for instance, are mere transit points, not market sources. Singapore Airlines is the big winner in this deal," it said.

PAL said Philippine carriers would be adversely affected once big and government-owned carriers like Singapore Airlines took up cargo load from the Philippines at prices they could mark down, given that they are government-subsidized.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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