MANILA MARCH 20, 2007 (STAR) By Ma. Elisa P. Osorio - The Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines is asking the government to allow foreign carriers to set up at the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) in Clark, a perk not enjoyed by domestic carriers.

In a statement, the representatives of various international chambers pushed for the approval of Executive Order 500-B.

EO 500-B has been met with criticism because while it seeks to grant seventh freedom rights to foreign airlines, it does not guarantee similar rights to Philippine carriers.

For example, Japan Airlines may base in Clark and fly to destinations in Asia, Middle East, Europe and the United States. However, Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific or Asian Spirit cannot simply open an international base from Clark and fly to other countries.

The country will still have to bargain for reciprocal rights, a right that was given by the Philippines to the other nations for free should the EO pass.

Meanwhile, the foreign chambers stressed that EO 500-B must be adopted in order to ensure long-term policy stability and ensure growth and investment. They warned that to do otherwise can jeopardize the success of government policy.

"The Philippine government policy to create a stable, progressive environment for growth and investment at Clark is just beginning to yield positive results in passenger and cargo service at the former United States Air Force base," they said.

"But they also pointed out that actions of the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) could jeopardize the success of government policy."

In February, CAB awarded Singaporean-based carrier Tiger Airways, which flies from Singapore to Clark and Macau, a three-month operating permit from April to June 2007. The earlier permit granted Tiger was for six months, the traditional worldwide industry practice of setting schedules.

The chambers said CAB justified its decision for shorter operating permit saying it needed time to assess the complaints of local carriers.

"This is punitive action by any terms, unqualified and unjustified as the complaints of the local carrier were not substantiated or verified for merit," the chambers said.

They added that if Tiger was to cancel their flights in the country because of the shorter permit, other carriers will be very wary to enter such an "uncertain market".

This, the chamber said, will then jeopardize the government’s infrastructure projects because the physical expansion and construction of the DMIA is backed by the fees paid by the carriers.

According to them, the government has continuously encouraged airlines to use Clark but only a few have heeded this call. They said the approval of EO 500-B can remedy this.

"In the absence of service to Clark by designated carriers and to accelerate the development of DMIA as a premier air destination, the legal fundamental for the carriers to use DMIA outside the protocols of the bilateral agreement has taken place with the consent of the CAB and should continue and be regularized."

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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