, JANUARY 30, 2007 (STAR) By Marvin Sy - President Arroyo has declared the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) in Clark as the country’s premier airport as the government gears for open skies in Subic and Clark.

The President made the declaration during yesterday’s National Economic and Development Authority Cabinet group meeting.

Mrs. Arroyo gave the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) six months to one year to develop the DMIA, which is named after her father, as the country’s premier airport.

She also ordered the DOTC to prepare for the eventual closure of the old Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo noted that the country’s current premier airport in Metro Manila, the NAIA, is already too congested and even with the forthcoming opening of Terminal 3, the traffic would still be too heavy.

She noted that the DMIA has a bigger area and with the expected increase in airline traffic once the open skies policy is adopted for the Clark and Subic airports, the President saw it fit to make the declaration.

The move would further support Mrs. Arroyo’s vision of Clark and Subic as the country’s logistics hub in the Asia-Pacific region and the new international gateways of the country

DMIA is one of the biggest aviation complexes in Asia with its 3.2 kilometer parallel runways that will be extended to four kilometers to accommodate new generation wide-bodied aircraft.

Secretary Edgardo Pamintuan of the Subic Clark Alliance for Development Council welcomed the move of the President.

“The President has declared during the last Cabinet meeting, which was fully supported by Secretary Leandro Mendoza of the DOTC, that the DMIA will no longer be treated as a developmental route but as the main international airport of the country,” Pamintuan said.

During the Cabinet meeting, the President directed the DOTC and the Office of the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel to come up with a draft executive order for the open-skies policy for Clark and Subic.

Previous drafts have actually been crafted in the past namely EO 500-A and eventually EO 500-B, both of which received mixed reviews.

EO 500-B seeks to unilaterally grant to any designated foreign airline that applies to operate to and from Subic and Clark a waiver by the Civil Aeronautics Board of any restriction or limitation on capacity, route rights imposed by relevant air service agreements.

With this provision, the designated foreign carriers would be allowed to apply for third and fourth freedom traffic rights to DMIA and the Subic International Airport.

Third freedom refers to the right to carry passengers and cargo from a carrier’s country to another while fourth freedom refers to the right to transport traffic and cargo from another country to the carrier’s own.

Fajardo said that the declaration of DMIA as the premier airport is part of the preparations being undertaken by the government for open skies.

EO 500-B was supported by the Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines but was opposed by the domestic airlines.

Just like the joint foreign chambers, Malacañang believes that having an open-skies policy in DMIA and Subic would make the Philippines more competitive in the tourism arena.

However, the domestic carriers are concerned about the lack of reciprocity from the country of origin of foreign carriers entering the Philippines.

Fajardo said that the study of the DOTC and the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel would determine which type of air freedoms would be granted under the EO.

“The President just wants to be very careful but at the same time, she wants this to be done as soon as possible, that’s why she gave a deadline to the DOTC and to the office of Secretary Apostol to look into this and to present the draft EO for her signature,” she said.

Pamintuan said the President instructed the DOTC to study the aviation policies of Vietnam, which has been experiencing dramatic growth of its tourism industry.

Fajardo also noted that the NAIA Terminal-3 would be finally opened within the year after all repairs are completed.

The DMIA is certified by the International Civil Aviation Organization with ratings of Category I for Precision Approach Runway and Category IX for Emergency Services.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved