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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Philippine Speaker Sees Need for Improving Air Transport Infrastructure

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. has strongly supported moves to make a vastly improved aviation infrastructure in the country a requisite before either the legislative and executive departments can discuss open skies policy proposals.

Belmonte said a thorough study should also be undertaken to determine whether it would be the executive or the legislative department that should initiate the observance of this policy which seeks to liberate the country’s air routes to foreign carriers.

Interviewed by House reporters, Belmonte said modernization of the country’s tourism and air transport infrastructures could be among the key solutions in making the Philippine aviation industry more competitive with its neighbors in Asia.

“I believe that hardly anybody flies to the Philippines anymore and I think it is the whole system, not only the open skies, that should be considered to make us more competitive,” said Belmonte. “We can’t just say that we have better and more beautiful beaches than our neighbors.”

The House leader noted that Malaysia has overtaken the Philippines as a main destination in Asia not because it offers better tourism centers but mainly due to its modern and state-of-the-art facilities for visitors.

Belmonte is convinced that the Aquino government’s public-private partnership should cover the construction of much-needed infrastructure to make Philippines more enticing to tourists and investors.

Asked if the House will place the proposed open skies policy on the list of priorities, Belmonte said a thorough legal study must first be conducted to determine whether it would be the executive or the legislative department that should initiate it.

Some countries have resorted to open skies in commercial aviation to liberalize rules for international aviation and limit government intervention, thereby improving foreign trade and tourism.

In the Philippines, however, it had been the labor dispute at the Philippine Airlines that prompted President Aquino to threaten the imposition of an open skies policy.

The Department of Transportation and Communications has frowned on the idea as it cautioned government against taking any drastic steps to pursue the policy in the light of a constitutional provision that requires “reciprocity” with foreign air carries under an open skies regime.

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