PH signs Asean air pact, joins region’s integrating skies
THE PHILIPPINES has finally acceded to key air transport liberalization agreements with its Association of Southeast Nations (Asean) neighbors, paving the way for increased travel and trade within the region, and possibly cheaper flights.
The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) said in a statement on Sunday that President Aquino had signed Protocols 5 and 6 of the Asean Multilateral Agreement on Air Services, or MAAS, on Feb. 3.
With the signing, Philippine air carriers will be allowed to fly “unlimited frequencies to and beyond the capital cities” of the Asean. This, the DOTC said, would lead to better and more efficient connectivity and translate to more competitive fares and services.
As the next step, the DOTC and the Civil Aeronautics Board will assist Philippine air carriers in securing additional flight schedules from each of the nine other Asean member states. They are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
The Philippines targets to have new flights operational within the next six months.
“We expect it to benefit our local tourism and service industries, as the agreement allows foreign airlines to increase their flights to Manila and other cities,” Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya said in the statement.
“Just as it will encourage more visitors to come to the country, Filipinos will also enjoy a wider array of flight options and ticket prices to the rest of the Asean,” he added.
The agreement likewise increases mobility for Filipino enterprises looking outside the country to expand. It also opens doors to individuals, especially students and professionals, seeking opportunities within Asean.
The MAAS is part of Asean’s Roadmap for Integration of Air Transportation Services. The roadmap lays down the foundation for the envisioned Asean Single Aviation Market, which is expected to foster seamless connectivity within the region.
Delays in signing the protocols were blamed on the limited slots at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport, which suffers from congestion amid growing air and passenger traffic and limited expansion space.
Increase runway use
The DOTC has been moving to address this. It announced in September that it had signed a contract with British firm NATS to increase runway utilization at Naia by about 50 percent over a 12-month period.
NATS provides air traffic navigation services to the world’s busiest single- and dual-runway airports: London Gatwick, which handles 53 air traffic movements per hour and over 250,000 flights per year, and London Heathrow handles 90 movements per hour and over 470,000 flights per year.
The Naia at this time handles 40 takeoff and landing movements per hour. Passenger congestion also remains an issue, the reason the DOTC tapped the Japan International Cooperation Agency to assess the viability of a new international airport serving Metro Manila.
The DOTC has indicated that the most viable location for a new airport is Sangley Point, the site of a former United States Navy base in Cavite.