Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 - well, what a year!

Hi All

I am sitting in my front yard, sipping on as bundy rum, listening to the firecrackers and trying to stop my dogs destroying the place as well as contemplating the year gone by

I wanted to write some prophetic words, but screw it. 

Happy New Year all, lets hope 2009 is better than 2008 for everyone ..

Friday, December 26, 2008

Put to rest after 67 years

After 67 years, a Hendersonville woman will say farewell to the fiance she never got to marry, a casualty of enemy fire in the early days of the Pacific fighting.

When World War II broke out Dec. 7, 1941, Navy Ensign Robert G. Tills was the pilot of a seaplane moored at Malalag Bay in the Philippines. The day after the surprise attack that propelled the U.S. into the war, Japanese fighter planes swooped in and sank Tills' PBY-4 Catalina flying plane. He went down with it, and his body wasn't recovered. 

A fellow crewman saw a Japanese fighter plane fire the shots that killed the young pilot. Tills was the first Navy officer lost in the U.S. defense of the Philippine islands.Shortly after that, his fiancee, Vicki Quandt Lee, attended his memorial service."It was very sad," Lee said last week from her Carolina Village home.More than 60 years later, the wreckage and the remains of the Manitowoc, Wis., sailor were recovered and Tills was identified using dental records."In October 2007, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command was notified by U.S. authorities in the Philippines that aircraft wreckage had been discovered in Malalag Bay," the Defense Department said. "A fragment of the wreckage bore the markings 'PBY-4.'"On Dec. 1, 2008, the Department of Defense officially announced it had identified Tills' remains.

After 67 years, family and friends are relieved by the news, including the Hendersonville woman who was in love with Tills at the time he was killed."I can't believe they found him under 60 feet of water," Lee said.Tills' remains will finally be put to rest in Arlington National Cemetery on March 23.For 53 years Vicki was married to Robert E. Lee, who has since passed away.She was attending Northwestern College in Watertown, Wis., in 1936 when she met Tills, a fellow student."We were meant for each other," said Lee, who is now 89.Tills later went to another college, then joined the Navy and studied aeronautical engineering."He joined the Navy to learn how to fly," Lee said.For the six years they were separated, in the late 1930s and early 1940s, they wrote one another often. They were going to get married after Tills came home in December 1941."Then they got him," Lee said.Tills' sister, Jean, was 11 years old when her older brother perished in the Philippine Islands.Jean Aplin, now 78, said the Navy notified her that her brother's remains were recovered from the aircraft wreckage in Malalag Bay. 

Through an Internet search, Aplin, who now lives in Arizona, found Vicki Lee in Hendersonville and told her about the discovery."That was a shock, that they found his body," Lee said.Jeff Miller, founder of HonorAir, and his wife, Tamara, plan to escort Lee to Arlington for the burial."I am looking forward to it," Lee said. "I can't believe it."According to Navy historical records, Tills enlisted in the Naval Reserves in 1937 at 19 years old. Two years later, he was commissioned as an ensign in the reserves and in April of 1941, he gained active military status.

Tills had a Navy destroyer escort named after him in June 1943. It was launched four months later, providing escort services against submarine and air attacks for Navy vessels and convoys.After the war, the USS Tills (DE 748) was converted to a training vessel and in 1969 the ship was sunk in a training exercise off the U.S. east coast, according to Navy historical records.

More Air Traffice Controller woes

Tardy air controller delays landing of 3 airplanes in Zambo

Three passenger aircraft failed to touch down on time at the Zamboanga Cit airport on Friday due to a "missing" air traffic controller.

A GMA Flash Report quoted Civil Aviation Authority manager Celso Bayabos as saying that the three airplanes were supposed to land at the airport at scheduled intervals.

However, the airplanes’ respective pilots ended up refusing to land after realizing that no airport officer was stationed at the control tower to guide them on their descent. 

The incident forced the three airplanes to hover in the air for a good one hour, before the pilots took the matters into their hands and decided to talk to one another over the radio to decide who would land first.

Bayabos said an air traffic controller was actually on duty at the time of the incident but had just reported late for work. He said the airport management is already dealing with the tardy controller and mulling for a possible reprimand.

Bayabos stressed that it was the first time that such incident ever happened at the Zamboanga airport and assured it would never happen again.

A number of flights were briefly delayed but airport operations have already gone back to normal after the incident. - 

FedEx initiates flight operations test at its new Asia Pacific hub

Agence France-Presse
FedEx Express (FedEx), a subsidiary of FedEx Corp. (NYSE: FDX) and the world's largest express transportation company, today announced the successful completion of its first flight operations test at the new Asia-Pacific Hub at Guangzhou in southern China. As a checkpoint to gauge the new operation's readiness, the achievement signified another milestone for the new hub in the lead up to its scheduled commencement of operations on February 6, 2009.

The MD-11 aircraft landed at 5:50 a.m. at Baiyun International Airport from Subic Bay, Philippines. The flight was handled by the new FedEx hub team, utilizing the FedEx ramp control tower and the new 24,000 package per hour sort system. Following a successful operations' process, the flight departed on time for its final destination at Charles de Gaulle International Airport in Paris, France. This Asia-Europe flight route will operate four times per week.

"Today's flight operations test in Guangzhou represents a significant step in our preparations for the opening of the largest FedEx hub outside the United States," said David L. Cunningham Jr., president, Asia Pacific, FedEx Express. "The hub reinforces our long-term commitment to this region and will further stimulate trade to and from the EU and Asia, and between the US-Asia trade lanes by providing our customers with fast and reliable service between the largest marketplaces in the world. In addition, the economic impact brought about by such an investment would benefit local businesses, the local economy and customers in China, as well as around the region."

"The flight operations test was a success. It represents a major milestone in the opening of our new Asia Pacific hub," said Dennice Wilson, vice president, planning, engineering & hub operations, Asia Pacific, FedEx Express. "When operational, customers will receive the seamless, reliable service they expect from FedEx.


More Air Traffic Controller Woes in Manila

What is interesting about this articvle are two things:

1. Air Traffic Controllers in Manila are NOT on the CAAP (ATO) Payroll .. (Is Clark the same, may explain the double standards of implementing the rules relating to VFr, etc)

2. CAAP Mandate starts in january, does his mean that the new rules come nto effect governing licensing??

Read on ...

Air traffic controllers seek fat paychecks
By Vito Barcelo

Air traffic controllers will leave their posts at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport terminals if they are not given a higher pay.

Naia senior controller Erlan Camarillo said at least 25 of the 52 Manila International Airport Authority employees have indicated plans of moving to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines next year if their demand would remain ignored.

MIAA general manager Alfonso Cusi said wage adjustment was a sensitive issue.

“We could not just increase the pay of our air controllers without creating a new problem for the rest of our employees,” he said. “The salaries of all government employees are governed by the Salary Standardization Law.”

Conceding his inability to stem the exodus, Cusi is appealing to Camarillo and his colleagues to weigh the possible disruption of operations at the Naia terminals.

Last March, Malacañang approved the law creating the Cvil Aviation Authority, replacing the Air Transportation Office.

The move was prompted by the decision of the US Federal Aviation Authority last year to downgrade the Philippines to category 2 due to “serious concerns” about the safety oversight on air carrier operations.

As in the former agency under the Transportation Department, CAAP under director general manager Ruben Cuiron operates the international airports in the cities of Laoag, Davao and Zamboanga, including a host of provincial terminals.

Camarillo and his fellow Naia controllers, who are in the MIAA payroll, claim that their salary level would be overtaken in January next year when CAAP’s mandate takes effect, exempting the new outfit from salary standardization.

The measure was meant to attract competent technical staff and training programs along with the purchase of suitable equipment meeting FAA requirements, for which reason the fiscally autonomous CAAP could retain its P3-billion revenue collection.

They noted that the lowest-paid CAAP air controllers would be receiving between P27,000 to P37,000 a month versus Naia’s P13,500.

“MIAA airport tower controllers or terminal controllers watch over all planes traveling through the airport’s airspace; their main responsibility is to organize the flow of aircraft into and out of the airport. Relying on radar and visual observation, they closely monitor all aircraft and guide pilots between the hangar or ramp and the end of the airport’s airspace,” Cusi said.

They also provide updates on flight conditions such as wind shear, a sudden change in the velocity or direction of the wind that can cause pilots to lose control of the aircraft.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

FedEx delays opening of Guangzhou hub

The new intra-Asian hub for FedEx at Guangzhou's Baiyun International Airport will not come on stream until some time next year. The integrator announced that the US$150 million facility would open in the first half of 2009, not before the end of this year, as originally planned.
Until the Baiyun hub becomes operational, FedEx will continue to use its present regional hub in Subic Bay. The Philippine hub has only half the capacity of the new Baiyun set-up, which was designed to handle 24,000 packages in an hour.
In the current economic climate, which has taken a heavy toll on air cargo volumes, FedEx should be comfortable with the capacity of Subic Bay. Air freight throughput in Hong Kong has declined steeply in recent months. In October, traffic at Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals Ltd (Hactl), the airport's pre-eminent handler with over 70 percent market share, was down 9.8 percent, due to a 13.6 percent drop in imports and 10.7 percent fall in exports with transhipments down two percent.
Load factors and yields out of the Pearl River Delta have come under pressure, even though capacity grew less than previously expected. Northwest Airlines pulled its freighters out of Guangzhou this past summer, which the US airline had developed as an alternative to Hong Kong. Shenzhen-based Jade Cargo Airlines finally managed to bring its flight crew numbers to a level that permitted full utilisation of its aircraft fleet but decided to lease one freighter to Singapore-based Jett8.
Cathay Pacific's new Hong Kong cargo terminal may open later than scheduled. Construction of the $619 million facility commenced in September with a view to opening for business in the second half of 2011.
Stanley Hui, chief executive officer of the Hong Kong airport authority, warned in October that in the difficult environment and shrinking demand, "airlines are expected to scale back their operation or put on hold their expansion plans".
FedEx Asia-Pacific president David Cunningham stressed that the delay in the opening date of the hub was due to the complexities of the project itself and is not related to the current global economic conditions.
"The new operations date will provide FedEx the necessary time to fully test all systems and processes and work with the Guangzhou authorities to put all necessary approvals in place,'' he said.
The revised schedule would pose no service impact to FedEx customers as the current hub in Subic Bay would continue its operations, Cunningham said. 
A FedEx spokesman said: "The Guangzhou hub has been one of the most sophisticated projects the corporation has engaged upon and it's just a matter of necessity to take more time to deal with the complexities.''
FedEx's regional hub will be equipped with its own ramp control tower - the first for an integrator in China. The facility has 16 high-speed sorting lines, seven conveyor belts and about 90 document sorting splits.
The integrator has commenced operations testing for the Baiyun hub, including the Hong Kong-Guangzhou cross-border transportation processes, sort systems and flight operations.
Rival UPS began construction of its planned new intra-Asia hub at Shenzhen in late October. The new hub, which replaces Clark in the Philippines, is scheduled for opening in 2010.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Check this Out - Jet Pack Pilot Leaps George

Neat Video ..

Philippines Congressional franchise makes Seair optimistic

LEISURE carrier Southeast Asian Airlines Inc. (Seair) has just been granted a franchise to operate domestic and international routes by the Philippine Congress.

The franchise is expected to boost Seair’s value, making it more attractive to potential buyers, according to an airline official and a legislator who coauthored a bill granting the franchise.

Seair owners, led by the foreign partnership of Iren Dornier and Nikos Gitsis and the Filipino group of Tomas Lopez Jr., have been trying to negotiate for a buyout of their shares with prospective investors, after their talks with Filipino-Chinese businessman Alfredo Yao fell through in May. Dornier and Gitsis own 40 percent of Seair while the rest of the shares are owned by Lopez’s group. Yao wanted to merge the operations of Seair with that of Zest Airways, formerly Asian Spirit, which he acquired in March 2008.

As this developed, a Seair official said the airline is still on an expansion mode and unaffected by the current global economic crisis which is seen dampening tourism worldwide. In its October 2008 report, the World Tourism Organization projected global tourism growth slowing down to a range of zero percent to 2 percent for 2009, from a revised growth of 2 percent to 3 percent in 2008. Average tourism growth from 2004 to 2007 was 7 percent.

Interviewed over the weekend, Seair president Avelino Zapanta said the law granting the carrier’s congressional franchise was recently signed by Sen. Manuel Villar, “among his last acts as Senate President,” and is now in Malacañang “awaiting the signature of President Arroyo.”

He said the Senate virtually adopted House Bill (HB) 3788, coauthored by Reps. Eleajandro Jesus Madrona, Ferjenel Biron, Teodoro Locsin Jr., et al.—who comprise the House Committee on Legislative Franchises—which is “more complete than that of the Senate’s bill.”

Through Committee Report 97, HB 3788 was endorsed for approval by the Senate Committee on Public Services, chaired by Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, on August 28, “without amendment, taking into consideration Senate Bill (SB) 2376.” The latter was coauthored by Senators Ponce Enrile and Juan Miguel Zubiri. SB 2376 is likewise a proposed legislation granting Seair the “franchise to establish, operate and maintain domestic and international air transport services, with Clarkfield, Pampanga as its base.”

Seair’s congressional franchise has a term of 25 years upon the law’s effectivity.  

Meanwhile, in a text message from London, Locsin said the congressional franchise “gives Seair permanency,” such that its operations cannot just be indiscriminately cancelled by any government agency without due cause.

This was echoed by Zapanta, who said the franchise gives the airline “a sense of legitimacy; that we’re not operating like a colorum anymore.” Colorum is a Filipino term usually applied to jeepneys and buses which do not have the license to ply certain routes. While it flies without a congressional franchise, Seair has a certificate of public convenience and necessity from the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), allowing the carrier to operate scheduled flight services.

Locsin added that with the franchise, the airline “can also borrow [loans], as well as sell its equity at a premium.”

Asked about the advantage of having a congressional franchise, considering that Seair has been operating and expanding since 1995, Zapanta explained that while “some banks will probably consider that [an airline’s franchise] before extending a loan, until you sell that airline, that value [of having a congressional franchise] is not actually manifested. It strengthens your value.”

The airline executive agreed that now that Seair has acquired its franchise, its owners could demand a higher price from potential buyers. When Yao group’s offered to buy out Seair’s owners, the latter were only offered $2 million (worth P84.63 million in May) in cash. With the congressional franchise, industry analysts estimate that Seair owners can now command even “three times that amount.”

Zapanta said the congressional franchise also gives the airline tax incentives such as duty-free importation of capital equipment and income tax holidays.

Locsin, meanwhile, said the franchise would enable Seair to continue flying, fostering competition among the airlines. “I believe that when you have more competition in the industry, it can only result in better service for the airline travelers.”

Meanwhile, Zapanta said Seair remains optimistic about the local and regional tourism market despite projections that the global financial crisis will slow down international travel beginning next year. “We’re bullish and even expanding our routes. We recently were allowed to operate in Singapore, for instance.”

On November 28, the airline will commence flights to Kota Kinabalu; in April 2009, Singapore and Macau; August 2009, Bangkok and Hong Kong, as well as Cebu and Davao; and in September 2009, “we’re looking at Inchon, Kuala Lumpur and Kaohsiung,” he added. All new flights will be out of the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Clark, Pampanga, which has more liberal aviation policies.

He stressed that the regional flights are “basically a Seair operation,” but using two aircraft, Airbus 320s, leased from Tiger Airways, a budget carrier based in Singapore. On July 31, the CAB approved the lease agreement between Seair and Tiger Air, two years after both carriers signed it. Local airlines had been opposing the agreement, saying it was a prelude to granting fifth freedom rights to Tiger Air, which they claimed would fly local destinations using Seair.

Fifth freedom rights allow an airline to pick up passengers from one country, transport them to another country, pick up passengers there, and fly to yet another country, like Philippine Airlines’s Manila-Vancouver-Las Vegas-Manila route.

Under the terms of its congressional franchise and in accordance with provisions in the Philippine Constitution on public utilities, Seair is also mandated to offer at least 30 percent of its outstanding capital stock to the public, “within five years from commencement of its operations.” But under the rules of the Philippine Stock Exchange, a company may list its shares in the market after three years of continued profitability. However, in certain instances, this requirement has been waived, as in the case of mining companies and small and medium enterprises.

In May this year, Seair owners rejected the offer of Yao to purchase 60 percent of the airline, because they felt it was a very low price for their shares. While the agreement between both groups was for Yao to purchase Seair for $3.75 million (P158 million then), the actual cash involved would only be $2 million.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Philippines - MIAA can't prove 'security lapses'

I Found this little Gem by  Jarius Bondoc Updated November 21, 2008 12:00 AM

Manila International Airport Authority came out with guns blazing at me in Wednesday’s Letter to the Editor — toy guns, that is. Atty. Melvin Matibag, head assistant, inexpertly tried to debunk my column of Nov. 12 about their squeeze play on a private firm. Stern but shallow language.

My article was about MIAA’s moves to force out the private Security & Safety Corp.-Philippines. SSCP has been providing security services to foreign airlines for decades, with ten client-airlines at present. MIAA has taken interest in the lucrative business, for an influential person. Instead of vying for the airlines’ attention, it is employing foul means.

Last Sept. MIAA deputy Angel Atutubo announced from out of the blue the impending repeal of SSCP’s accreditation as NAIA concessionaire. Meaning, SSCP guards may no longer enter airport premises to secure the counters, gates and hangars of its client-airlines. Atutubo claimed without showing proof that SSCP had committed many security breaches.

Tony Maniwang, SSCP president, learned about it only from a news bit in The STAR. Writing Atutubo, he asked what was up for he’d never been told of SSCP’s supposed lapses. In the habit of his DOTC bosses of flouting the Code of Conduct for Public Officials and Anti-Red Tape Law, Atutubo did not find decency to reply. Then on Nov. 5 Matibag summoned the clients to a meeting that same day on the bar on SSCP starting 2009. Six came to hear his unsubstantiated badmouthing; two protested that they be left to hire the security firm of their choice.

Next day Maniwang again wrote Atutubo pleading for due process such as a formal investigation before canceling his permit. Still no response, although Atutubo was just somewhere at the airport trying to justify his abduction of Jun Lozada in Feb. Only on Nov. 11 did Matibag, not Atutubo, finally correspond with Maniwang. Apart from mentioning a “consolidated derogatory report,” he gave no details, of SSCP’s supposed “malpractices”.

Then a Japanese passenger was caught on Nov. 8 trying to sneak out P1 million at NAIA. The smuggler cried that airport cops directly under Atutubo manning baggage x-rays — not any of the private airline guards — mauled him inside the toilet to steal the cash. Newsmen got wind of it only because the guy filed a complaint. Atutubo’s men had been accused in the past of international white slavery, extorting from outbound workers, and stealing from carry-on bags. One of the latest modus was inserting bullets into the bags of aged passengers, then demanding grease money to drop charges.

In his letter, Matibag tried in vain to belie my story. He claimed that SSCP engages in human smuggling, extortion and “baggage fixing”, whatever that is. Supposedly SSCP’s airline clients lose revenues and their security is imperiled. “We can sustain these claims, if it warrants,” he said emptily.

Any good lawyer would present evidence to bolster his arguments. Matibag should have attached official reports, if any, of SSCP’s alleged faults and let the documents speak for themselves. He didn’t. When an aide e-mailed me Matibag’s letter Monday, I immediately asked her to tell him to give proof. What he sent back was an unsigned “consolidated derogatory report” that lists supposed infractions by SSCP guards, but no investigation details. (He gave no explanation of the new crime of baggage fixing, which in plain English simply means repairing broken suitcases.)

It was Maniwang who gladly dug up from his files old memos from MIAA cops about the supposed breaches in the “consolidated report”. He was confident these were far from “derogatory”. Most, in the cops’ own words, were nothing more than their mistaken suspicions of wrongdoings. In each case, though, they either warned the SSCP guard or took back his NAIA access pass for a week as punishment. SSCP took it all in stride as part of business hassles. Little did Maniwang suspect these would one day be used to make his security firm look like a fiend and kicked out of NAIA.

Meantime, Matibag might chew on real documentary evidence. His letter made it look like SSCP’s ten client-airlines are blaming it for losses. Well, six of them have issued certifications of SSCP’s satisfactory work. Eva Air, Etihad Airways, Malaysia Airlines and Asiana Airlines did so in late Sept. upon learning of Atutubo’s dark designs. Saudi Arabian Airlines and Singapore Airlines followed suit after my exposé came out. The staff of the four others has informed their overseas bosses of MIAA’s plan to monopolize security services. They worry that no one will secure them once SSCP guards are disaccredited.

There’s more. Matibag also wrote: “Be informed further that approval of accreditation of NAIA’s security provider is not the sole responsibility of MIAA but also of the PNP-Aviation Security Group.” Well, it’s he who must be informed: on Nov. 7 the PNP-ASG too issued a certification of SSCP’s good conduct. Chief Insp. Romeo Desiderio, as head of the ASG’s Security Agencies and Guards Supervision Branch, stated: “This is to certify that SSCP has no pending administrative case filed with this office as of this date. No SSCP private security personnel have been involved in any illegal activities within our AOR. No complaint has been filed in this office against the subject private security agency as of this date.” What does that make of the criminality claimed by Atutubo and Matibag? How come they haven’t reported to the real police?

Philippines - Student pilot hurt in plane mishap

A student pilot was hurt after the aircraft she was trying to fly crash landed in Pampanga Wednesday, a police report said Thursday.Monica Rodriguez was attempting to take off in a Cessna 152 plane for a solo training flight when she ran into strong winds.The plane crash landed on the right side of Exit Way Alpha 4 of the Omni Aviation Taxiway.Rodriguez sustained minor injuries, while the plane, RP-C8835, owned by Omni Aviation Flying School, had a damaged nose and landing gear, the report said.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

FedEx to leave Subic by June 2009

American logistics giant Federal Express (FedEx) is expected to be out of Subic by June 2009, with the full operations of its new hub in China.
FedEx will transfer to its new Asia-Pacific hub at Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport in southern China. 

"Now in the testing phase, the new Asia-Pacific Hub is expected to be fully operational in the first half of 2009," the subsidiary of FedEx Corp said in a statement.

Its operations in Subic Bay will continue as it checks the Guangzhou hub's ability to process Hong Kong-Guangzhou cross border transportation, and its sort systems and flight operations.Hub in SubicFedEx's has been one of the first locators in Subic Bay in Zambales province since the former American base was rehabilitated after the Mount Pintubo eruption in 1991 engulfed it in ashes. Former Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority chairman, now senator, Richard Gordon helped pave the way for FedEx's investment in Subic in 2005.FedEx's move to choose Subic became the export processing zone's carrot to invite other investors, mostly export manufacturers who would like to benefit from Subic's logistical advantage. Subic eventually became one of the Philippine's success stories on transforming what could have been a wasteland into revenue generating zone. 

From its strategically located main hub in the Philippines, FedEx served more than 14,000 stations across Asia. 

However, the protracted effort to expand the runway allocated to FedEx so bigger cargo planes could fly into the hub, and the infighting among SBMA leaders who also wrestled with leaders of nearby Clark airbase that is best designed for aviation-related operations, have influenced FedEx to consider alternatives. 

In 2005, FedEx announced it will transfer its operations in China, which has dangled sweeteners, including tax incentives. It is investing about $150 million in the 82,000 square meter Guangzhou facility, which sits on 63 hectares.

FedEx was originally targetting to start its hub operations in China by 2008, but it moved schedules to fully test all systems and processes.

New China hub

It said that over the past several months, significant progress has been made in key areas, including construction, IT, employee training, and the installation of the hub’s unique package and sorting system, comprised of 16 high-speed sorting lines, seven round-out conveyer belts, as well as a total of 90 primary and secondary document-sorting splits.

"This advanced system will enable FedEx to sort up to 24,000 packages an hour at the start of operations," the company said. The Guangzhou hub features a ramp control tower—a first for an international air express cargo company facility in China.

“Since we announced plans for a new FedEx Asia-Pacific Hub in Guangzhou in 2005, we have achieved many important milestones toward our vision of delivering growth while providing our customers with expanded access to the global marketplace,” said David Cunningham Jr., president of Asia Pacific, FedEx Express.

“As the largest FedEx hub outside of the United States, it will help stimulate business both in southern China and globally, and will enable us to meet the growing demands for air express services in the region over the next three decades,” Cunningham added.

It said it moved the new hub because of several factors including an exhaustive series of feasibility studies which forecasted manufacturing and trading trends, both within Asia and internationally, for the next 30 years.

Meanwhile, FedEx said it will continue to maintain its presence in the Philippines, with its Manila and Cebu facilities remaining integral parts of the FedEx AsiaOne network.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Indonesia to be used as model to solve Philippines Problems

Indonesia ready to cooperate technically with ICAO

Jakarta, Nov 18 (ANTARA) - Indonesia's transportation ministry is ready to cooperate technically with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) whose president is to visit Jakarta soon, a senior ministry official said.

"This is a follow up to a management service agreement concluded in September 2007 in Montreal, Canada , with ICAO President Robert Kobeh Gonzalez," Budhi Muliawan Suyitno, the ministry's director general of air transportation, said here Tuesday.

Suyitno said to realize the technical cooperation with ICAO, the transportation ministry would allocate seven million US dollars from its budget for two programs over a period of three years.

Under the first program h was for provision of special experts' assistance for aviation operations. Indonesia would prepare five operation inspectors to join the program which would be launched on November 27 in conjunction with the ICAO president's visit to Indonesia.

The second program was the formation of a Civil Aviation Transformation Team (CATT) for the transformation of civil aviation consisting of international regulators -- ICAO, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), Japan and the EU, industry practitioners (Boeing and Airbus), and some aviation experts including from Indonesia.

"The team will be based at Indonesia's Transportation Ministry and be able to directly watch our work and be responsible to the director general of air transportation. They are expected to give strategic suggestions for improvements in the future," he said.

He added ICAO would use the pattern of solving Indonesia's aviation problems through CATT as a model for other countries such as the Philippines and Cambodia.(Antara)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Philippines CAAP to get looked at closely early next year (2009)

This little gem was found on THE European Transport Web Sites .

This may affect the ability for PAL to fly to Europe ..

Air carriers from the Republic of Philippines

There is verified evidence of serious safety deficiencies on
the part of all air carriers certified in the Republic of
Philippines and of the insufficient ability of the authorities
responsible for the oversight of air carriers
certified in the in the Philippines to address safety deficiencies,,
as showed by the continuation of the downgrading
of the country's safety rating to category two by
the U.S. Department of Transportation
's Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA) in the framework of its IASA
programme, indicating that that the Republic of
Philippines fails to comply with international safety
standards set by ICAO.

The Competent Authorities of the Philippines have
however presented to the Commission on 13 October
2008 a detailed corrective action plan to redress the
safety situation of the country's civil aviation, so that,
when completed, the Philippines can demonstrate
sustainable compliance with ICAO standards both in
the State oversight system and in the operations of air
carriers licensed by these authorities. According to that
plan, approximately half of the corrective actions are to
be completed by 31 December 2008, the remaining ones
by 31 March 2009.

In the framework of the USOAP, the competent authorities
of Philippines have requested ICAO to delay its
comprehensive inspection of their national Air Transportation
Office, previously scheduled for November 2008,
until October 2009.

The European Commission intends to carry out, with the
assistance of the Member States, a safety assessment of
the competent authorities of the Philippines, including
the verification of the implementation of the abovementioned
corrective actions plan, early 2009, to be
able to decide the appropriate course of action at a

next Air Safety Committee meeting

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Baguio airport loses last commercial carrier

BAGUIO CITY – The Loakan airport here is now considered technically closed because the lone commercial airline company servicing the Baguio-Manila-Baguio route has stopped its operations.

Authorities said Asian Spirit, the only airline utilizing the local airport in this mountain resort city, stopped its operations due to a reported change in management, leaving the city with no commercial flights to ferry tourists who want to travel by air.Mary Sulyn Sagorsor, the airport’s officer-in-charge, said Asian Spirit is now called Zest Airways but its management has not yet decided whether or not to continue servicing the Baguio-Manila-Baguio route.Sagorsor said Loakan airport will still be open to chartered flights and military planes until such time that other commercial carriers consider servicing the abandoned route.Local tourism industry stakeholders fear the decision to stop Asian Spirit’s operations will cause a big setback in the city’s booming tourism industry which is giving life to local businesses.Purifacasion Molintas, regional director of the Department of Tourism (DOT) in the Cordilleras, said the absence of flights to the city would mean heavy losses for both the private and government sectors in terms of income, tourism and business operations.Molintas said each tourist spends an average of P2,500 per day. Tourists start flocking to the city starting November until May because of the conducive weather condition that is ideal as an escape from the tremendous humidity in the lowlands.Sagorsor denied that Asian Spirit stopped its operations in the city because it was a losing venture. She claimed the airline was actually earning but the lack of smaller aircrafts that can cater to the demand of more flights prompted management to give up the route.Another airline, Sea Air, has reportedly agreed to service the Baguio-Manila-Baguio route but it requires a general sales office in the city which is still not available as of presstime.Under existing airline policies, at least ten seats must be paid by the general sales agent but the actual condition in the city could not meet such requirement. Still, stakeholders are clamoring for a regular flight here to ensure the continuous influx of tourists to spice up the local economy of the Cordillera as a whole.

Cebu Pacific reports 174% decline in profits, but plans to increase passenger base to 7 million

CEBU AIR, Inc., operator of budget airline Cebu Pacific, posted a 174% decline in profits from January to September this year, citing high oil prices and the appreciation of dollar-denominated loans.

In a disclosure to the local exchange, Cebu Pacific’s holding firm, JG Summit Holdings, Inc. said the airline had lost P1.87 billion in the nine month period — a turnaround from the P2.53 billion profit the company made in the same period last year.

"[These losses were] due to higher operations-related expenses, particularly, fuel cost which posted a 96% increase" to P6.53 billion this year from P3.33 billion last year, the parent firm said.

Jet fuel prices peaked at $180 per barrel in July, or near double its price from a year ago.

Today however, jet fuel, which is more expensive than regular gasoline, has gone down to $84 per barrel, or just under 20% lower than its price a year ago.

"Cebu Pacific recognized a foreign exchange loss from its dollar denominated obligations amounting to P1.57 billion during the period compared to a foreign exchange gain of P1.06 billion recorded last year," the company said.

Excluding the foreign exchange and mark-to-market effect, the airline would have posted a net income of P187.71 million for the nine months.

The airline’s costs and operating expenses went up 47.33% in the nine-month period, to P13.23 billion from just under P9 billion last year.

The airline posted a 28.3% increase in revenues for the nine-month period to close to P14 billion, from just under P11 billion in the same period last year, "brought about by additional routes and flights."

The company is looking to grow its passenger base to 7 million passengers a year by the end of 2008, from the five million passengers it carried all of last year.

The Gokongwei-led carrier plans to do this by expanding to more routes and fielding a total of six aircraft — four 72-seater ATR Turboprops and two 180-seater Airbus 320s — which the company expects to be delivered next year. 

25 countries to join 14th Hot Air Balloon fiesta in Clark

Nov. 14 — The Tourism and Promotions Office (TPO) of the Clark Development Corporation (CDC) announced that at least 25 countries are expected to participate in the 14th Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta (PIHABF).
TPO Manager Noemi Garcia said the CDC and Hot Air Balloon Club of the Philippines, on November 12 signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the holding of the event from February 12 to 15 next year.Garcia added that the MOA was signed by CDC President Benigno N. Ricafort and Joi Roa, president of the Hot Air Balloon Club of the Philippines at the Café Mesa here.She also said more than 100,000 spectators are expected to attend the four-day event that would be held at Clark’s Civil Aviation Complex just beside the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport.Last year, Garcia said 19 balloons flew Clark skies during the previous hot air balloon fiesta. The four-day event brought in more than 21 pilots, 19 of which were flown by foreign pilots from 13 countries while the other two were flown by Filipino pilots.Garcia added that last year’s event was joined by pilots from the Philippines, Sweden, United States , Hungary , Thailand , Malaysia , Germany, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Finland, Japan , Switzerland, England, and South Korea.Last year’s event also featured four paragliders, three from Malaysia and one from France, who flew thrice daily for the whole duration of the event.“This early we are already drawing plans to make the next hot air balloon fiesta a bigger and spectacular event as part of the Clark Development Corporation’s bid to transform Clark into a tourist haven north of Manila,” Garcia said. (PNA)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Cebu Pac barred from Ozamiz terminal

BUDGET CARRIER Cebu Pacific has started flying between Cebu and Ozamiz City in northern Mindanao thrice a week with the reopening of the Ozamiz airport after a 10-year closure.

The Gokongwei-owned airline is being barred, however, from using the airport's rehabilitated terminal building since it stands on property owned by rival carrier Philippine Airlines.

Because of this, Cebu Pacific has had to locate its terminal operations--like passenger check-in, pre-departure, and arrival services--under a tent adjacent to the newly refurbished passenger terminal, which is owned by the state-run Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).

At present, passengers waiting to board Cebu Pacific's Monday-Wednesday-Friday ATR 72 turboprop ferry flight between Cebu and Ozamiz sit on benches outside the airport's perimeter fence while waiting to board the aircraft.

"What we don't understand is why we're not being allowed to use a facility that was built using public funds," said Cebu Pacific vice president for commercial planning Alex Reyes.

Nonetheless, he expressed optimism about the potential of passenger traffic between both cities, given the traditional trade links of Cebu with Visayan-speaking residents of Ozamiz in Misamis Occidental.

Both inbound and outbound inaugural flights last Wednesday were fully booked, despite the conditions at the Ozamiz airport.

During ceremonies to mark the inaugural flight, Misamis Occidental governor Loreto Ocampos vowed to remedy the situation, saying that the current condition--where one airline uses a government facility and another uses makeshift tents--was unacceptable.

"What we will do is that [the provincial government] will just buy this property so that everyone can use it," he said in Visayan.

Ocampos pointed out, however, that the provincial government presently does not have the funds for such an undertaking, adding that he would ask President Macapagal-Arroyo for additional resources to boost the budget of the local government.

The CAAP expressed resignation over the issue, saying PAL's stand was affirmed by the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel.

"CAAP did not bar Cebu Pacific from using the Ozamiz terminal building, but they were made aware that CAAP sought the legal opinion of the OGCC on the legality of allowing them to occupy a space in the terminal building," the agency's legal chief Deo de Ocampo told the Inquirer.

"Records appear that the terminal building was constructed at the time when PAL was majority-owned by the government," he added. "PAL is claiming ownership over the terminal building based on legal principle. The accessory, terminal building, follows the principal, land."

Philippine Airlines' subsidiary Air Philippines operates flights between the city and Manila using a Boeing 737--a service that Cebu Pacific, so far, cannot match because the 1.8-kilometer runway of the Ozamiz airport is not designed to to handle the weight of an Airbus A320.

Philippine Airlines did not respond to requests for comment on the issue.

By Daxim Lucas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:59:00 11/13/2008

Monday, November 10, 2008

RP Gov’t disqualifies winning bidder for new Clark airport

PLANS TO CONSTRUCT a new $7-billion air terminal at the Clark Freeport in Pampanga have basically gone back to square one after the company which won the right to build the facility failed post-auction checks.

Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC) officials said they were looking for a new builder after Admiral Energy LCC, the US firm which won the bid last September, was found not to have an experienced airport operator for a partner.

"[Admiral] failed the post-qualification check because they did not have a partner airport operator," CIAC Executive Vice-President Alexander S. Cauguiran told reporters over the weekend.

Admiral officials were not available for comment.

Instead of a new auction, however, CIAC will just accept proposals from interested parties. "We’ll be accepting ’unsolicited proposals’ until the end of the month," Mr. Cauguiran said.

Mr. Cauguiran is head of the Joint Venture Special Committee which conducted the initial bidding for the project last September. During that auction, Admiral Energy was the only one out of the three firms to pass eligibility requirements.

The Chicago-based firm offered a P108-million upfront payment within 10 calendar days, a minimum guaranteed annual payment of P261 million, and a total proposed investment of P12.4 billion, almost double the floor price of P6.4 billion.

However, Admiral Energy’s supposed partners for the project were found out to be experts only in the procurement and installation of airport equipment, not airport operations.

Under the deal, whoever gets the contract for the project has to design, build, finance and operate the new airport. The facility — capable of handling seven million passengers annually — is part of the government’s bid to develop Clark as the country’s next "premiere" international gateway.

Clark’s current terminal, the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport, has a capacity of two million passengers a year. In comparison, Manila’s airport system has a combined capacity of over 30 million passengers a year.

Mr. Cauguiran said the Clark area has more room for growth than Manila, with around 4,200 hectares of land which can be used for expansion. Manila’s airports have already filled up the 700 hectares available in the capital, he pointed out.

Clark also has two full runways with room to build two more, compared to Manila which only has space for one runway.

Omni Aviation orders new aircraft

Omni Aviation Corp. (OAC) has ordered three Cessna 152s including an Aerobat that will be used for advanced maneuvers such as upset recovery. These aircraft will be enjoyed by more than 100 students, including foreigners from 18 countries currently training at Omni Aviation.

Founded by retired Boeing 747 pilot Capt. Ben Hur Gomez, OAC now has a total of 19 planes plus the latest training equipment and an instrument flight simulator

With the influx of foreign flight students Capt. Gomez said the school looks like the United Nations. “We have students who are Americans, British, Canadians, French, Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, Indians, Sudanese, etc.”

Omni claims to have the best instructors and the best maintained aircraft in the business.

Omni Aviation is a fixed base operator with its own private runway and hangar facilities in a 32-hectare complex within the Clark, Freeport Zone, Pampanga. It’s host to the Philippines Airline Aviation school, Philippine State College of Aeronautics flying schools, Clark Aviation, and its own Omni Aviation flight school, Asian Aeronautics Services, Inc., and Marlin Metal Enterprises.

Omni Aviation has formal ties with Flysky College, Taiwan; Global Training Center, Japan; and Selecta Education Group, Malaysia who deploy their students to Omni for flight training courses.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Pilots Story - New Film being made .....

The story of flight is a sweeping saga that has exceeded the imaginations of even those who first dreamed it. And yet it unfolds (as all truly special stories do) in moments, places . . . and people. Always and ever in people.Just above the heads of most of our brothers, sisters, coworkers, and neighbors there hang gossamer cathedrals of piled cotton below the cobalt dome of a perfect sky. But fewer than one in 500 will ever experience this through the front window of a flying machine. 

A Pilot's Story seeks out the special few who have answered the call of the skies, those with the discipline, aptitude, and courage to become pilots.Filmed in hangars and homes, at restaurants and on ramps, A Pilot's Story tells the story of flight in the words of pilots themselves. What it means to fly an airplane all alone for the first time. What it means to fly an airplane for the last time. The easy rapport one can have with a person who is a complete stranger but for the shared experience of flying.

And the excitement that consumes pilots at the opportunity to share this world of aviation with non-pilots, airport communities, community leaders, and anyone else who will listen.A Pilot's Story is a film for anyone who has sat all alone in an aircraft, firewalled the throttle, charged down the runway, and rotated. And especially for those who might if given the chance. For most people, the sky is the limit. For a pilot, the sky is home.This is the story of the journey home. 

A Pilot's Story. More Here

Pilot goes Blind whilst Flying and lands safely with RAF Help ..

Very Interesting read .. How would you fare if this was you ...

Friday, November 7, 2008

RP - PGMA groundbreaks $100-M aircraft maintenance facility for Asian region at Clark

Manila (7 November) -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo led the groundbreaking of a $100-million commercial aircraft maintenance facility at the Clark Civil Aviation Complex here to upgrade the services at the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) which is being pump-primed as a premier gateway in the country.
The establishment of the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility is a partnership of SIA Engineering Philippines and Cebu Pacific Air.Assisting the President during the ceremony were Clark International Airport Corporation (CIAC) president & CEO Victor Jose I. Luciano, SIA Engineering Company president & CEO William Tan, and Cebu Pacific president & CEO Lance Gokongwei.
Luciano said the MRO facility will service long-haul commercial aircraft "and will fulfill the vision of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to make Clark a leading world-class service hub in the Asia Pacific Region."For his part, Gokongwei said the world-class MRO facility at Clark will further enhance Philippine aerospace."With SIA Engineering Company's MRO proficiency, we will certainly develop the local talent pool of aerospace management and engineering personnel. In addition, a heavy maintenance facility in the Philippines will significantly enhance Cebu Pacific Air's despatch reliability and engineering quality," Gokongwei said.
SIA Engineering (Philippines) Corporation is 65 percent owned by the SIA Engineering Company (SIAEC), with Cebu Pacific Air owning a 35-percent stake in the joint venture.The MRO facility project involves the construction of three large hangars that will service long-haul commercial aircraft in its 10-hectare property at the DMIA airport. The first hangar will service narrow-bodied aircraft such as the Airbus 320 while the second and third will service wide-bodied aircraft such as the Boeing 747s and 777s.
The facility will generate at least 1,000 jobs during its construction phase. Expected to be completed by the second quarter of 2009, the MRO project will complement the vision of the President to develop the DMIA as a logistics and services hub that can handle the maintenance, repair and overhaul of legacy carriers in the Asian region.A part of the Singapore Airlines Group, SIAEC provides maintenance services for the more than 60 international carriers operating at Singapore's Changi International Airport. 
The services include airframe and component overhaul on some of the most advanced, widely-used commercial aircraft in the world.Last April 4 during the inauguration of the expanded DMIA Passenger Terminal here, the President witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between CIAC, SIAEC, and Cebu Pacific Air for the establishment of the world-class MRO facility

RP Three major projects start in Central Luzon

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — Three new major projects involving fuel additive blending operations, aircraft maintenance and a call center simultaneously opened yesterday in Central Luzon.

President Gloria M. Arroyo led the opening of Petron fuel additives blending plant here, Teletech’s newest customer management center in San Fernando, Pampanga, as well as the ground-breaking for a $100-million maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility at the Clark Civil Aviation Complex.

Petron Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Nicasio I. Alcantara said the project resulted from a Fuel Additives Blending Agreement entered into by Petron and Innospec — formerly Associated Octel Ltd. — a leading global fuel additives supplier in Asia and the Pacific.

"The project combines Petron’s first-rate technical services, marketing capability, and strategic location with Innospec’s fuel additive technologies and strong presence in Asia," Mr. Alcantara said in a statement.

Petron said about 80% of the facility’s production will be exported to various Asia-Pacific markets, and the rest will be exclusively used by Petron for its Blaze, XCS, Xtra Unleaded, E10 Premium and DieselMax fuels.

Ms. Arroyo also led ground-breaking ceremonies of the $100-million MRO facility of SIA (Singapore Arilines) Engineering Corp. and Cebu Pacific Air in Clark. Both have formed SIA Engineering (Philippines) Corp. for this project, which involves construction of three hangars to service long-haul commercial aircraft in a 10-hectare area at the airport.

The first hangar will service narrow-bodied aircraft like Airbus 320s, while the second and third will service wide-bodied aircraft such as Boeing 747s and 777s.

Clark International Airport Corp. President and CEO Victor Jose I. Luciano said the facility is designed to improve services at Diosdado Macapagal International Airport, which is being positioned as the country’s premier gateway.

The facility is expected to generate at least 1,000 jobs during the construction phase and is scheduled to be completed by the second quarter of next year.

After the groundbreaking ceremony in Clark, Ms. Arroyo proceeded to Teletech’s newest customer management center, located in SM City in San Fernando, Pampanga.

Teletech’s newest facility, which is designed to have 1,720 seats, is expected to have 1,950 employees.

Teletech currently employs 18,500 workers in its 12 customer management centers in Fort Bonifacio, Pasay, Novaliches, Cainta, Dumaguete, Bacolod, Lipa, Cebu, Bacoor, Iloilo, Pampanga, and Sta. Rosa, Laguna.

In a statement issued yesterday, Teletech President Kenneth Tuchman said his firm has decided to increase Teletech’s work force in the Philippines to 25,000 by the end of next year. — R. M. Garcia

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Trump eyeing investment in Philippine freeport

Not Specific to Aviation, but interesting never the less ..

SUBIC BAY, Philippines -- U.S. property tycoon Donald Trump is eyeing up a move to develop part of a new complex in the Philippine freeport of Subic Bay into a tourist center, a Trump company official said Wednesday.The flamboyant billionaire is looking at joining a South Korean company that is already building a major complex in Subic Bay, which is located north of Manila.Trump Organization executive vice-president Michael Cohen said he had met officials of the Heung-A Property Group to discuss the plan.He said the two sides were working on “a definitive agreement” where the Trump group would be a key developer of the beachfront but added that no formal accord had been signed.Heung-A Property owns Subic Neocove Corp., a venture that is developing a tourism complex. The company is planning an initial 250 million-dollar investment to build hotels, golf courses, a casino and residential areas.

Puerto Princesa airport’s closure order-a ‘reminder’ - ATO exec

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Nov. 6 — Eduardo Landang, Air Transportation Office (ATO) Puerto Princesa branch manager, said the closure order issued by Bureau Fire Protection (BFP) to the Puerto Princesa City Airport (PPCA) is just a “reminder” for alleged non-compliance with fire safety standards and non-payment of administrative fines.

”It is just a reminder and that BFP is just updating us in order for us to comply our commitment,” Lansang told the Philippines News Agency.

He said that Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP)CAAP Director General Ruben F. Ciron is now working on the payment for the administrative fine amounting RR6,000 to prevent the implementation of the closure order.

He cited that BFP-Region 4-B Director Senior Supt. Norman V. Pinion last Oct. 7, issued a letter to ATO reminding the payment of the administrative fine.

He admitted that to date, ATO or PPCA has not complied in relation to the BFP’s imposition of administrative fine.

The imposition of the fines is based on an order of payment issued by the BFP-Region 4-B to Lansang pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 1185, otherwise known as the Fire Code of the Philippines.

It was recalled that in January, 2007, the fire safety inspectors (FSI) of Puerto Princesa City, equipped with Mission Order (MO) No. 1087-07, inspected the PPCA to determine the airport’s compliance with fire safety standards.

They discovered major violations and deficiencies, which included non-existence of fire alarm and warning system; non-installation of wet standpipe system; non-availability of emergency lights; absence of pre-fire and exit plans at the airport’s hallways and passengers lounge; non-availability of any firefighting equipment; and failure to conduct fire safety seminars.

Lansang assured that fire safety equipment are all incorporated in the airport terminal building which is presently undergoing major rehabilitation under the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC), as implementing agency. (PNA)

La Union airport fails to attract flights despite recent upgrade

The San Fernando City Airport in La Union province has failed to attract enough airlines even though it was recently upgraded to accommodate larger aircraft. 

Airport managers are currently in talks with airlines to serve the facility designed to accommodate Boeing 737 and the Airbus 320, Catherine T. Bada, vice president for airport operations said. 

Airline companies seek assurance that flights mounted to and from the airport would be sustainable, Bada said. 

Flights to the airport declined in the 1980s owing to low passenger volumes. Although Asian Spirit mounted a regular service to the airport during the past few years, it was temporarily suspended after expansion was undertaken. 

Although intended to boost commerce and tourism in Region 1, especially in Baguio City and La Union, the airport is currently being used for chartered flights of private and government corporations. These entities include the Land Bank of the Philippines, the Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT) Co., and various exporters at the Poro Point Freeport Zone. The airport is also used by flying schools. 

Approximately P565 million was spent for the airport, which is currently under the supervision of the Poro Point Management Corp. (PPMC), a unit of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA). 

The facility’s enhancements include runway extension and widening to 2,120 from 1,320 meters and to 45 from 36 meters respectively. A new control tower was also built while airside facilities, air navigation systems and support facilities were enhanced and constructed based on the requirements of the International Civil Aeronautics Organization. 

Before its rehabilitation, the San Fernando facility was considered as a secondary airport. Besides serving as an alternative to the Loakan Airport in Baguio City, the airport could only accommodate turbo prop planes and the C-130 cargo plane of the Philippine Airforce. 

Although the BCDA is bankrolling the airport’s entire upgrade—worth P1.8 billion—it is still is holding some P1.2 billion for the construction of the passenger terminal building, among other structures, as it waits for the airport’s operations to become viable

Singapore: Open Skies For Asean? Not Anytime Soon

SINGAPORE: Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) transport ministers meet in the Philippines Thursday (6 Nov) to ink an agreement paving the way for unrestricted travel between capital cities by 1 Dec--but do not expect it to take effect anytime soon.

More flights and choices for travellers will come only when the 10-member countries--Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Burma, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam--ratify the agreement.

Some, like Indonesia, are still undecided.

Tri S Sunoko, the Transport Ministry's director of air transportation, told The Straits Times in a telephone interview that no decision had been made on when an existing ban on foreign budget carriers would be lifted.

He said: "We support the principles of liberalisation but this is something we will embark on step by step. I cannot say at this time when we will open up more routes to foreign airlines.

"We first have to ensure that our national carriers are in a position to compete effectively with the other regional airlines."

The need to protect its fledgling air transport industry was cited by the Indonesian authorities in 2005 when they banned foreign low-cost airlines from flying to four key cities--Jakarta, Medan, Surabaya and Denpasar (Bali).

On whether the current global financial turmoil, which has hit airlines everywhere, would delay the process of liberalisation, Sunoko reiterated that the government will have to consider the health of its national carriers before making any decisions.

An Asean spokesman told The Straits Times in an e-mail response to queries that while member states are urged to ratify the Asean agreement "as soon as possible", the reality is that some "may take more time than others to ratify, as domestic procedures for ratification differ".

It does not, however, stop individual countries from liberalising their air links.

Singapore and Malaysia, for example, have decided to fully open the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur air route next month.

More flights are also progressively being added between Singapore and the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak.

Industry talk is that Penang is next.

Singapore carriers are also hoping that new opportunities will open up in the Philippines as well as in Indochina.

Jetstar Asia chief executive officer Chong Phit Lian said liberalisation had been good for consumers, adding that the airline looks forward to "official news of new points and opportunities that will be available within the region".

Her wish list? "More flights to and from Singapore and other points in Malaysia, as well as more rights to the Philippines and Indonesia."

The liberalisation between capital cities is the first step in a long-term plan to create the Asean Single Aviation Market by 2015.

When that happens, all carriers of member states will be able to criss-cross the region's skies without any restrictions. (By KARAMJIT KAUR/ The Straits Times/ ANN)