Thursday, May 22, 2008

Central Luzon officials, traders push for Open Skies at Clark

CLARK FREEPORT -- Officials and traders in Central Luzon have joined hands in asking President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to issue Executive Order 500-B, which will allow unlimited flights at the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA). 

A group of local officials and businessmen issued a manifesto on Wednesday urging the President to fast-track the passage of EO 500-B that will allow more international flights at the 2,500 hectare Civil Aviation Complex. 

"We appeal to our President to issue EO 500-B so that our country can enjoy the fruits of a liberalized air policy that will create more employment and economic developments not only in Clark and Subic but as well the entire country," said Pampanga first district Representative Carmelo Lazatin. 

Lazatin vowed that he would seek an audience with President Arroyo this week and present to her their manifesto seeking to restore the passage of EO 500B, which is expected to save the airline industry in the Philippines. 

The manifesto was unanimously signed by major stakeholders of Central Luzon headed by Lazatin who are lobbying for the passage of EO 500B. 

Other signatories include Mario Lazatin, director of the Metro Angeles Chambers of Commerce and Industry; Carmen Mctavish, chairperson of the Greater Clark Visitors' Bureau; Jeanie Del Rosario, president of the Clark Investors and Locators Association (Cila); Frankie Villanueva, president of the Association of Business Chambers in Central Luzon; James Dale, president of the Hotel and Restaurants Association of Pampanga; Freddie So, president of the Angeles City Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Incorporated; and Mabalacat Mayor Marino Morales. 

In their manifesto, the group wants the President to schedule air talks so as to attract foreign air carriers to operate in the country. 

The stakeholders stated that this would benefit the partners in tourism, trade and overseas employment nd the acceptance of proposals by other countries for liberal air access including pocket open skies in Clark and Subic, which will guarantee a long-term growth in the aerotropolis. 

The manifesto also said the liberalization of the Philippine Aviation Industry through the passage of a law on developing all gateways outside Manila through pocket open skies. 

"The holding of more bilateral and multilateral air talks with other countries is also a critical element in securing more favorable and more relevant Air Service Agreements with our trade and tourism partners for the benefit of all Philippine gateways," the manifesto stated. 

DOTC and CAB approval 

"EO 500B endorsed by the Clark International Airport Corporation (Ciac) has undergone the process required by the Office of the President including the review and approval by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) through the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) prior to its submission to President Arroyo," the group said. 

Lazatin also criticized efforts by other local air carriers in stopping the passage of EO 500B saying: "they only protect their own interest and not the interest of the Filipino people." 

He was referring to the nation's flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL), which has been opposing an open skies policy for Clark and Subic. 

Lazatin noted that DMIA in Clark Freeport has been experiencing a growth of passenger flights since 2003. But when MalacaƱang issued EO 500A in August 2006, flights at DMIA have decreased tremendously. 

This, the lawmaker, is hampering the development of the airport and its surrounding communities. "EO 500B is the best alternative to save our airline industry," he said. 

The President recently declared DMIA as the premier gateway of the country. 

Among the carriers operating at DMIA are TigerAirways of Singapore, Air Asia of Malaysia, Asiana Airlines of Korea, China Southen Airlines and Deer Air of China, Southeast Asian Airlines (Seair), Asian Spirit and Cebu Pacific. 

Airport developers like the Changi Airports International of Singapore and the Al Kharafi Group of Kuwait have shown interest in DMIA. 

President Arroyo recently led the inauguration of the Expanded Terminal of DMIA, which costs P112 million. It is expected to increase its passenger capacity to two million passengers annually. 

Ciac, the operating arm of DMIA, also plans to embark in an ambitious project, the development of the Terminal 2. 

The new terminal would increase passenger capacity to seven million to eight million annually

Sun Star Pampanga
Saturday, May 17, 2008
By Reynaldo G. Navales

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