The memorandum of agreement, involving the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), is expected to pave the way for a "unified aviation market by 2015".
"This will extend traffic rights between the 10 countries ... The trend, as it is with trade, is towards opening up the market," Civil Aeronautics Board Executive Director Carmelo L. Arcilla said in a telephone interview yesterday.
"This will enhance market access for people in the region."
ASEAN — which comprises Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam — endorsed the signing of the Multilateral Air Services Liberalization deal in May, after signing a separate aircraft safety agreement.
Bilateral air deals are currently the norm among ASEAN members. These agreements are often restricted by having a predetermined number of entitlements for passengers and cargo that may be transported.
Under the new deal, airlines in the region may fly to any major destination within Southeast Asia for as much as they want, as long as the facilities in a particular terminal will be able to handle the flights.
The agreement allows for unlimited third, and fourth air freedom rights between ASEAN countries, or the right to fly passengers to from one country to another and back again.
"[The deal] aims to liberalize passenger and cargo services in the ASEAN region ... with a view to build a single, unified aviation market by 2015," the Department of Transportation and Communications said in a statement.
As of the moment, only ASEAN capital cities will be covered.
For the Philippines this would be the Manila Airport System: the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminals 1, 2 and 3, and the Manila domestic terminal.
For other international terminals like Clark, Cebu and Davao, the country will have to work on bilateral deals between its ASEAN neighbors for the moment.
Local airlines, meanwhile, were cool to the deal.
"We will abide by whatever is signed," Philippine Airlines Vice-President Rolando C. Estabillo said in an interview.
The flag carrier had opposed the agreement.
Cebu Pacific spokesperson Candice A. Iyog said "As long as we (the Philippines) get the same benefits as they get, then it is fine with us."