A lawmaker is seeking liberalized aviation rules to spur tourism a day after President Benigno Aquino III broached the idea of a “partial open sky policy” if the troubled Philippine Airlines would be hit by a strike. Valenzuela Representative Rex Gatchalian filed House Bill 1601 promoting a “pocket open-skies policy” in the country. Gatchalian said his bill will open only the secondary gateways to foreign airlines, but will not include the three international and domestic airports in Manila. “With 98 percent of the country’s visitor arrivals and 70 percent of the country’s exports are moved by air, a rational air transport liberalization strategy would support the vision of the government to promote the country as a tourism, investments and logistics hub,” he said in the bill’s explanatory note. Opening up the country’s skies will also develop maximum air access to all secondary gateways, however, cabotage rights is not allowed under his bill. Cabotage traffic rights is defined in the bill as “the right of an airline to carry traffic between two points within the territory of the Philippines on a route that does not originate, make a stopover or terminate outside the said territory.” The President had said that the Palace was looking into the implementation of a partial open skies policy done during the late ‘90s if the Philippine Airlines (PAL) will be hit by labor strike. The country’s flag carrier is beset anew with labor problems after talks between the management and the airline’s union failed. Aquino has revealed that preliminary talks are ongoing between the Departments of Transportation and Communications as well as Tourism and other airlines that could “take up the slot” of PAL. But Gatchalian said the benefits of an open-skies policy “goes beyond the current PAL crisis.” “We need this bill because it’s about time that we liberalize our air space to spur growth in tourism arrivals,” he said in a text message. “It is a bill that will make us competitive in the tourism field.” Under the bill, the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) is mandated to process all applications for air transportation involving any secondary gateway. “Any domestic route within the territory of the Philippines may, as far as practicable, be operated by at least two domestic air carriers offering scheduled services. The CAB may authorize chartered flights and non-scheduled services to promote the expansion of domestic air traffic,” it said. The bill also urges the government to create an environment “conducive to open and fair market competition among air carriers operating in the Philippines.” It said that subsidies, VAT exemptions, and other privileges should equally be granted or availed of by all major players in the industry.