A TOURISM industry leader criticized Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim for reportedly claiming that the pilots’ issue at Philippine Airlines (PAL) justifies the need to further open Philippine skies to foreign carriers.
“The secretary’s statement shows he has no grasp of the situation. He does not know what he is talking about,” Dr. Robert Lim Joseph, tourism leader and chairman of the Fair Open Skies Movement, said.
He said Lim’s position on the pilots’ issue betrays the influence over him by the Freedom to Fly Coalition (FFC) which has been aggressively advocating open skies to benefit foreign carriers. Lim is one of the founders of the FFC, which Joseph said had been exposed in the Senate as a lobbyist for foreign aviation interests.
Joseph recalled that when PAL was affected by a strike in the 1990s, Singapore Airlines was allowed to increase its flights to the Philippines. However, fares being offered by the airline also increased, as it was able to “monopolize” the route for a time.
He added that even Cathay Pacific was invited to make extra flights to the Philippines, but it only chose the profitable routes.
“You cannot expect these foreign airlines to help the country in times of crisis. They will fly here to make money, not to promote our national interest,” Joseph said.
Joseph said this is further proven by the fact that even though 50 foreign airlines had been granted rights to fly to the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Clark, Pampanga, only about five airlines are using these entitlements for lack of market.
He said this is the main reason open skies advocates are pushing for the approval by the government of Executive Order (EO) 500-B, which would grant unlimited access to Clark and Subic international airports to all foreign airlines and the right to fly beyond Clark and Subic or the so-called 5th freedom right.
“EO 500-B will allow, say, Singapore Airlines to fly to Clark, pick up local passengers in Clark, and bring them to a third country like the US,” he said.
The scheme will be very profitable to foreign airlines but it will be detrimental and disadvantageous to local airlines since they will not be given the same entitlements by the governments of these foreign airlines. In short, no reciprocity, as repeatedly sought by the Philippine side in all air negotiations.
According to Joseph, these open skies advocates are using such influential groups as the Makati Business Club to pursue their advocacy.
He said Lim is a member of this lobby group advocating for uncontrolled access of foreign airlines to the Philippines without reciprocity or equal exchange of air rights.