THE Philippines and India are renegotiating the bilateral air services agreement between the two countries, the Department of Foreign Affairs said.
DFA Undersecretary for International Economic Relations Charles Jose said relations between India and the Philippines have thrived for the past 75 years from food security, pharmaceuticals, defense, space, and financial technology.
“As a matter of priority, we are working to increase the flow of two-way trade and tourism between our two countries by facilitating travel through air services agreement. We’d like see more Indians getting the chance to visit and ‘Love the Philippines’ and for the Filipinos experiencing ‘Incredible India’,” Jose said in his speech during the reception of India National Day on Friday.
Trade between the Philippines and India from January to October 2023 reached US$2.5 billion (P140 billion), with Philippine exports reaching US$121 million (P6.8 billion)– the highest recorded in the history of bilateral trade.
Manila and New Delhi hope that trade and tourism between two countries would flourish in 2024 with increased flights. The updated India-Philippine air services agreement was signed in 2021, and the Philippine Senate ratified it in 2023.
Despite this, there are no direct flights between the Philippines and India yet. Indian Ambassador to Manila Shambhu Kumaran said Philippine and Indian airlines have been holding consultations to implement the air services agreement.
“We would like to increase tourism and there is a lot of business travel already. So we do believe there is a need for direct flight,” Kumaran told reporters after the Embassy reception in Makati.
The Indian ambassador said the Philippine government is asking for amendments to the 2021 air services agreement. He didn’t say what these amendments are.
The Philippine government is also eyeing to include Indian nationals in its pilot electronic Visa program. Manila first offered e-Visa to China, but suspended it due to technical issues.
“We are heartened by the announcement that e-Visas will be offered to Indians. We hope that it can be done quickly. I know the Philippine government is working hard trying to make this happen,” Kumaran said. He stressed that the implementation of the air services agreement and the e-visas are “important pillars” to further improving the bilateral trade and tourism between the two countries.
India is projected by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to be the world’s fastest-growing economy in 2024. It is expected to grow at 6.1 percent in 2024.
Alongside the increase of India’s per capita income comes a surge of travelers among Indian multigenerational families, GenZs and millennials segments. Analysts estimate that India’s outbound travel could hit 80 million to 90 million trips a year by 2040.