3 more countries seek to renew air agreements with Philippines

THE list of countries that the Philippines may update and expand its air-services agreements with this year now includes Switzerland, after the European country expressed interest in modernizing its air pact with the Philippines.

Civil Aeronautics Board Executive Director Carmelo L. Arcilla said that, aside from India and Papua New Guinea, the Philippine air panel—composed of government and Filipino airline executives—may also meet with its Swiss counterpart this year.

“Switzerland wants to update the agreement because the provisions are too old, and they want to align it with modern ones including fifth-freedom rights,” Arcilla said in an interview.

Currently, the air pact between the two countries allow their carriers to fly between capital cities Manila and Bern for seven times per week. It was signed in 1952.

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Arcilla did not elaborate. He noted, however, updating an air-services agreement with India will be more imminent, given India’s persistence on seeking a schedule with the Philippine air panel.

“India is more critical for us because a lot of carriers are applying for it. The meeting could happen sometime in July or August,” he said.

A filing before the regulator showed that Cebu Pacific and Philippines AirAsia are seeking flight coefficients to India.

Philippines AirAsia Chairman Marianne M. Hontiveros told the BusinessMirror that her group is seeking to fly to New Delhi, India.

“We plan Manila-Bangkok-Delhi,” she said. “We were asked to submit position papers.”

Cebu Pacific Director Charo L. Lagamon said her group is looking at launching services to Mumbai, India.

India and the Philippines last held air-services negotiations in 2005, when the two countries agreed to sign a memorandum of understanding that will allow Filipino carriers to operate seven flights per week to Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai.

The same entitlement was awarded to Indian carriers, which can operate seven flights per week “on each city pair” between the two countries. The first agreement was signed in 1949.

For Papua New Guinea, Arcilla said, his group is still “firming up a date” for the talks.

The bilateral agreement with Papua New Guinea allows Philippine carriers to fly to Port Moresby with a limited capacity of 600 seats. The two nations conducted negotiations for more liberal air-traffic rights in 2013, but Port Moresby junked Manila’s request due to unused capacities.

Currently, Philippine Airlines (PAL) flies to Port Moresby from Manila two times a week.

Increasing coefficients—measured by the number of flights or seats—allow local and foreign carriers to mount more flights between two or more points, thereby generating more traffic and revenues from travel and tourism.

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