The Philippine government protected the Philippine Airlines for it to develop. They closed the country to foreign carriers and allowed PAL to monopolize the Philippine sky. Other Southeast Asian countries opened their airspace to foreign carriers to expand their tourism industry and encourage foreign guests and investors to visit while the Philippines restricted the number of people who can enter the country. This action cost the country’s tourism industry to lag behind other countries.
Realizing the mistake committed centuries ago, the Philippine government is now adopting the Asean Open Sky Policy. In 1995, Executive Order 219 was issued by then-president Fidel V. Ramos. This EO established the country’s domestic and international civil aviation liberalization policy, but it has only been applied domestically. Back in 2010, during the term of Pres. Arroyo, EOs 500 and 500-B were crafted. EO 500-B liberalized the Philippine sky, granting unrestricted access to Diosdado Macapagal (Clark) International Airport and Subic International Airport to all foreign carriers without any need for government designation or bilateral air agreements.
Now, President Benigno Aquino III upholds the implementation of the Pocket Open Sky Policy. On March 14, 2011, he signed and issued two new Executive Orders, 28 & 29. EO 28 restructures the Philippine Air Negotiating Panel and the Philippine Air Consultation Panel. EO 29, according to Pres. Aquino, will ‘give teeth’ to EO 219 signed by former President Ramos.
According to Philippine Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) Executive Director Carmelo Arcilla, EO 29 aims to ‘attract operators and encourage direct services to our developmental routes.’ EO 29 allows the Philippine air council to grant third, fourth and fifth freedom rights to foreign carriers without limits on capacity, frequency and type of aircraft and other arrangements to and from any of the country’s secondary gateways, as long as it serves national interest.
Secondary gateways are those international airports aside from NAIA that have Customs Immigration Quarantine Services (CIQS) facilties. According to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, there are 9 airports (NAIA excluded) with CIQS facilities. They are the Kalibo International Airport (Aklan), Subic Bay International Airport (Bataan), Mactan International Airport (Cebu), Francisco Bangoy International Airport (Davao del Sur), Laoag International Airport (Ilocos Norte), Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (Clark Field, Pampanga), Puerto Princesa International Airport (Palawan), General Santos International Airport (South Cotabato), and Zamboanga International Airport (Zamboanga del Sur).
Upon implementation of the pocket open skies policy, any airline from any country can operate in any of the abovementioned secondary gateways. Likewise, the country’s local airlines can also operate in the same way as the foreign airlines. This will then strengthen the country’s tourism due to the increase of visitors going in and out of the country. In spite of the obvious advantage of the open sky, local airline operators are protesting against it. They say that the Philippines is not yet up for the open sky and that it would kill the local airline industry.
The questions now are, ‘Is the Philippines ready for the Pocket Open Sky?’ and ‘What would the new policy contribute to the local tourism industry?’ This paper will point out the different factors that show...