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Philippines pushes air talks with UAE

Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr.. STAR/File photo

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines is keen on holding air talks with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) despite opposition from local carriers as the destination is seen as a critical connector to Europe, the Tourism chief said yesterday.

The Philippine government is now in the final stages of preparing for serious discussions with UAE, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. told reporters in an interview.

“We have to renew air talks. When agreements are about to expire, we should renew (bilateral air negotiations),” he said.

The UAE is seen as a crucial connector destination to Europe and for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

“The UAE, which is fundamentally Dubai and Abu Dhabi, are critical jump-off points to Europe. So that’s very important from OFW and European market standpoint,” Jimenez said.

In January, Emirates pushed for the holding of a new round of air talks between the Philippines and UAE.

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Jimenez said the government is “inclined to give in to that,” with preparations ongoing even with earlier oppositions from local carriers, particularly Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines (PAL).

“To be fair, they don’t oppose it, they just have point-of-view of how many, how much and how frequently. But nobody is opposing air talks per se,” he said.

In December 2014, PAL and Cebu Pacific issued a joint statement, saying increasing the flight frequencies between Manila and the UAE would only benefit Gulf carriers Emirates and Etihad Airways.

The airlines accused Emirates of influencing the Philippine Air Panel to hold air talks with the UAE in order to regularize its alleged illegal operations.

The Philippines concluded air talks with UAE in September 2012, which doubled the flight entitlements to 28 per week from 14 per week between the two countries.

Emirates and Etihad Airways have 14 flight entitlements per week, PAL has 14 while PAL Express and Cebu Pacific have seven each.



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