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Airlines urged to take advantage of open skies policy

MANILA, Philippines - The government is encouraging foreign airlines to take advantage of the country’s pocket open skies policy and use airports outside Metro Manila while there are no new facilities to accommodate them.

Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office Secretary Ricky Carandang made the statement yesterday, following a report that the Philippines was imposing a moratorium on the issuance of permits to foreign airlines planning to mount flights to Manila due to the limited capacity of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

Asked about the implications of the space constraints in NAIA when the country is trying to boost its tourism industry, Carandang said “one of the reasons (for the) pocket open skies is because we wanted to help bring in tourists aware that the constraints were present in NAIA.”

“If, for example, a tourist wants to go and visit Bohol or Cebu, the idea behind the pocket open skies was they could skip Manila and simply go straight there. So, to some extent, we think that pocket open skies has helped prevent additional congestion in NAIA,” he explained.

He also said that he was not aware of how many flights were rejected and “what possible implications that might have.”

“We’re already over capacity and, if we add more to that, it might lead to an unpleasant experience, and the last thing we want to do is to turn off tourists at this point,” Carandang said.

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Quoting sources privy to the issue, a STAR report said that the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) denied the application of Oman Air and Jet Airways of India to fly to Manila due to constricted infrastructure at the 30-year-old international gateway.

“It’s not that the market is becoming less vibrant. It is due to the infrastructure,” a source said.

Other sources also said that aside from the congested NAIA, other airports in the country could not accommodate night flights.

Both Oman Air and Jet Airways have filed separate applications with the CAB for the issuance of Foreign Air Carrier’s permits to operate international scheduled air transportation services.

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