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GMA to inaugurate $125-M Clark airport expansion project

Ding Cervantes - The Philippine Star

CLARK FREEPORT, Pampanga – President Arroyo will inaugurate the expanded passenger terminal at the President Diosdado Macapagal Airport (DMIA) here this Friday, the eve of her 61st birthday, and witness the signing of agreements for projects worth at least $125 million.

Multi-sectoral leaders in Central Luzon, however, are in the dark about whether the President will issue their proposed Executive Order 500-B restoring the open skies policy at Clark.

Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC) advisories have made no reference to the signing of the EO, despite its press release last February that it was already “approved in principle” by the President.

Instead, CIAC announcements referred only to the signing of memoranda of agreement with Singapore Airlines Engineering Company (SIAEC) and Gulf and Link (KGL) during the inauguration of the DMIA’s expanded passenger terminal this Friday, but has kept silent on the proposed EO 500-B that various business and other groups in Central Luzon have been pushing to restore open skies policy at the airport here.

KGL will establish the GlobalGateway Logistics Park costing $25 million while SIAEC will set up a 10-hectare maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility worth $100 million at the DMIA, CIAC president and chief executive officer Victor Jose Luciano said.

Apart from signing the agreements, the President will also inaugurate the expanded area of the DMIA terminal whose passenger capacity has been increased from 500,000 to two million per year.

Local business groups recalled that in January 2006, Mrs. Arroyo signed EO 500 unilaterally proclaiming open skies here.

Greg Rushford, in his column in the Wall Street Journal Asia, said “the move unleashed the forces of economic liberalization at Clark by allowing foreign airlines to fly in hundreds of thousands of tourists from Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia and as far away as Dubai. It also opened the door to all the trade that could be conducted via the cargo holds of such airlines.”

But in August 2006, just eight months after the initial liberalization, the President was reported to have bowed to pressure from certain quarters in the aviation industry by amending EO 500 with EO 500-A, which slowed down foreign airline traffic and limited foreign airlines’ access to the DMIA and the Subic International Airport.

Disappointed Central Luzon leaders, including the Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines, then crafted EO 500-B despite opposition from domestic airlines. The proposed EO sought to “unilaterally grant to any designated foreign airline that applies to operate to and from Subic and Clark a waiver by the Civil Aeronautics Board of any restriction or limitation on capacity, route rights imposed by relevant air service agreements.”

Under the proposed EO 500-B, the designated foreign carriers would be allowed to apply for third and fourth freedom traffic rights to DMIA and the Subic International Airport, a privilege not allowed under EO 500-A.

Third freedom refers to the right to carry passengers and cargo from a carrier’s country to another, while fourth freedom refers to the right to transport traffic and cargo from another country to the carrier’s own.

CENTRAL LUZON

CIVIL AERONAUTICS BOARD

CLARK INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT CORP

DISAPPOINTED CENTRAL LUZON

EXECUTIVE ORDER

GREG RUSHFORD

GULF AND LINK

SUBIC INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

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