• Cebu Pacific objects to new air talks with UAE

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    Until all available entitlements are fully utilized by PH carriers

    LOW-COST carrier Cebu Pacific (CEB) believes that the country should not enter into a fresh round of air talks with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) until all available entitlements are fully utilized by Philippine carriers.

    “Given the significant increase in capacity over the past year, CEB believes that a new round of air talks with the United Arab Emirates UAE should not be held until all available Manila-use entitlements are fully utilized by Philippine carriers who are ready, willing and capable of operating routes to UAE including CEB,” JR Mantaring, officer in charge of CEB corporate affairs, said in a text message.

    Cebu Pacific and flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) have been vocal about their opposition to a new round of air talks with the UAE.

    The two local carriers earlier said they welcomed healthy competition that benefits the traveling public but that this should not mean allowing foreign carriers like Dubai-based Emirates to disregard Philippine laws.

    The local carriers were speaking out against Emirates’ third unauthorized daily flight between Manila and Dubai, saying that Emirates had been selling tickets for this flight without any government approval.

    Emirates is the flag carrier of the UAE, along with Etihad Airways.

    In December 2014, CAB gave Emirates until January 26, 2015 to operate a third daily flight between Manila and Dubai to serve mostly overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) traveling to and from the Philippines during the holiday season.

    Emirate sought an extension of the extra daily flight but this was rejected by the CAB in late January. The airline elevated the issue to the Office of the President (OP) in February, where it is still pending.

    Commenting on the issue, Department of Transportation and Communications Undersecretary Perpetou Lotilla earlier told reporters, “Pending in OP. I’m not sure if CAB received anything. All I know is that they elevated it to the OP. Air talks with them, it has to be discussed further.”

    Lotilla further said: “Other economic objections have to be raised.

    Technically it should not be like that, they should have gone to the CA [Court of Appeals] but they went to the OP instead. Maybe they are following the administrative procedure.”

    Besides seeking an extension, Emirates has also asked the Philippine Government to conduct air talks next month with the UAE, ostensibly for the two countries to agree on more flights per day.

    CEB and PAL view this as another ploy to legitimize Emirates’ third daily flight.

    PH, Qatar increase flights
    Meanwhile, the country signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Air Services with Qatar in May, increasing the maximum number of flights for each country.

    In a text message, CAB executive director Carmelo Arcilla said, “The Philippines and Qatar signed on May 28 in Doha a new MOU on Air Services increasing the maximum number of flights for each country from the current 8 flights per week to 14, or an increase of 6.”

    “The parties also agreed on unlimited flights between Doha and other airports in the Philippines except Manila. Previously, the entitlements outside Manila were 14 per week to Clark and 14 per week to Cebu,” he added.

    The two countries last held air talks in 2009. There are about 250,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Qatar.

    Qatar Airways flies seven times a week from Doha to Clark International Airport (CIA), a service inaugurated in 2013 after the Qatari airline reduced its Doha-NAIA flights from 14 to eight times per week in November 2013 to comply with limits set by the Philippines-Qatar air pact currently in effect.

    It is not known if the Doha-Clark flights will continue if Qatar gains its desired additional frequencies to NAIA.

    However, the standing policy of the Aquino government as enunciated in Executive Order No. 29 is to encourage more liberal access to secondary airports in the country such as Clark, Iloilo and Cebu, while retaining restrictions on flights to NAIA which has reached saturation point.

    The Philippine air panel has not publicly confirmed whether it would stick to its previously stated position against granting additional NAIA flights to Qatar due to serious congestion problems at the NAIA and to preserve flights to Clark in line with presidential directives and EO 29.

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