Five Philippine airlines have joined forces to protest against government plans to allow unlimited services by foreign carriers to and beyond the Clark and Subic Bay airports.

Air Philippines, Asian Spirit, Cebu Pacific, Pacific East Asia Cargo and Philippine Airlines went public in April with their joint protest, claiming in newspaper advertisements that granting foreign carriers unlimited rights poses a "threat to the national interest". At issue is a proposed open skies policy for secondary airports Clark and Subic Bay.

Under the proposed policy, foreign airlines would be given unlimited rights to serve Clark and Subic Bay as well as rights to operate fifth freedom, or beyond, services to other countries. Foreign carriers would also gain seventh freedom rights, allowing them to set up bases at the two airports and operate standalone services to other countries.

The protesting airlines claim that "by bestowing a favoured competitive position on foreign airlines, the draft executive order would have a serious adverse impact on other routes operated by Philippine air carriers, directly putting more than 150 billion pesos ($3.1 billion) in aviation investments and 15,000 jobs at risk, and consequently imperilling the long-term growth of Philippine tourism and its downstream effects on employment, government revenues and economic performance". They add: "The grants are totally devoid of reciprocity. While foreign airlines enjoy full access the Philippines' own airlines will have to negotiate for the same privileges from foreign governments."

Singapore-based low-cost carrier Tiger Airways is one of the foreign operators that has been working behind the scenes to lobby for the proposed executive to be signed by the country's president. It serves Clark from Singapore as well as Macau, and has been seeking regulatory approval to expand operations there through a franchise arrangement with local carrier Seair.

Under the tie-up Seair intends to lease two Airbus A320s from Tiger and operate domestic and international services from Clark using Tiger's branding and distribution channels.

Philippine carriers say the state plan puts jobs at risk and could hit tourism

Source: Airline Business