AirAsia (AK, Kuala Lumpur Int’l) Group CEO Tony Fernandes has called on the Philippines to ascent to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) multilateral Open Skies agreement. Fernandes argued that being part of the treaty would boost local tourism help while helping to drive down air fares through the introduction of competition.
However, the Filipino government has rejected the move on the grounds that the current standard of the country’s infrastructure – Manila in particular – would not be able to take the added pressure.
“The challenge in Manila is congestion,” Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima told the Philippine Flight Network. “We need to fix our infrastructure bottlenecks.”
In a bid to improve conditions at the ageing airfield, AirAsia’s local subsidiary, AirAsia Zest (Z2,Manila), has begun lobbying government to establish a new terminal at Manila airport dedicated to Low Cost Carriers stating that it is is willing to provide the design and expertise needed to get the project started.
While Manila’s issues are gradually resolved, Purisima has put forward a compromise – a “Pocket Open Skies” agreement in which select secondary airports throughout the country would be opened up to international traffic.
“We would love more connections and we thank Tony Fernandes for connecting cities in the Philippines to the rest of the region. We’ve seen the benefits of it,” said Purisima.
However, commentators have warned that any policy decisions taken must be made in consultation with Cebu Pacific Air (5J, Manila) and Philippine Airlines (PR, Manila) both of which have expressed grave concerns over the opening up of Filipino skies to the likes of Tigerair (TR, Singapore Changi),Malaysia Airlines (MH, Kuala Lumpur Int’l), Vietnam Airlines (VN, Hanoi), Garuda Indonesia (GA,Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta) and AirAsia (AK, Kuala Lumpur Int’l) among others.
The airlines argue that as privately run operations, they do not enjoy state-backing and would therefore be put at a serious disadvantage in comparison to some regional competitors whose governments both fund and protect them.
Philippines AirAsia (PQ, Manila) has meanwhile announced that it is considering relaunching operations from Clark from 2016 when the so called NLEX-SLEX Connector Road is expected to be completed cutting travel times between central Manila and Clark to 45 minutes. It had originally launched from Clark, not very successfully though, and then consolidated all operations in Manila as part of the cooperation agreement with Zest.