Tiger Airways Seeks Gov’t Permit To Fly To South Korea


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Image Source: Wong Chi Lam, Planespotters.net

MANILA, Philippines—Tiger Airways Philippines is seeking regulatory approval to fly to South Korea, the Philippines’ No. 1 source of tourists, a filing with the Civil Aeronautics Board showed.

Tiger Airways Philippines, a unit of dominant budget carrier Cebu Pacific, said in a letter to the Civil Aeronautics Board that it was applying for designation as official Philippine carrier to Korea.

The CAB was set to decide on the application on June 12, the letter showed. Ahead of this period, parties opposing the application could make the appropriate filings, the CAB added.

Expansion to South Korea was only made possible recently when the US Federal Aviation Administration restored the Philippines’ category 1 status after it had complied with international safety standards. The restriction that the United States used to bar domestic carriers from expanding their operations had also been adopted by the North Asian economy.

Tiger Airways Philippines’ application comes as the country is looking to potentially amend an existing air deal with South Korea on expectations travel between both countries would increase.

A total of 220,831 South Korean tourists visited the Philippines in the first quarter, accounting for almost 25 percent of all inbound traffic, the Department of Tourism said. This was higher than the 131,979 visitors from the United States, the country’s second-biggest market, the DOT added.

Tiger Airways Philippines, which was still using the corporate name Southeast Asian Airlines Inc. at the time of the filing, was acquired by Cebu Pacific in February as part of a “wide-ranging” alliance with Singapore’s Tiger Airways, a former shareholder.

That deal increased the domestic market share of Cebu Pacific to 56 percent when the transaction closed in February. This is apart from giving Cebu Pacific access to Tigerair Philippines’ valuable slots at the congested Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, the country’s busiest air gateway.

The takeover also neutralized an aggressive competitor, cutting the local commercial aviation sector to three major players: Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines and AirAsia of Malaysia, which analysts said would have the effect of improving industry profit margins moving forward.

Together with Tiger Airways Philippines, Cebu Pacific was projected to serve about 17 million passengers this year, up 18 percent from 2013, Cebu Pacific CEO Lance Gokongwei said in April.

Source: Miguel R. Camus, PDI.

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Philippine Airlines To FLy Boeing 777 To US


Boeing 777-300ER to the US
Boeing 777-300ER to the US

MANILA, Philippines – The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has allowed national flag carrier Philippines Airlines (PAL) to use its brand-new aircraft for flights to the United States.

PAL president and chief operating officer Ramon S. Ang confirmed the FAA approval in a text message to reporters.

The FAA’s green light to PAL came less than a month after it restored the aviation safety rating of the Philippines to Category 1 status.

This means that PAL can now use the newer and more efficient Boeing 777 for flights to the US instead of the Boeing 747.

Ang earlier said PAL could save at least $160 million a year – $100 million in fuel savings and $60 million for maintenance – by using the more efficient Boeing 777 for US flights.

PAL has 6 newly-acquired Boeing 777-300ER aircraft ready to ply the Manila-US route.

PAL currently operates 26 weekly flights to the US covering Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu and Guam.

Ang said PAL will continue to use its new wide body Airbus A330-300s and single-aisle A320-200s for flights to Honolulu and Guam.

PAL is planning to resume flights to New York, which ceased in 1997 due to the Asian financial crisis, and to expand to Chicago.

Source: Rappler.com

ANALYSIS: Philippines On The Verge Of Tourism Boom After Aviation Upgrades


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Central Business District of Makati City, Philippines

MANILA – With local carriers cleared to expand in the US and Europe, the Philippines is on the verge of a tourism boom.

After more than six years in Category 2, the Federal Aviation Administration earlier today announced the Philippines’ return to Category 1 safety rating, allowing local airlines to mount more flights to the US.

Hours later, the European Union delivered the day’s second good news: Cebu Pacific can now fly to Europe.

Brussels’ decision comes months after it allowed Philippine Airlines (PAL) to resume flights following a three-year absence, and almost a year since the International Civil Aviation Office (ICAO) lifted the significant safety concerns on the Philippines’ main international gateway, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

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Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. told Interaksyon.com that the latest two certifications are going to have a “massive” impact on Philippine tourism.

“Connectivity and accessibility are crucial to growth. We are ecstatic with these developments.  We are back on track,” Jimenez said.

He said the Department of Tourism (DOT) may revise its targets because of the upgrades even though there’s “not enough data yet to change projections.”

“We shall see how travel operators react and then we will know,” he said.

To be sure, the government hasn’t been waiting on the sidelines for tourists to come.

The DOT has been promoting the country through a campaign dubbed as “More Fun in the Philippines,” which has won international plaudits and allowed tourist arrivals to hit fresh records.

Last year, the country attracted 4.68 million foreign visitors, up 9.56 percent year-on-year.

For this year and next, the government is aiming for 6.8 million and 8.2 million, respectively, so that by the end of President Benigno Aquino III’s term,  arrivals would have reached 10 million, with receipts of P455 billion.

The top visitors so far have been the Koreans, Chinese and Japanese – the result of the Philippines’ efforts to liberalize the country’s airspace, allowing local carriers to fly across Asia and Asian airlines to enter more points in the country.

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Optimal connectivity

The aviation safety upgrades from the US and EU would further open these markets. Data from DOT show that visitors from the US reached 674,564 in 2013, up by 3.36 percent year-on-year, while those from European markets like the United Kingdom and Germany reaching 122,759 and 70,949 arrivals, respectively.

Rosanna Tuason-Fores, president of the Tourism Congress of the Philippines, said the country’s Category 1 status and the removal from the EU blacklist would provide more optimal connectivity in the trans-Pacific region.

“This will also allow us to be competitive as a route not just in the Philippines but also in the whole Asian region. We believe that with this new development, there will be a marked increase in the number of tourist arrivals both from the USA and Europe,” Fores said.

Carmelo Arcilla, executive director of Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) said the FAA upgrade and the removal from the EU blacklist would benefit the riding public, who will have improved options for air travel that are world class.

“It will also be a boost to our tourism efforts, because it will open up foreign markets for new and expanded services by Philippine carriers, not only in terms of direct services, but also for other cooperative arrangements like code sharing and interline,” Arcilla said.

Apart from ushering a new era in its trans-Pacific service, the upgrade will also allow PAL to explore possible airline partnerships with foreign carriers in order to maximize its growth potential, said the flag carrier’s president Ramon S. Ang.

“This latest development allows us to deploy our modern and fuel-efficient Boeing 777-300ER fleet to the US, and enables us to explore new destination opportunities in one of the Philippines’ largest passenger markets,” Ang said.

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“Back on global aviation map”

Transport Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said the upgrade will have significant economic dividends, as carriers mount more direct flights, boosting not only tourism, but also trade and business relations between the Philippines on the one hand, and the US and the EU on the other.

For example, “Philippine air carriers can now open more flights to the United States and have additional routes such as flying to the East Coast,” he added.

Henry J. Schumacher, vice president for external affairs of the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, agreed.

“Tourism will definitely benefit creating more direct connections. Business travel will also gain with more direct flights – that will lead to more business activities between Europe and the Philippines,” Schumacher said.

“This is a great day for Philippine tourism,” he added.

Ang said the FAA upgrade means the Philippines has joined an elite group of only 79 countries that meet the US safety standards.

“This country is definitely back on the global aviation map,” he said.

Following the re-classification, the flag carrier would deploy six Boeing 777-300ERs, acquired at a cost of $1.2 billion, for US flights within a month’s time.

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More infrastructure needed 

But while increasing connectivity is important, the Philippines still has its work cut out in terms of improving infrastructure.

“Building better airports for those flights to arrive at and many other improvements are needed before the full potential of tourism in the Philippines is realized,” John D. Forbes, American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (AmCham) senior adviser told Interaksyon.com.

He said “latent demand” stands at 12 million, thus “continued improvements in policies, infrastructure, and promotion are essential.”

Tourism Congress of the Philippines’ Fores agrees: “Infrastructure development must be accelerated.”

“More airports must be made available to international flights; more hotel rooms must be on hand to accommodate the increase in tourist arrivals,” she added.

To date, the NAIA has already exceeded it maximum annual capacity of 30 million passengers.

The government is well aware of this challenge.

It is looking at building a new international airport either in Sangley Point or Laguna de Bay. PAL also plans to put up a $10 billion airport near Manila – albeit the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) said it won’t entertain unsolicited proposals.

Big-ticket projects are being pursued under the Aquino administration’s Public-Private Partnership (PPP) scheme, but this has been slow to take off amid technical and other difficulties.

The government last week awarded its largest PPP airport project to date: the P17.2-billion upgrade of the Mactan Cebu International Airport, which next to NAIA is the country’s second biggest international gateway.

Already delayed, the project is now faced with a legal challenge, after a senator asked the Supreme Court to void its award. Whether the High Tribunal would oblige, remains to be seen.

Source: Darwin G. Amojelar, InterAksyon.com

FAA Announces the Republic of the Philippines’ Aviation Safety Rating (Back to Cat.1)


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WASHINGTON– The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today announced that the Republic of the Philippines complies with international safety standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and has been granted a Category 1 rating.

The country previously held a Category 1 rating until January 2008, when it was downgraded to a Category 2. A Category 2 rating means a country either lacks laws or regulations necessary to oversee air carriers in accordance with minimum international standards, or that its civil aviation authority – equivalent to the FAA for aviation safety matters – is deficient in one or more areas, such as technical expertise, trained personnel, record keeping or inspection procedures.

The return to Category 1 status is based on a March 2014 FAA review of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines. A Category 1 rating means the country’s civil aviation authority complies with ICAO standards. With the International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) Category 1 rating, the Republic of the Philippines’ air carriers can add flights and service to the United States and carry the code of U.S. carriers.

As part of the FAA’s IASA program, the agency assesses the civil aviation authorities of all countries with air carriers that have applied to fly to the United States, currently conduct operations to the United States or participate in code sharing arrangements with U.S. partner airlines and makes that information available to the public. The assessments determine whether or not foreign civil aviation authorities are meeting ICAO safety standards, not FAA regulations.

In order to maintain a Category 1 rating, a country must adhere to the safety standards of ICAO, the United Nations’ technical agency for aviation that establishes international standards and recommended practices for aircraft operations and maintenance.  IASA information is at www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/iasa/.

EU Lifts Ban on Cebu Pacific, Announcement on April 10


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Photo Credit: Nikki Pili

MANILA, Philippines – Budget airline Cebu Pacific of billionaire John Gokongwei Jr. is set to become the second local carrier allowed to fly to Europe.

Julian Vassallo, Chargè d’ Affaires of the European Union (EU), and officials of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) are scheduled to announce in a press conference Thursday, April 10 the lifting of the EU ban on Cebu Pacific.

In July, the EU lifted the ban on Philippine Airlines (PAL), allowing the legacy carrier to fly to the 28-nation bloc again.

CAAP Director General Lt. Gen. William Hotchkiss III and CAAP Deputy Director General Capt. John Andrews will preside over the press conference Thursday. Cebu Pacific president Lance Gokongwei is also expected to attend the event.

The EU blacklisted Philippine carriers in 2010 after the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) classified the Philippine aviation industry as “a significant safety concern.” CAAP failed to comply with safety standards that ICAO required.

ICAO scrapped this classification in March last year, prompting the EU to lift the ban on PAL. Jointly owned by tycoon Lucio Tan and diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corporation, PAL started direct flights to London in November.

The EU however kept other local carriers on its blacklist, saying “progress [was] still needed to reach effective compliance.”

EU Ambassador to the Philippines Guy Ledoux said then that accidents involving Cebu Pacific planes showed some weaknesses.

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A Cebu Pacific plane carrying 165 passengers overshot the runway of the Davao International Airport in June last year. No one was hurt in the incident, but several passengers complained it took a while before they were ushered out of the aircraft. Nearly two weeks after, another Cebu Pacific plane figured in an accident at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

Cebu Pacific worked on addressing remaining safety concerns, and was supposed to seek the EU’s green light to fly to Europe in November. It postponed the plan to give way to rehabilitation efforts following the devastation caused by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

In January, Cebu Pacific informed the Directorate General for Mobility and Transport of the EU in Brussels that it already complied with all outstanding safety concerns.

Aside from the lifting of the EU ban, regulators are pursuing the upgrade of the Philippine aviation safety status by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The US FAA downgraded the Philippines’ status to Category 2 from Category 1 in 2008 upon the recommendation of ICAO.

Category 2 prohibits Philippine carriers from mounting new and additional flights to the US. Airlines in Category 2 countries are also placed under heightened US FAA surveillance.

CAAP is confident an upgrade will be made soon. The US FAA is yet to release the results of an audit it conducted in March.

Source: Rappler.com

CAAP Flunks Anew to Regain Category 1


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Source: Recto Mercene of Business Mirror (February 22, 2014)

PHILIPPINES aviation has failed anew to regain the Category 1 status that it lost seven years ago in 2007.

As in past attempts, the technical review team of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) thumbed down the efforts of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) last month.

In its exit briefing, the FAA team left no doubt that the country remains stuck under Category 2, or on the “unsafe status” list, of the FAA.

Under Category 2, major Philippines carriers cannot mount new flights to the United States.

The FAA exit briefing was recorded, and this story is based on five pages of transcript provided by sources at the CAAP.

The sources said the CAAP was keeping the findings under wraps while waiting for the FAA to make its announcement in Washington. It was gathered that an FAA team would come back in March to conduct another review.

“Most of the FAA findings are doable, but nobody in the CAAP is actually doing the actual work to conform with regulations,” CAAP insiders said.

Gregory Michael, head of the flight standards district office and FAA team leader, said the CAAP “has not complied with the Article of the Chicago Convention with regard to Amendment 37 to Annex 6, Part I, issued on March 28, 2013, related to the approach ban provision.”

The findings run under the title Primary Aviation Legislation, which said: “The personnel of the CAAP airmen examination board are not trained to administer and evaluate written theoretical examinations.”

The FAA team included Aviation Safety Inspectors LP Vanstory and Louie Alvarez, Senior Attorney Beverly Sharkey and Senior FAA Representative James Spillane.

Their January 24 exit briefing was attended by three top CAAP officials­—Deputy Director John Andrews; Beda Badiola, head of the Flight Safety Inspectorate Service (FSIS); and Rodante Joya, chief financial officer.

Andrews had vowed to resign if the Category 1 status was not regained by the end of December 2013. “If that [upgrade] does not happen, the buck stops with me. If this does not happen before the end of the year, I will no longer be here. Wait until January, then you can have my neck,” Andrews told the media back then. Andrews is now reportedly on sick leave, but is scheduled to report for work on February 17.

On February 3 Caap Director General William K. Hotchkiss replaced Andrews with Joya but four days later, Joya was replaced by Artemio Orozco, a retired two-star military general who was chief of staff of Hotchkiss, who is currently attending the Singapore Air Show 2014.

According to the transcript, the FAA said: “Records indicate that only one out of nine employees has four initial trainings. There is no evidence of having correct training in almost all of the Caap’s development course. None has completed the formal training policy and programs for operations, and Airworthiness Inspectors are not sufficient on on-the-job training.”

Under the title Technical Guidance, Tools and the Provision of Safety, Critical Information, the FAA remarked that “the CAAP does not contain complete policies, procedures and standards.”

The FAA also said the CAAP oversight system of Aviation Training Organization failed to ensure compliance with the Icao.

CAAP sources said these failures constituted half of the “eight critical elements” that the FAA has been monitoring for “safety oversight” compliance by civil aviation authorities (CAAs) of Icao member-countries and based on a checklist by Icao safety standards.

FAA rules require that the CAAs of Icao members have to hurdle all the eight critical elements under its check list before they can be upgraded to Category 1, or “safe status.”

Philippine Airlines Acquires 15 Planes from Airbus


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Photo Credit: Antonio R. Varela

Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) is acquiring 15 planes this year as part of a massive re-fleeting deal with France’s Airbus S.A.S. that will help bring down operating costs while the airline expands capacity, a company official said last week.

PAL senior vice president for operations Ismael Augusto Gozon told reporters that the airline was expecting the delivery of seven long-range Airbus A330s and eight mid-range A321s before the year ends.

PAL, jointly owned by the group of tycoon Lucio Tan and conglomerate San Miguel Corp., is in the midst of a $9.5-billion refleeting strategy involving 64 mid-range and long-range Airbus planes.

It is likewise keen on expanding its presence in the region through partnerships with other carriers.

Last Friday, Hideaki Izumi, general manager of the domestic office of Japan’s All Nippon Airways, told reporters the company was open to exploring so-called special prorate agreements with Philippine Airlines to tap each other’s domestic markets.

PAL also started new flights to Japan Sunday and it now serves the North Asian economic powerhouse with 11 flights daily.

He added that the airline was also anticipating a United States Category 1 aviation upgrade.

US Federal Aviation Administration inspectors were in the Philippines last week for a validating visit in a development the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines said would finally pave the way for an upgrade after six years.

 

Read more: http://business.inquirer.net/167310/pal-to-acquire-15-planes-from-airbus#ixzz2xWjHs6fO
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CAAP Denies Philippines Flunked FAA Audit


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MANILA – The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) has denied a media report that its US counterpart has given the Philippines a failing grade in the country’s attempt to get clearance to mount more flights.

CAAP deputy director general John Andrews said it’s impossible for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to have done so because when FAA auditors were in the Philippines in the third week of January, they said it would take them 30 days to write a report.

“That is not true or accurate. That is misinformation,” said Andrews.

Andrews said the auditors said they would then submit the report to the FAA, which would take 5 days to study it before passing it on to the state department.

The FAA cut the Philippines from Category 1 to Category 2 in 2008, citing violations of its safety rules.

The cut means the country’s carriers can’t add more flights to the US, stalling the expansion plans of Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines (PAL).

Last year, Europe cleared the Philippines, prompting PAL to launch flights to London, Paris and Rome this year.

Source: Coco Alcuaz, ANC

Philippines Prepares for Audit of Air Safety Standards


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The US Federal Aviation Administration may push through with an audit of the Philippines’ air safety standards this month—an exercise seen as a key step for the country in getting a coveted US aviation upgrade, a government official said Monday.

Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) deputy director general John Andrews said in a text message that the audit would likely happen this month.

“There is a schedule but we will have to confirm the dates,” Andrews said without elaborating.

The exercise did not push through in the fourth quarter last year as anticipated by CAAP, thus delaying the upgrade to Category 1 status.

CAAP had suggested that an upgrade from its current Category 2 status was all but certain.

Nevertheless, the delay meant that local carriers had had to wait longer before being allowed to expand in the United States.

The FAA downgraded the Philippines five years ago due to safety concerns.

Currently, only flag carrier Philippine Airlines mounts flights to the US but Cebu Pacific Air, the country’s largest budget carrier, said it was eyeing expansion there as well.

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“There are no more safety issues as far as we are concerned. This has been confirmed by no less than the EU (European Union) and ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization),” Andrews said in a previous interview.

The Philippines passed the ICAO assessment early last year, which led to the lifting last July of a ban imposed by the European Union. This allowed Philippine Airlines to fly to points in Europe.

As noted, the restoration to Category 1 status  would allow carriers like Philippine Airlines, the only domestic carrier with flights to the United States, to expand flights within that country. It also opens the door for other carriers to fly to the United States.

The FAA move is also seen as beneficial for Philippine Airlines, as it could use newer and more efficient planes to ply its lucrative US routes.

The downgrade to category 2 prevented the flag carrier from doing this.

CAAP Sees Category 1 Upgrade Next Week


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MANILA, Philippines – The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) is confident that the Philippines will finally get an upgrade of its safety rating from the US Federal Aviation Administration (US-FAA) as early as next week which would allow airlines from the country to expand and mount additional flights to the US.

Capt. John Andrews, deputy director general of CAAP, said in a hastily called press conference that a team from the US-FAA is due on Monday for a mini audit and a possible major announcement.

Andrews said the team is composed of US-FAA division manager for Flights Standards Service xxx xxx and area manager for Asia Pacific James Spillane, is scheduled to arrive on Monday and meet with aviation authorities.

“This Monday, John Barbagallo, who is the manager of the flight service department of the US FAA, together with James Spillane who is the area manager of Asia Pacific Rim, are going to CAAP for the possible lifting of the ban of the Category 2 on the Philippine aviation,” Andrews revealed.

The US FAA downgraded the safety rating of CAAP in 2008 to Category 2 from Category 1 upon the recommendation of the United Nation’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Category 2 indicates that the FAA had assessed that the Philippines’ civil aviation authority had failed to comply with ICAO safety standards for the oversight of air carrier operations. While in Category 2, Philippine air carriers are permitted to continue current operations to the US under heightened FAA surveillance.

Barbagallo was the “bearer” of bad news when the Philippines’ aviation safety rating was downgraded five years ago.

“Now this is significant because five years ago when the Philippines was rated or given this Category 2 rating, it was also Barbagallo who headed the contingent that saw that we were deficient in safety aspects,” Andrews said.

He pointed out that several teams from the US-FAA have visited the Philippines over the last four months as part of the evaluation process of the country’s aviation safety standards.

“He is coming back here after several FAA representatives he had sent over for the past several months made reports to him that we are ready for lifting,” the CAAP head added.

Andrews said the Philippines would get the much deserved aviation safety rating upgrade back to Category 1 from the US-FAA within the year, otherwise, he would quit his job.

“We are still maintaining the position that we will be lifted before the end of the year. If that does not happen the buck stops with me. If this does not happen before the end of the year I will no longer be here. That is my commitment,” he stressed.

The CAAP official cited the decision of ICAO late last February to lift the remaining aviation safety concerns, paving the way for the lifting of the ban imposed by the European Union in 2010 wherein airlines from the Philippines were barred from entering European airspace.

“I am confident that there are no more safety issues as far as we are concerned and this has been confirmed by no less than the EU and ICAO,” Andrews added.

Once the Category 2 rating is upgraded to Category 1, Andrews said, national flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) could use more fuel efficient aircraft to replace old aircraft being used to ply certain routes to the US.

He added that the Philippines would likely seek the opening of new routes to the US.

Source: Lawrence Agcaoili, The Philippine Star and Rudy Santos, philstar.com