Friday, March 11, 2011

Philippine leader vows to open up aviation sector

SINGAPORE — Philippine President Benigno Aquino has vowed to open up his country's aviation sector to foreign competition in a bid to boost tourism, and appealed for greater Singaporean investment.
Speaking to business leaders in Singapore, Aquino said his government was finalising a decree that will allow foreign airlines to fly to major destinations in the country.
The executive order "will liberalise the entry of foreign carriers in a way that will not decimate our local carriers," said Aquino, who was elected nearly a year ago on promises to reform the economy and tackle corruption.
"Under this order, we will allow foreign carriers to fly into key destinations in the Philippines."
The Philippines has lagged behind Southeast Asian neighbours in the race to attract tourists despite boasting white-sand beaches, exotic diving spots and other natural wonders, partly because of poor transport across the archipelago of more than 7,000 islands.
Aquino also said he had given aviation officials one year to resolve issues that led Europe to ban Philippine carriers from flying to the continent and prompted a downgrade by the US Federal Aviation Ad

ministration (FAA).
"We are also addressing technical and regulatory issues that have been allowed to worsen in the previous decade. This led to the banning of Philippine aviation into Europe and the downgrading of Philippine carriers to category 2 under US FAA regulations," said Aquino.
"Once these bottlenecks have been resolved we will embark on an aggressive marketing campaign that will brand and sell the Philippines as a key tourist destination in the outside world."
Philippine carriers were stopped from expanding services to the United States in 2008 and banned from Europe in March 2010 over concerns airline safety was not in line with international standards.
Aquino also urged Singaporean businesses to take part in the Philippines' growth story.
"We invite all of you to be part of our own reconstruction. Your government has already signified its willingness to help a brother nation reach the same heights that you have reached," he said, noting that his country grew 7.3 percent last year.
Aquino is the son of Philippine democracy champion and former president Corazon Aquino. He won the May 2010 elections on a platform to fight corruption, which has plagued the Southeast Asian nation for decades.

Neha Jain

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