The Philippines and New Zealand successfully conclude air talks in Wellington
Another significant milestone in Philippines-New Zealand cooperation was achieved when their respective Air Consultation Panels successfully concluded their talks in Wellington on 5-6 March 2014 focusing on amendments to the Air Services Agreement. Both countries agreed to increase the frequency of flights to 21 from 3 flights per week, improve the 5th freedom exchange to enable Philippine carriers to operate 5th freedom flights to Australia and New Zealand carriers to operate 5th freedom to China and allow third country code sharing for the carriers of the Philippines and New Zealand. According to Civil Aviation Board Executive Director Carmelo Arcilla, fifth freedom rights refer to the granting of rights for an airline to fly passengers to third countries provided the flights come from or end at the carrier’s own country pursuant to the countries’ bilateral Air Services Agreement. “Although there are no immediate plans for any carrier to operate direct flights between the Philippines and New Zealand, given the small size of the current market, the enhanced fifth freedom can provide better opportunities for carriers to support start- up operations,” Executive Director Arcilla said. He also pointed out that the third country code sharing will allow the airlines from the Philippines and New Zealand to have indirect but more seamless services between the two countries through cooperative agreements with third country airlines which can help develop the market. The Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Undersecretary of Transport and Communications Jose Perpetuo M. Lotilla from the Philippines and Principal Adviser of the Ministry of Transport Sonya van de Geer from New Zealand on 6 March 2014 at the Ministry of Transport in Wellington.
The Philippines delegation was led by Undersecretary of Transport and Communications Jose Perpetuo M. Lotilla with Philippine Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez, Executive Director of the Civil Aeronautics Board Carmelo Arcilla and officials from the Department of Tourism, Department of Foreign Affairs and Civil Aviation Board as members and representatives from Philippine Airlines as observers. The New Zealand delegation was headed by Principal Adviser of the Ministry of Transport Sonya van de Geer with officials from the Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade as members and representatives from Air New Zealand, New Zealand Airports Association and Tourism Industry Association of New Zealand as observers.
In their opening remarks, the leaders of the Philippines and New Zealand delegations highlighted the importance of the bilateral air consultation talks within the Air Services Agreement and the airlines’ enhanced arrangements given the open skies and aviation policies of both countries as the key enablers to greater trade, investment, tourism, education, economic and people-to-people linkages.
During the dinner hosted by Ambassador Benavidez in honour of the Philippines and New Zealand delegations on 5 March 2014 at “Ang Bahay” (Philippine Ambassador’s residence), she warmly welcomed and thanked them for a “turning pont” in Philippines-New Zealand air and people connectivity. As partners in the bilateral and regional arenas and given the priorities being accorded to greater engagements with each other and the ASEAN region as well as the growing Filipino community and visitors exchange between the two countries, the Philippines and New Zealand are “seeing great possibilities and making things happen” in the air services sector and are well poised to open more doors and reach new heights in their bilateral and regional relationships. “This is another impetus towards our economic diplomacy priorities and partnership with New Zealand as well as enhancing movement of people with the growing 40, 350 Filipino community population across the North and South Islands here,” Ambassador Benavidez stated.
The air talks with New Zealand is the third for the Philippines this year following similar talks in Singapore in February and France in January. In 2013, the Philippines signed new air services agreements with Japan, Macau, Brazil, Australia, Israel and Italy.