MANILA, Philippines—Saying the interest of the greater riding public would be his top priority, President Benigno Aquino III Wednesday warned Philippine Airlines that the government would be forced to allot its flight schedules to other domestic and even foreign airlines in case a strike occurs in the flag carrier.
The President told a news conference his government has been studying the possibility of implementing an open skies policy or a “partial open sky policy” as the dispute between the airlines’ management and labor groups took a turn for the worse.
Government-mediated talks between management and the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines (FASAP) collapsed the other day and there was a possibility that other unions of the flag carrier, which have similar disputes with management, would participate in a strike vote.
At his second news conference since assuming the presidency, Mr. Aquino appealed anew to PAL management and labor unions to resolve their differences, reminding them that the airline was “imbued with national interest.”
President Aquino said he recognized that both sides had issues but stressed that he has to “side with the riding community.”
He said the Palace was studying the implementation of a partial open skies policy which was done during the late ’90s when PAL was also hit by a labor strike. The President said the Departments of Transportation and Communications as well as Tourism has been holding “preliminary talks” with other airlines that could “take up the slot” of PAL.
Asked whether that means the government would adopt an open-skies policy in case of a disruption of PAL services, President Aquino said: “Let me put it this way, they will hasten the opening of our skies if they proceed to disrupt a very necessary service to the country.”
An open-skies policy, favored by tourism industry officials, would deregulate air traffic and allow more airlines to service the Manila route. At present, government air traffic regulators grant service and landing rigths only to those airlines whose governments also allow Philippine flag-carriers to service their countries.
Christine Avendano, Philippine Daily Inquirer