EAGA open-air pact now covers GenSan, Puerto Princesa

MEDCo announced this as a push in improving air connectivity within the sub-regional grouping.

The two cities' airports are among six in the BIMP EAGA areas added to the list granted the Fifth Freedom Traffic Rights (FFTR), a privilege to airlines to bring cargo and passengers from one country to another other than its home country.

An example of this arrangement is the scheme used by Singaporean carrier Silk Air in its Singapore-Davao-Cebu route, as well as the Asian Spirit Manila-Davao-Palau flights, said Romeo Montenegro, MEDCo's information chief.

MEDCo said the EAGA Transport, Infrastructure and ICT Development Cluster, in its meeting in Puerto Princesa recently, agreed to grant FFTR for carriers to bring passengers and cargo in the two cities' airports.

Cluster officials also granted rights for the airports in Manado and Tarakan in Indonesia, and the states of Labuan and Miri in Malaysia.

The existing airports under the open air pact are in Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei Darussalam, Balikpapan and Pontianak in Indonesia, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching in Malaysia, as well as Davao and Zamboanga cities in the Philippines.

The said airports are now awaiting flights from interested airlines.

The MEDCo press release quoted Bruneian Ang Kian Guan, concurrent chair of the BIMP-EAGA TIICTD Cluster, that the inclusion is one of the breakthroughs of their recent meeting.

Guan said it will boost travel and trade in the sub-region by allowing more airlines to operate in the four-nation economic grouping's focus areas.

BIMP-EAGA ministers agreed to expand air linkages in the sub-region during the group's summit in Cebu in January.

Among those targeted for implementation are the Bandar Seri Begawan-Kota Kinabalu-Davao City, Bandar Seri Begawan-Kuching-Pontianak, Bandar Seri Begawan-Kota Kinabalu and Bandar Seri Begawan-Kuching air routes.

The ministers agreed for multiple airline designation, no limitation on frequency, capacity and aircraft type, co-terminalization and code-sharing schemes in the memorandum of understanding, MEDCo said.

The press statement noted that most designated airports in the BIMP-EAGA air services are compliant with International Civil Aviation Organization's safety and security standards.

But MEDCo recognized the difficulty in attracting major airlines to operate in the sub-region due to the high cost of operations and low load factor. Instead, they have agreed to lure low cost and small airline operators.

The cluster decided to organize a BIMP-EAGA Airlines' Forum back-to-back with the 2nd BIMP-EAGA Transport Ministers Meeting in July to invite smaller regional airlines.

With the expansion of air links in the sub-region, governments of the sub-region grouping eyed to promote and enhance intra-regional trade, tourism and investment cooperation among the focus areas.

The BIMP-EAGA, created in 1994, includes Brunei Darussalam (whole area), Indonesia (the provinces of North Sulawesi, East Kalimantan, West Kalimantan, Maluku, Irian Jaya, South and Central Kalimantan, Southeast and Central Sulawesi, Southeast and South Sulawesi), Malaysia (Sabah, Sarawak, and Labuan), and the Philippines (Mindanao and Palawan).