MANILA — The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) announced on Sunday the signing by the Philippine government of an agreement which allows Filipinos to enjoy better access and broader flight options in travelling to other ASEAN cities.

“President Benigno Aquino III signed Protocols 5 and 6 of the ASEAN Multilateral Agreement in Air Services (MAAS) last February 3,” the DOTC said in a statement.

Under Protocols 5 and 6, Philippine air carriers will be allowed to fly unlimited frequencies to and beyond the capital cities of other ASEAN nations, which will lead to better connectivity and more competitive fares and services.

The ratification of Protocols 5 and 6 provides unlimited access to any point within the ASEAN area, more competitive and better airline services and lower fares and broader options for passengers.

It highlights the Philippines’ commitment to the realization of the Single Aviation Market, and in creating a unified ASEAN Economic Community with an efficient and fully-integrated transport network.

Moreover, it presents an opportunity for growth of the aviation sector, which will compete directly with other ASEAN carriers.

It will encourage service upgrades among airlines, which have thus far proved to be competitive players in the ASEAN and other regional markets.

DOTC said that the MAAS is part of the ASEAN’s Roadmap for Integration of Air Transportation Services, which lays down the foundation for the envisioned ASEAN Single Aviation Market.

More opportunities

DOTC Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya lauded this development, saying that the agreement will enhance regional trade and investment opportunities for Philippine businesses that are looking to expand their markets.

He further said that it will also provide better access to Filipino individuals, such as professionals and students, who wish to explore job and educational opportunities in the ASEAN region.

“We expect it to benefit our local tourism and service industries, as the agreement allows foreign airlines to increase their flights to Manila and other cities as well,” Abaya said.

“Just as it will encourage more visitors to come to the country, Filipinos will also enjoy a wider array of flight options and ticket prices to the rest of the ASEAN,” he added.

Under the agreement, DOTC and the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) will now assist Philippine air carriers in securing additional flight schedules with each of the nine other member States of the ASEAN.

DOTC said that the government expects to have new flights operational within the next six month as it continues to modernize the country’s airport infrastructure to meet the expected impact of greater tourist and economic air connectivity.

Aside from the Philippines, the other members of ASEAN are Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Azer Parrocha/PNA/