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Why fear of regulatory capture by ‘dominant airline’ unwarranted

opinion / Latest Opinion
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Why fear of regulatory capture by ‘dominant airline’ unwarranted

02:35 AM September 07, 2016

Please allow me to respond to former tourism secretary Bertie Lim’s rejoinder which Rina Jimenez David cited in her column “Du30’s war against women—and all of us” (8/19/16).

Lim avoided my main point which is to include representatives of our local airlines as members of the Philippines’ air negotiating and consultation panels. Instead he focused on the mandate of the Civil Aeronautics Board and on the government’s air policy.

The key tone of his message, however, is about a “dominant airline” capturing the regulator and monopolizing the industry, supposedly to the detriment of the consumer.

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His fears have no basis. For one, the air negotiating panel is made up of the Department of Foreign Affairs as chair, and the secretaries of the Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Transportation, Department of Tourism, and the executive director of the CAB as members. Even if airline representatives are included in the panel, they have no way of dictating on the members and pushing a course of action as they are outnumbered and could be easily voted down.

Besides, the composition of the panel—DFA, DTI, DOT, DOT, CAB—adequately represents and covers the other important sectors in aviation, from the travelling public to exporters and importers and tourists. So what is Lim afraid of? All the sectors he mentioned are represented and protected in the panel.

What is obviously missing in the panel is the airline industry. As the biggest investor in aviation, the airlines have a huge stake in any negotiation. What the airlines are just asking is equal opportunity and fairness. We just can’t give entitlements to foreign airlines; doing so would jeopardize the competitive position and viability of our local airlines. And who else is in a position to know the competition and the international market better than the airlines themselves?

Also, Lim need not fear monopoly in the industry because all the local airlines would have equal representation, so what is he alluding to?

Lim refuses to accept the fact that airlines are represented in the air negotiating panels of other countries (e.g., the United States and the Middle Eastern countries). US and Mideast aviation authorities are protecting their airlines; here in the Philippines, a local lobby group, the Freedom to Fly Coalition (FFC), is promoting foreign airline interests instead.

I will always understand Lim’s position on any issue pertaining to the airline industry, and where his loyalty lies. He was vice chair of FFC, which had been unmasked in the Senate in 2003 as a lobbyist for foreign airline interests. In the hearing, FFC admitted having received foreign funding to lobby for non-reciprocal open skies policy and foreign airline interests, and for having worked with the lobby entity Agile (Accelerated Growth, Investment and Liberalization with Equity).

If Lim is not on the side of Philippine carriers, who is he with?

—ROBERT LIM JOSEPH, president, Network of Independent Travel & Allied Services Philippines Inc.

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TAGS: airline industry, Alberto Lim, Civil Aeronautics Board, Freedom to Fly Coalition
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