Home » Maritime » RP carriers: SEAIR-Tiger deal may violate cabotage law

THE partnership between South East Asian Airlines (SEAIR) and Tiger Airways should be scrutinized to guarantee it does not skirt the country’s Cabotage Law, according to a number of Philippine carriers.

Cabotage refers to the transport of goods or passengers between two points in the same country by a vessel or an aircraft registered in another country.

Philippine Airlines (PAL), AirPhil Express, Zest Air and Cebu Pacific are seeking a cease-and-desist order from the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) against SEAIR and Tiger involving services between Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) in Clark and Singapore.

Under the partnership, SEAIR took over Tiger’s Clark-Singapore service starting December 16 using two A320 aircraft dry-leased from Tiger. Additional routes operated by SEAIR using the new aircraft will be added to the program over the ensuing months.

Tiger said it will gain a cost advantage from basing aircraft and crew in Clark and enabling the Singaporean carrier to gain a foothold in the Philippines’ fast-growing travel market.

“We frankly do not see how Tiger can gain foothold in the Philippine market by suspending its regular Singapore-Clark flights and ceding the route to SEAIR,” PAL senior assistant vice president for external affairs Ma. Socorro Gonzaga said in a letter to Transport Undersecretary Glicerio Sicat.

“It is becoming apparent that Tiger has direct stake and participation in the success of the new venture. It is becoming increasingly obvious that Tiger’s intention is to establish an actual operating base in Clark,” Gonzaga added.

“It is our sincere belief that the Philippines has legitimate interest in preventing an operation that undermines its own laws and regulations and would pave the way for a hollowing out of the Philippine aviation industry through the exploitation of flags of convenience.”

In a consolidated opposition filed by Air Philippines counsel John Voltaire Almeda, PAL lawyers Ma. Clara de Castro and Enrique Antonio Esquivel, Zest Airways Senior Vice President-Commercial and External Affairs Butch Rodriguez, and Cebu Pacific counsel Air Paterno Mantaring Jr, they claimed the airline partnership constitutes a violation of restriction in the CAB Resolution 51 (2008).

In a letter to CAB executive director Atty. Carmelo Arcilla, they said, “SEAIR shall not allow Tiger access to traffic rights not otherwise available to Tiger or otherwise be used as a means to circumvent existing law against Cabotage access by Tiger.”

They added the agreement may not be limited to dry leasing but constitutes circumvention of existing applicable laws.

They asked for a full investigation to check if the agreement complies with the terms of CAB Resolution 51.

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