REGIONAL AIRLINE PLAN PUSHED BY PACIFIC LEGISLATURES ASSOCIATION

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By Eileen O. Tabaranza

KOROR, Palau (October 23, 2000 - Palau Horizon/PINA Nius)---The Association of Pacific Island Legislatures has established an Airline Transportation Task Force to renew exploration of the feasibility of establishing a regional airline to serve Micronesia.

Palau Delegate Mario Gulibert, chairman of the association's committee on economic development, said Pacific legislators who recently held meetings here are aggressively pursuing the project.

Pacific legislators officially formed the task force, which is composed of three appointed members of the board of directors, through a resolution that was adopted during their 19th General Assembly.

The association had earlier been investigating the feasibility of establishing a Micronesian regional airline, but that process had lost its momentum.

"It wasn't followed up, (last year's proposal to come up with an alternative airline)," Gulibert noted.

Pacific legislators said it is essential that a more focused approach be taken to investigative air transportation alternatives, as this problem "continues to harm the economies of the people of Micronesia."

The task force is mandated to investigate all means of improving air transportation within the Micronesian region, including the establishment of a regional airline.

According to Gulibert, the investigation would involve a thorough study of the supply and demand for such service; assessment of the needs of each member country or territory for such services; identification of the airline; possible air routes; schedule of negotiations with the airline; and review of proposals by airline companies.

The task force is expected to complete its report before the association's board of directors meeting at the end of the year on Christmas Island, Kiribati.

"Now that the task force has been formed we want to assure the transporting public that we will come up with solid results. Our ultimate goal (is) to have one regional airline sooner or later. It just a matter of time," Gulibert said.

"The move to create a regional airline is not because of the dissatisfaction of the transporting public with the existing airlines’ services, but to provide better services and affordable fares."

Continental Micronesia is the main passenger and cargo airline servicing the Micronesian region.

What Association of Pacific Islands Legislatures members would like to see, according to Gulibert, is an airline that would offer more flights and routes within and outside the region.

Micronesia includes the Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands Nauru, the Northern Mariana Islands and Palau

"The ultimate goal is to reach those remote countries in the region as well as to establish good connections between, from and to the U.S. mainland, Hawai'i, Japan, the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Australia, Papua New Guinea and other neighboring countries," he added.

"APIL would like to see more air transportation services for the people of Micronesia. It is good to have more services because it would benefit the people," said Gulibert.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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