PALAU-PHILIPPINES AIR SERVICE TO EXPAND

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By Bernadette H. Carreon

KOROR, Palau (Palau Horizon, Jan. 24) – Palau has agreed to an expansion of its air service agreement with the Philippines, which will open up flights to Cebu, Philippines and eventually to the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM).

Edward Pagunsan, Undersecretary of the Philippines Department of Transportation and Communications, who led the delegation, said that the Palau panel, which was headed by Trade and Commerce Minister Otoichi Besebes, accepted the expansion proposal.

Pagunsan said since there is an existing aviation agreement between the two governments, the draft of the proposed expansion will be sent through diplomatic channels and can be signed even without the presence of the representatives who attended the exploratory talks.

Under the amendments, flights coming in from the Philippines to Palau will be increased.

Although the amendments have not been finalized yet, Palau also agreed to allow any Philippine –based airline to utilize Koror as a hub en route to Yap or any of the FSM islands.

Pagunsan said the expansion would also increase the number of tourists coming from Davao, Cebu and Manila.

Pagunsan said the Philippine panel also proposed a 5th air freedom which means a Philippine carrier will be allowed to fly beyond Palau.

Asian Spirit, the Philippine carrier flying a Koror-Davao route is interested to add a FSM or Yap flight to the route.

Asian Spirit said that Yap has a lot of tourism potential and Asian Spirit could provide a reasonable air fare and at the same time travel to that part of Micronesia coming from Palau will be faster.

But before Asian Spirit can fly the Palau-FSM route though, a bilateral air service agreement has to be forged first between the Philippines and FSM government.

The Palau-FSM route could also be used to get foreign workers from Asia to the island without having to go through Guam.

Guam requires transit visas to foreign workers from Asia.

At present, Asian Spirit flies three times a week between Koror and Davao City. The airline also announced earlier that it would open a Koror to Cebu City route.

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