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Taiwan, Philippines to resume air links under new pact.

TAIPEI, Sept. 26 Kyodo

Taiwan and the Philippines on Tuesday signed a new aviation agreement, ending an acrimonious bilateral row that left the two sides without direct air links since last October and soured bilateral ties.

Philippine de facto Ambassador Rodolfo Reyes and Chan Hsien-ching, head of Taiwan's unofficial mission to the Philippines, inked the new agreement in Taipei with aviation officials from both sides witnessing the ceremony, the Civil Aeronautics Authority said in a statement.

The agreement is based on a 1996 air pact that Manila unilaterally scrapped in October last year in a dispute with Taiwan over flights to third countries and passenger quotas.

At the time, Manila accused Taiwan's Eva Air and China Airlines of abusing the pact by flying passengers beyond the Philippines to other destinations, saying it was taking customers away from the debt-ridden Philippine Airlines (PAL).

It also alleged that Taiwan's carriers were using larger aircraft than agreed in the pact, exceeding their passenger quotas.

Under the new pact, Manila explicitly recognizes the right of Taiwan's carriers to take on passengers in the Philippines and fly them to third countries.

At the same time Taiwan has accepted a de facto restriction of seats allocated to its carriers on the profitable Taipei-Manila route to 4,800 per week.

Under the 1996 agreement, Taiwan's carriers were allowed to fly a total of 9,600 passengers to the Philippines per week. Since the pact did not specify quotas for each destination, Taiwan's carriers used their passenger quotas mainly for the Taipei-Manila route, much to the chagrin of PAL.

The new pact allocates another 1,700 seats for flights between Kaohsiung, Taiwan's second largest city, and Manila, while 450 seats are available for smaller destinations such as Subic Bay.

In addition, Taiwan airlines may use 3,100 seats on charter flights to destinations in the Philippines other than Manila.

The volume of air cargo bound for the Philippines has been increased from 270 tons per week to 360 tons.

Following the completion of the new aviation pact, officials for Eva Air and China Airlines said they hope to resume flights as soon as next month. But both airlines said that details have yet to be set.

PAL reportedly aims to resume flights to Taiwan on Oct. 10.

After the severing of direct air links last October, the two Taiwan-based carriers withdrew staff and wound down their Manila-based operations.

Flights temporarily resumed in February but were quickly suspended when bilateral negotiations broke down over flights to third countries.

Recently resumed talks continued to stall over the third-country issue, until Philippine President Joseph Estrada ordered his negotiators Sunday to accept Taiwan's demand for unrestricted third-country rights and sign the pact immediately.

Taiwan media reported that Estrada made his about-face after Taiwan shipping tycoon Chang Yung-fa, head of the Evergreen Group, which owns Eva Air, met with Estrada during a stopover visit Friday.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:Oct 2, 2000
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