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Philippine flights given go-ahead

091118_08
Ticket sellers sit idle at Angkor Wat. The Tourism Minister hopes planned direct routes to the Philippines will boost tourism.

Philippine carrier Cebu Pacific Air has been greenlighted to fly direct routes to Cambodia from next year, although officials have yet to determine a specific launch date for the service

We welcome the direct flights ... and hope they start as soon as possible.

Cebu Pacific Air, a Philippines-based airline, plans to begin direct flights between its home country and Cambodia in the spring of 2010, Minister of Tourism Thong Khon said Tuesday.

“Cebu Air is authorised to start flying to our country in March or April next year,” he said, citing a memorandum of understanding signed by Cambodia’s State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) on September 16 to open the airways between the two countries.

The agreement is the fourth Cambodia has made this year allowing direct flights. The SSCA has also inked deals with Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

Under the terms of the agreement, up to seven flights a week originating from Cambodia are authorised to land at Manila, 14 in the Clark Freeport Zone and another 14 for any point in the Philippines outside the two aviation centres.

The Philippines is a major tourism hub in Southeast Asia, Thong Khon said, adding that the deal would draw more tourists directly from the Philippines as well as offer another transfer point for tourists travelling from other locations.

“I hope that tourism from the Philippines will increase further,” he said. “Moreover, with the new flights, we plan not only to attract Filipino tourists, but we also aim to draw tourists from other countries,” he said.

Filipinos do not require a visa to visit Cambodia; nor do Cambodians require a Philippine visa to travel there, Thong Khon said.

Air traffic at the two main Cambodian international airports, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, fell 12.96 percent in the first nine months of 2009 year-on-year, according to Tourism Ministry figures, but the number of tourists arriving from the Philippines bucked the trend. According to ministry’s numbers, 36,608 tourists arrived from the Philippines in the first nine months of 2009, 29.36 percent up from the same period a year earlier.

The Philippines ambassador in Phnom Penh could not be reached for comment, Tuesday.

SSCA Cabinet Chief Long Chheng said the two sides were currently working on ironing out the details of the flights. “I am not sure of the exact date the flights will commence because I have received no confirmation,” he said, adding that an Air Service Agreement (ASA) still must to be signed by both parties.

The SSCA is actively pursuing additional open-skies agreements to boost the tourism sector, Long Chheng said. “We welcome the direct flights from the Philippines and hope they start as soon as possible,” he said. “That will be very good for our tourism sector.”

The SSCA and the CAAP had been working on the agreement since 2007.

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