ASEAN open skies ­policy will benefit all 10 countries

LANGKAWI - The 10 ASEAN members are on track for the Single Aviation Market (SAM) policy which is set to be completed by this year.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, who also chaired the ASEAN Transport Ministers meeting, said he was optimistic the ­policy would go through despite the Philippines not signing the memorandum of understanding yet.

"We're signing it with the Philip­pines this year. The policy is a step forward and we hope to have harmonised regulations so that the market will see more growth that will bene­fit all the 10 countries under ASEAN.

"Our purpose is to consolidate our strength in ASEAN," he said after delivering his keynote address at the ASEAN Aviation Summit at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition at the Mahsuri International Exhibition Centre yesterday.

Also dubbed the Open Skies ­policy, it is geared towards deve­loping a unified and single aviation market in the region.

Liow said the ASEAN committee had also engaged in dialogues with China, Japan and South Korea, who had pledged to offer their support for the policy.

"We're positive and we need to be a force to be reckoned with. Once we are together, we can then demand for more support from our dialogue partners," he said.

He said the creation of the SAM was a key component of the road map for the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community.

"ASEAN governments have recognised the importance of air transport for economic development and have designated the industry as one of 12 priority areas in the establishment of the AEC. The liberalisation of ASEAN's aviation sector will be a major catalyst for the region's economic growth by 2030," he said.

He added that the Open Skies agreements had helped to maintain domestic traffic in the region.

"This is vital as the main source of growth for the tourism industry as it represents 53 per cent of total international tourists visiting ASEAN countries.

"The policy will be an important component of the overall econo­mic integration of ASEAN, especially given the fact that transport linkages are crucial to knocking down ­barriers to trade," he said.

Liow and Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein also attended the launching of the ­memorandum of agreement between the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) with Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) on the Aviation Safety Management Programme.

UTM's International Business School in collaboration with the DCA has developed two programmes - Advance Training for Helicopter Pilot and Aviation Safety Management (Operation).

DCA director-general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said the collaboration was aimed at tapping into the number of unemployed pilots.

UTM vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Wahid Omar said the course would commence in June with the first intake of 30 pilots.