Exporters to Use JPEPA to Lobby for Direct Davao-Tokyo Flights

Dec. 23, 2006

Davaos exporters complain of longer travel time for their goods to reach Japanese cities. According to them, this problem has affected the competitiveness of Davao exports. Germelina A. Lacorte reports.

DAVAO CITY — Exporters from this city plan to make full use of the Japan-Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) that President Arroyo signed with Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi in September this year to push for the opening of direct flights from Davao to Tokyo.

Ann Pamintuan, president of the Philippine Exporters Confederation (Philexport) in Davao, said exporters have recently been holding a series of talks among themselves and the Department of Transportation and Communication to push for the Davao-Tokyo flight that would facilitate the exports of goods from this city to Japan.

Tuna exporters have raised the issue before a meeting with Trade and Industry Undersecretary Thomas Aquino in Davao on Thursday, where they complained about the longer travel time it takes for them to transport highly perishable goods because they had to through Manila. The problem, they said, has been reducing the competitiveness of highly perishable Philippine exports, like tuna, in the market.

“Direct Davao to Tokyo flight only takes about four hours,” said one exporter, “but because there is no direct flight from here, we have to course our products through Manila, extending to 10 hours the travel time to Japan. This and additional local fees within the Davao Fishport has been reducing our cost competitiveness in the market.”

Aquino said it might be the right time to push for the opening of such direct flights to Japan now that the Senate is deliberating the ratification of JPEPA. “JPEPA will open up all sorts of possibilities in our relationship with Japan,” Aquino told exporters. “We should make full use of that arrangement.”

JPEPA, which Arroyo had passed for Senate ratification in November this year, will reportedly open at zero tariff the Japanese market to local exporters. Environmentalists earlier criticized this agreement, saying it would make the country a dumping ground for toxic wastes from Japan.

But Davao tuna exporters who have been marketing their goods to Osaka, Tokyo and Nagoya said direct flights from Davao are what they need most to boost their competitiveness in the market.

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