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ASEAN connectivity reaches new heights

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JAKARTA, Nov. 12 (Xinhua) -- ASEAN connectivity has reached new heights with more flexibility being granted to ASEAN's designated airlines, a statement released by ASEAN secretariat said here on Friday.

Designated airlines of an ASEAN Member State can soon fly and carry traffic from their respective capitals and any city with international airport in its territory to its counterpart in the other Member States, while ensuring the full third, fourth and fifth freedom traffic rights.

Where the third freedom traffic rights allow an airline to fly and carry traffic from one's own country to another; the fourth gives the reverse; the fifth rights, meanwhile, enable an airline to fly and carry traffic between two foreign countries within ASEAN during flights while the flight originates or ends in one's own country.

This recent liberalization in ASEAN air transportation is a result of the signing of the "ASEAN Multilateral Agreement on the Full Liberalization of Passenger Air Services" and its two Protocols by ASEAN's Transport Ministers. The Ministers were attending their 16th Ministerial Meeting in Brunei Darussalam.

The Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for ASEAN Economic Community, S. Pushpanathan, lauded the Agreement, saying that it will "significantly enhance its air transport competitiveness especially in facilitating air travel among ASEAN cities that ultimately support the tourism industry in the region and enhance the connectivity within ASEAN."

The ASEAN Transport Ministers also approved the "Brunei Action Plan - ASEAN Strategic Transport Cooperation Plan 2011-2015" which will guide ASEAN transport cooperation and integration over the next five years. The Action Plan identifies strategic actions to be implemented over the prescribed period to support the realisation of the ASEAN Economic Community by 2015 as well as the new priority of enhancing regional connectivity identified in the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity.

DSG Nathan, on the BAP, said, that it is "a comprehensive document covering all sectors in transport cooperation that would complement the implementation of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity."

To prepare the region for entering into similar air services arrangements with external parties, the Ministers also agreed on the "Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on ASEAN's Air Services Engagement with Dialogue Partners". The MOU recognises the integrity, solidarity and integration of ASEAN as priority in the implementation of such agreements between ASEAN and its Dialogue Partners.

Not only have ASEAN Member States expanded its skies to each other, they have also given more space to one of its Dialogue Partners, China. The Member States agreed to allow ASEAN designated airlines to fly and carry traffic from any city with an international airport in its territory, to its counterpart in China -- and vice versa -- with full third and fourth freedom traffic rights.

The "ASEAN-China Air Transport Agreement" is the first agreement on open skies between ASEAN and its Dialogue Partner, allowing easier access to East Asia. It was signed at the 9th ASEAN and China Transport Ministers Meeting that followed the ASEAN Transport Ministers' Meeting.

"This Agreement with China is the first agreement that would further improve extra-ASEAN connectivity with our partner, China," said DSG Nathan. He added that it would contribute to the establishment of ASEAN-China Free Trade Area and increase flow tourist traffic between ASEAN and China as well as enhance trade.

ASEAN and China also signed a second agreement, an MOU on ASEAN- China Maritime Consultation Mechanism, at their Meeting. Through this MOU, ASEAN-China would strengthen ASEAN-China friendly relationship and cooperation in the maritime sector, covering the areas of port state control, marine environmental protection against pollution, maritime transport security, aids to navigation, seafarers training and certification, and marine casualties and marine incident investigation, through among others, sharing experience and capacity building.

In conjunction with the 16th ASEAN Transport Ministers' Meeting and the 9th ASEAN and China Transport Ministers Meeting, the 8th ASEAN and Japan Transport Ministers Meeting and the 2nd ASEAN and Republic of Korea Transport Ministers Meeting were also held.

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