By Denise A. Valdez

THE Philippine and Moroccan governments started air talks last week and agreed to allow direct flights between the two countries.

The Department of Transportation (DoTr) said in a statement over the weekend the two governments signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for rights to fly directly between the Philippines and Morocco.

The MoU is for full third and fourth freedom traffic rights for both passenger and cargo services, which in aviation means being allowed to operate direct flights coming from either countries but with restrictions.

In a text message to BusinessWorld, Transportation Undersecretary for Aviation Manuel Antonio L. Tamayo said the MoU allows for seven passenger flights a week and unlimited cargo flights between the two countries.

Aside from the MoU signing, the DoTr also started talks on the Air Services Agreement (ASA) between the Philippines and Morocco. Mr. Tamayo said the ASA “will define the aviation relationship and exchange of traffic rights between the two countries.”

The ASA will “result in further increase in tourism figures and people-to-people exchanges between the two countries, and boost economic and social relations,” the DoTr said.

A third country code sharing was also initiated by the two governments, Mr. Tamayo said. Code sharing in aviation means designated airlines will be allowed to sell tickets for flights that will be operated by other carriers. This will allow for more seamless connections to destinations that do not have direct flights from a country.

The ASA with Morocco would be the seventh for the Philippines in the African region. A tourism cooperation agreement is set to be signed between the two countries, and a Philippine embassy is likewise targeted to be opened in Morocco next year.

Earlier, Civil Aeronautics Board Executive Director Carmelo L. Arcilla said there is not much demand from the Philippines for direct flights to Morocco. But the air talks were being conducted with the intention of strengthening the Philippines’ diplomatic relationship with the country.

Aside from Morocco, Mr. Arcilla said the air talks this year with Chile, Timor-Leste and Jordan are for discussions of the same nature: improving bilateral relations.