Asean has taken key steps to integrate its skies and ease cross-border bus transport, giving residents more travel options within the region and industry players more opportunities to benefit from the growth in the demand for air travel.
At the close of the 23rd Asean Transport Ministers Meeting in Singapore yesterday, member states inked five initiatives and adopted six, reaffirming the bloc's commitment towards enhancing transport cooperation not just within the region, but also with partners, including China.
The annual meetings seek to deepen intra-regional collaboration, expanding agreements and greenlighting new initiatives.
Singapore's Ministry of Transport (MOT) said the deals inked this time include the adoption of the Asean Air Traffic Management Master Plan to facilitate and manage aircraft movement across the region in a more integrated manner.
When fully realised, this should enhance airspace capacity and safety, reduce flight delays and lower operational costs for airlines, the ministry said in a statement.
Ministers also signed two agreements to liberalise air services in the region.
The first is to allow domestic code-share rights between points within the territory of any Asean member state. This means a Singapore carrier can partner an Indonesian airline to offer Singapore travellers a single booking for a Singapore-Jakarta flight and, from there, to another Indonesian destination operated by the Indonesian carrier.
Currently, code-share services are limited to international flights such as Singapore-Jakarta ones.
Liberalisation means Asean airlines may expand their international networks without deploying their own aircraft, the statement said.
For travellers, it will mean more flight options and convenient transfers from one airline to another.
Such enhanced cooperation will enable the greater movement of people and goods, benefiting Asean economies and businesses, and expanding tourism, MOT added.
The second agreement seeks to progressively reduce restrictions on trade in air transport ancillary services within Asean. This includes easing ownership restrictions for a company from one Asean state to set up a firm in another member country to offer ground-handling services at airports, for instance.
In the area of manpower development, Asean states agreed to mutually recognise licensing requirements for flight crew, including pilots. Licences can be validated or converted with greater ease,so that flight crew may more easily join another Asean carrier.
Outside the region, Asean and China inked a memorandum of understanding to boost cooperation among the authorities that oversee aircraft accident investigations. This would pave the way for the sharing of investigation facilities, equipment and expertise.
To facilitate land transfers, the Asean Framework Agreement on the Facilitation of Cross Border Transport of Passengers by Road Vehicles was inked to make it easier for buses to move between borders.
This will increase convenience for commuters and create more commercial and investment opportunities for transport and other firms, MOT said.
Speaking at the closing ceremony of the 23rd Asean Transport Ministers Meeting, Mr Khaw Boon Wan, Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport, said closer cooperation between member states "will make a real difference to raising the quality of life for our people, creating good-paying jobs and contributing to peace and stability in the region".
The next meeting will be held in Thailand next year.