Philippine airline cancels Taiwan flights amid row

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 May, 2013, 6:20pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 May, 2013, 6:20pm

One of the Philippines’ biggest airlines said on Wednesday it had cancelled the planned launch of a new Taiwan route because of tensions over a Taiwanese fishermen being killed by the Filipino coastguard.

Cebu Pacific had been scheduled to begin flights between Cebu, the Philippines’ second-biggest city, and Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, in July but this week indefinitely suspended the route, an airline spokeswoman said.

“It would be a bit difficult to start it with the current tension ... some passengers (had) already requested refunds or travel changes” spokeswoman Candice Iyog said.

However she said an existing route between Manila and Taipei would be kept.

Coastguard officers shot dead a 65-year-old Taiwanese man on May 9 who they said was aboard a boat fishing illegally in Philippine waters.

Taiwan’s government, which said the incident took place in its exclusive economic zone, reacted with fury, issuing a “red alert” against travelling to the Philippines and imposing economic sanctions.

The zones claimed by the two sides overlap in some areas.

It rejected repeated apologies from the Philippine government, and demanded that criminal charges be brought against those responsible for the killing.

Philippine tourism department spokesman Benito Bengzon said the travel alert had started to have an impact, and a strategy was being put into place to try and make up for the fall from Taiwan by attracting tourists from other markets.

Budget carrier Zest Airlines said last week it had cancelled flights between Taiwan and Kalibo, a gateway to the popular beach resort of Boracay.

Taiwan has also frozen the hiring of overseas Filipino workers, and an invitation for the Philippine national basketball team to play in a regional tournament in Taipei was rescinded.