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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Eyeing direct flights, Israel seeks new air talks with PHL

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ISRAEL is pitching to revive air talks with the Philippines so there will be direct flights between Manila and Tel Aviv by 2024.

Visiting Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said having direct flights between the two capitals will entice Filipino tourists to come to the Holy Land, and for more Israeli businessmen to invest in the Philippines.

At present, there are no direct flights between Manila and Tel Aviv. Filipinos and Israelis who travel to visit, work or do business to Israel and the Philippines need to take flights via other hubs like Bangkok, Dubai and Istanbul.

“I think one way to boost connectivity is to launch direct flights,” Cohen told a Philippine-Israeli business forum in Makati Monday.

He said the air negotiations between the two countries started before the pandemic.

During his bilateral meeting with Philippine Economic Development Secretary  Arsenio Balisacan, Cohen said he echoed the Israeli government’s desire to have direct flights between two capitals by the year 2024.

“I think it will be a great boost on tourism on one hand and the business group on the other hand,” Cohen said.

Ilan Marciano, deputy director-general of the Israel Ministry of Tourism, said both countries need to convince airlines that it would be profitable to fly direct to Manila and Tel Aviv.

Filipinos can travel to Israel without visas, but because there are no direct flights and tickets are expensive, the number of Filipinos is quite low.

Before the pandemic, in 2019, there were 32,000 Filipinos who traveled to Israel. Many of them are pilgrims.

Marciano, who joined Cohen during his two-day visit in Manila, said he will meet with Philippine tourism officials to find ways to provide incentives to travel agencies giving tour packages to Filipino tourists.

In a separate interview, Balisacan said he will relay the proposal to government agencies that negotiate air agreements with countries like the Department of Transportation, Civil Aeronautics Board and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

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