Open skies or bust?

SPY BITS () - April 14, 2011 - 12:00am

No one will argue that there are a lot of advantages to tourism if we have an “open skies” policy, but the big question is: Are we ready for it? Recently, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) terminal 1 was voted as one of the worst airports in the world by the website “The Guide to Sleeping in Airports”, with travelers describing it in such uncomplimentary terms as worse than a cattle yard. If a big airport like New York’s John F. Kennedy airport has a hard time accommodating big jets (like what happened a couple of days ago when an Air France A380 jumbo jet collided with a much smaller Delta Comair Bombardier CRJ-700), imagine what worse things could happen in our airports? The French airplane was taxiing on the runway for takeoff to Paris when its left wing clipped the Comair aircraft which has just landed from Boston – making the smaller plane look like a toy as it spun by almost 90 degrees.

Although both aircraft sustained some damage, fortunately no one was hurt. The accident however focuses attention once more on the difficulty of airports in handling a new class of giant planes. Just imagine what bedlam and commotion could happen at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport if we open our skies to large aircraft like the Airbus 380 or the new Boeing 747-8. Fortunately (or unfortunately), it might take several decades more before our airports can be upgraded to accommodate new generation planes – but maybe Clark International Airport in Pampanga would be a good candidate. But then again is the transport system to and from Clark ready?

Breezing through Hawaiian Air

While Air France passengers were nearly scared out of their wits due to the collision at JFK, passengers of Hawaiian Airlines will be pleasantly surprised at the redesigned ticket lobbies that can totally make one “breeze through” the check in process. The new self-service stations will do away with lengthy lines and other hassles associated with luggage weigh-ins, tagging and obtaining of boarding passes since a passenger can check himself in for any interisland, mainland or international flight through the use of state-of-the-art technology that completes the entire process in no time at all. Passengers can place checked-in luggage straight into the single conveyor belt for USDA inspection, TSA screening and loading.

And if anyone wants an upgrade or other services, they can settle the fees right there and then especially with the presence of Hawaiian Airline’s customer service agents for further assistance. Definitely, the revolutionary process takes away a lot of the hassles in traveling. We were told that this breezy innovation was a result of two years of study and research on the part of the airline – which hopefully our local airlines can soon replicate for passengers.

Kingdom’s $200-million investment

Despite the turmoil that’s beginning to spread like an epidemic in the Arab world, a lot of Filipinos are heartened to note that relations between the Philippines and Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia continue to be strong. This was evident during the recent visit of Vice President Jejomar Binay to the office of Saudi Prince Alwaleed’s Kingdom Holding Company where VP Binay was warmly received. The discussion centered on investment issues and the strengthening of bilateral economic relations between the two countries.

Prince Alwaleed has solid investments in the Philippines, among them the $200-million project to construct the Raffles Residences in the heart of Makati’s business district. The project, which is a joint venture between Kingdom Hotel Investments and Ayala Land, consists of a 279-room Fairmont Hotel, a 30-suite Raffles Hotel and 236 Raffles branded private residences, with both hotels expected to open by 2012. We were told that some 1,600 workers have been employed for the project, and off-plan residential sales have reached over $75 million to date with some 75 percent of the units already sold.  It can also be recalled that Saudi Arabia also made a generous donation for medical aid to the victims of typhoon Ondoy in 2009.

Smart options

The incessant increase in oil prices is energizing public officials into thinking of “smart” options to alleviate the plight of poor Filipinos, like the bidding out of “Smart cards” (so-called because of an embedded chip containing a microprocessor) to give fuel subsidies to jeepney and tricycle operators. The Department of Agriculture followed suit, drawing up a database of potential beneficiaries from the farming and fishery sector for the government fuel subsidy program. But as usual, a lot of discussion is now being devoted to the implementing rules and regulations, with several sectors also questioning the procurement process and the criteria in determining the beneficiaries.

One other smart option worth looking into is the huge investment made by Smartmatic for research and development centers in Taiwan and Panama worth $60 million over the next five years. According to sources, the company’s expansion plans in the global market are geared towards technological solutions not only in the area of elections but in identity management and “Smart Cities.” The Smart Cities component incorporates security applications for critical-mission projects for governments, such as public safety platforms, public transport systems, emergency management solutions and even census/data gathering programs – essential areas that can help improve people’s quality of life.

 Spy Bits sources said the choice of Panama was due to the country’s geographic advantage especially with its accessibility to both the Atlantic and the Pacific, while the extraordinary boom in Taiwan’s tech industries and the abundance of talented people in the electronics field made it very attractive. But aren’t a lot of workers in Taiwan Filipinos?

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Email: spybits08@yahoo.com



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