P-Noy should kick ass after polls

- Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - April 26, 2013 - 12:00am

I don’t know how P-Noy feels about the attitude of DOTC officials regarding the delayed completion dates of their projects. If I were him, I would be very disappointed that DOTC officials have given up trying to complete major projects before he bows out of office.

But I can understand if P-Noy refrains from telling Sec. Jun Abaya, who is busy with the campaign as LP Sec-Gen, that a completion date beyond his term of office is unacceptable. Maybe that is why P-Noy joked about having a train run over him if he fails to deliver LRT 1 extension to Cavite by December 2015.

I take that announcement of an advanced timetable to a Cavite crowd, the constituency of Sec Jun, as P-Noy’s not too subtle way of telling his DOTC Secretary that he has to do much better. That’s a full year ahead of DOTC’s announced date of Q4 2016 which is six months after P-Noy relinquishes the presidency.

It is really very unfortunate that we don’t have people in DOTC who are more on the go… with more sense of urgency. It is doubly disappointing because the guys Mar Roxas brought in do not belong to the entrenched calcified bureaucracy, but are supposedly hot shots from the private sector.

I am really tired writing about the failures of DOTC to deliver, but it seems everywhere I go I am confronted with the consequences of DOTC’s continuing failure. Take tourism for instance. Industry people tell me that our positive image these days has produced an interest in the country that is nothing less than a boom not seen for a while.

They are confident the targets for tourist arrivals announced by Sec. Mon Jimenez are very doable. I googled a news story that quotes Jimenez saying that tourist arrivals are expected to increase to 5.55 million in 2013, 6.75 million in 2014, 8.126 million in 2015 and 10 million in 2016.

You can even say, one industry source boldly told me, that the target of 10 million tourists by 2016 can be attained this year if we only have the infrastructure to receive them. “By infrastructure we mean not just hotel rooms but airports, roads, sea ports, etc.”

Unfortunately, we have a congestion problem at NAIA that limits flights. Press releases have been issued by DOTC about putting night landing facilities in some domestic airports to relieve NAIA congestion, but not enough has happened quickly enough in the real world to make a difference.

DOTC has found it difficult to get started modernizing airports like Puerto Princesa in Palawan even if the NEDA approval and P-Noy’s go signal had been obtained over a year ago. The Daraga airport in Bicol is in legal limbo after a disgruntled contractor sued. They still don’t know what to do in Bohol.

The new airport in Cagayan de Oro is delayed but will open only on visual flight rules because the navigation system is not ready. LTFRB, also under DOTC, has yet to issue franchises for buses and other transport utilities to serve the new airport. This is horrible planning unacceptable in the private sector.

The tourism industry is basing its very positive outlook on feedback from their partners abroad. The more fun in the Philippines campaign is apparently taking hold. But the industry professionals are worried demand will go away because we are not ready at a time when tourists want to come.

It is a very competitive world out there and the good news at least for Asean is that we are giving the usual stand-outs some competition. The travel professionals are telling me that even Singapore announced a drop in arrivals and they think we are responsible for that.

It also isn’t just government that must invest big if we are to cash in on the increased tourist interest in our country. I am told we need at least 37,000 new hotel rooms by 2016. Some 11,000 are expected to be built by the end of this year. The older major hotels in Metro Manila with the exception of Mandarin Oriental have also done major renovations.

We also need more airline seats into the country. The administration is banking on its open skies policy to get this done,  but I wonder if it would. Hawaiian Airways just cancelled its direct flight to Manila and will fly direct to Beijing instead. The removal of that controversial tax on airline tickets won’t bring the airlines back because of NAIA congestion.

I checked my old notes and I have Sec. Mon Jimenez saying the Philippines must increase its present six million seats to 15 million seats in the next several months to attain the target of 10 million tourists by 2016.

Well… the local airlines are stepping up to the plate. Both PAL and Cebu Pacific have announced significant fleet build-up. The two airlines are investing heavily in new fuel efficient aircrafts  Both airlines are eager to fly to new international cities, but Europe and the US have not yet lifted their safety ban on Philippine registered aircrafts.

In-bound tour operators told me that tourist arrivals from Japan and South Korea could be a lot more if only we had more flights to and from these countries. But our carriers are not being allowed to use their approved additional frequencies because of safety concerns similar to those expressed by the US FAA and European aviation authorities.

Abysmal airport facilities in the provinces hosting important tourist destinations like Aklan also deliver a bad reputation to the country as a fun destination. My SFO-based daughter recently visited Boracay with a Vietnamese-American friend and she told me it was just horrible at Kalibo airport.

It is unbelievable, she related to me, that there was no system to publicly announce flight schedules. There is no working electronic board and the public address system is also not working. So she had to check at the gate every 10 minutes to make sure she won’t miss her flight. This is ridiculously primitive. The Kalibo airport is also overcrowded and filthy. Yet, many international flights go directly to Kalibo.

It is clear the bureaucrats at DOTC are holding back the progress of the tourism industry. Government is supposed to facilitate the conduct of business… not stand in the way. I realize we have tough procurement rules to follow but that doesn’t justify doing nothing at all or fast enough to matter. 

I want to believe Daang Matuwid also means getting the infrastructure done. Of course we can stop corruption by doing nothing but that’s unacceptable.

I hope P-Noy kicks ass after the election so that some of his important projects are completed before he bows out of office. We also need to realize the ambitious goals of our tourism industry because of the job creation potential in the countryside.

P-Noy must also demand fresh ideas from DOTC. Take NAIA for example. They have all but convinced us that NAIA is a goner and Mar Roxas even wanted to sell it to property developers to raise funds to build up Clark. But experts I have talked to think building up NAIA is the more logical and cheaper option.

Indeed, when I mentioned that idea to Ramon Ang last week, he agreed that NAIA is a gem that only needs to be polished. RSA is not taking the nonsense about NAIA’s single runway as a limitation. He also thinks it is possible to build a second runway using available land that still belongs to NAIA.

RSA showed me a Google map with the runways and the terminal buildings. He drew the position for a second runway parallel to the first but will require demolishing the private hangars and possibly some squatters on NAIA property. Even if we have to expropriate some private land, that would still be cheaper than developing an airport from scratch.

P-Noy needs to get competent technical people on top of the DOTC projects and just put the lawyers as a support group. The lawyers must make the job of the technical staff easier and not throw obstacles in getting the work done.

The post election period could make P-Noy a lame duck president if he accepts the failures of his people as something he can do nothing about. It is also so unfair how one dysfunctional department can screw up the work of others who are delivering amidst great odds.

I am impressed with the quality of the bidders for the Mactan airport project. I only hope DOTC doesn’t f—k this up because given the international interest, national honor is also at stake.

Kid stuff

From Marilyn Mana-ay Robles.

Ricky, age 10, was asked: How would you make a marriage work?

Ricky’s answer: tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a dump truck.

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is bchanco@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

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