Christmas chaos in our airports
EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) - December 25, 2018 - 12:00am

The chaos tells you it’s Christmas time; it’s worse than usual — there are snaking lines, bags and boxes everywhere, a mammoth crowd of passengers and the fetid smell of human sweat pervades the air. The mess begins long before your plane takes off, before you even reach your boarding gate — if you ever make it there at all before it closes.

I was in Terminal 4 just recently, but I heard the situation is even worse at Terminal 3.

While the signature chaos in our airports is nothing new, stories of how bad the situation has become the past days abound.

Will things change soon? Will Filipinos be able to travel without experiencing such chaotic departures and arrivals?

At the rate things are going, we may see the usual mayhem in the airports for many more Christmasseasons. The redevelopment of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) is taking time and tycoon Ramon Ang’s proposal to build a new airport in Bulacan will still be subject to a Swiss challenge next year.

Clark

There’s some hope for Clark, though, after the  North Luzon Airport Consortium (NLAC), a powerhouse team won the 25-year contract to operate and maintain the gateway in the north.

The consortium vows to reinvent the Clark International Airport into a world-class gateway.

I hope it happens. Expectations are high because the consortium includes the Changi Group, operator of the world’s best airport. Everyone who has been to Singapore knows how efficient the Changi Airport is. It’s no wonder it’s touted by Skytrax as the world’s best airport for six years now.

Other members of the consortium are Filinvest Development Corp. (FDC), JG Summit Holdings Inc. (JG Summit), and Philippine Airport Ground Support Solutions Inc.

I asked the Gokongwei Group’s Frederick Go why JG Summit participated in the redevelopment of Clark. Go, beaming with enthusiasm, said the North and Central Luzon areas have huge potential for even more growth.

“We believe in Clark,” Go said, adding that Clark is the next big destination of businesses in the country.

He has reasons to be excited. Indeed, there are a lot of things happening in Clark that is expected to spur economic growth — Dennis Uy’s Clark Global City covers 177 hectares of prime property and is already attracting a lot of businesses — malls, offices and residential projects.

FDC, the lead consortium member has a lot of developments there, too — a new casino and hotels.

Under the plan, the old terminal will be turned over to the consortium in 2019, while construction of the new terminal is expected to be turned over for engineering and interior in 2021.

It really is a powerhouse team with Changi on board and with FDC and JG Summit bringing in their expertise in the local market.

Will Clark become a world-class airport?

I hope so, but I also think it won’t be easy. For one, I think part of the success of Changi in Singapore is that the Changi Airport Group is government held. This means there is seamless coordination with its Customs and Immigration bureaus. That is not the case in the Philippines.

But we’ll see. Congratulations and good luck to the NLAC!

Security concerns

New or not, our airports need to beef up security measures. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has determined that security measures implemented at NAIA are not enough, based on the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

NAIA needs to install standalone audible alarm systems in emergency doors, calibrate walk-through metal detectors and purchase equipment that include X-ray machines and explosive detection systems.

The government has agreed to do this, which is good. After all, as Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose “Babe” Romualdez said, “it’s better safe than sorry.”

Having new airports in the country is part of my Christmas wishlist for the Philippines. I hope it happens soon. Aren’t we tired of all the bedlam?

Someone once told me that Filipinos, like battered women, seem to be addicted to madness that we wouldn’t know how to go on with our lives if the mess ends.

I strongly disagree. While chaos is part of life, I think we’ve had enough of it  and we could all enjoy some positive and lasting changes in this part of the world.

Happy Christmas

So enough of the bedlam please. May we all have a happy Christmas. Even the country’s tycoons say so. Hear them sing to the heavens for this fervent wish in the Christmas video that fellow journalists Dax Lucas, Clarissa Batino, Cecille Yap and I prepared for all of you, Happy Christmas by John Lennon (https://vimeo.com/307607549).

Indeed, the war is over…if we want it. And yes, we don’t really need mayhem to have some intense kiss and make up moments.

Merry Christmas to all of you. Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!

Iris Gonzales’ e-mail address is eyesgonzales@gmail.com

AIRPORTS CHRISTMAS INTERNATIONAL CIVIL AVIATION ORGANIZATION
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