Fixing NAIA-1 won’t solve runway congestion
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila (The Philippine Star) - June 25, 2013 - 12:00am

Oh boy! Are we headed in the wrong direction when we talk about the problems pertaining to the old Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) which has earned the unenviable distinction as the “Worst Airport” in the world? But finally there’s that proverbial light at the end of the long dark tunnel, when officials of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) brought back the group of my good friend Kenneth Cobunpue to design the P2.8 billion NAIA, with some reservations that it won’t be finished in time for our hosting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in the year 2015.

But did DOTC executives brainstorm what really is the problem with our premier International Airport… the welcome mat to the Philippines? When the so-called “Fraport Airport” was proposed by Fraport AG, the operator of the fabulous Frankfurt Airport who built NAIA-3, we wrote columns back then warning that NAIA didn’t need another brand new terminal if only they properly refurbished the present NAIA-1, because the problem was the NAIA was old and decrepit and needed to be refurbished.

But instead of putting the money in fixing NAIA-1, DOTC came up with a new NAIA-3, which Fraport AG later called a “disaster investment.” I don’t want to go into the juicy details of how this foreign investment went so badly wrong, it ended up in a decade-long court battle. But regardless of its legal battles, NAIA-3 was taken over by the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Authority (NAIA) and finally had it operational.

So with the NAIA-3 already in use… people are asking why do we still need to plunk in money to fix the old NAIA Terminal? That’s P2.8 billion of money that could have been put in proper use. Allow me to drive home my point that spending P2.8 billion in NAIA-1 (with all due respect to my good friend Kenneth Cobonpue who I’m sure will do justice to that old decrepit terminal) isn’t going to solve one of the major problems plaguing NAIA today… runway congestion!

Anyone who has taken any flight passing through NAIA surely must have experience delays in their flights and all airlines without exception that getdelayed have found it very convenient to  blame runway congestion at the NAIA. If you are in Butuan or Tagbilaran and waiting for your flight and if it is delayed, chances are when you hear the delays of your flight being announced, it is due to runway congestion  at the NAIA.

So let’s ask ourselves…what good is a spanking new airport when you spend hours inside waiting for your plane? This is why if I were running NAIA, I would put top priority to creating a second runway and spending that money for it rather than spending it in putting a nice airport that doesn’t solve the traffic congestion. Lest we have already forgotten NAIA-3 isn’t exactly an old airport terminal. It is the newest that we have.

In another light, what good is having a brand new and modern airport terminal if it is run like hell by Filipinos? Indeed as we wrote about the NAIA the other week, this is a brand new airport terminal that needs a management staff that answers the needs of the people who use them. We should be hiring hoteliers to handle this airport, not DOTC bureaucrats who know nothing about serving the public. Their attitude is appalling!

In my last complaint on June 6 when we were forced to go to the other end of the terminal to use the stairs there because some idiot put plant boxes to block the entrances of the other available stairs which were not being maintained at that time. I dare say that if the same management team were to managed the refurbished NAIA-1, we’d still end up with numerous complaints about the way they manage our airports.

Let me tell you what happened at the Mactan Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA). When President Aquino came into power, the new team under P-Noy removed a very competent General Manager Danilo Francia, who was a retired Air Force General who also took courses at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) and was replaced by the present General Manager Paul Villarete who had no managerial experience (he never managed a sari-sari-store) and whose only claim to fame was that he was the fair-haired boy of then Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña.

Engr. Villarete was the top man doing the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) for Cebu City. His being moved to MCIAA gave us a manager without any management skills and worse for Cebu, three years after P-Noy came into power, we have still no BRT as it is nowhere in sight.

So if the air-conditioning inside MCIAA isn’t working properly, pin the blame to a management team that’s no different from the people managing the NAIA-3. It is for this very reason why I am all for privatizing MCIAA and I hope that the DOTC will soon get this bidding going. It is our only hope to see a better managed airport.

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