It’s not fun at NAIA!
AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman (The Philippine Star) - May 5, 2014 - 12:00am

Our world famous airport, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport has consistently been included in the list of the top ten worst airports in the world.

When US President Obama’s plane (aka Air Force 1) landed, all flights had to be delayed and passengers were made to wait for almost half a day because we only seem to rely on one runway for all planes taking off – both for local and international destinations. Sanamagan!

So, what will happen when many heads of state come next year for ASEAN 2015? Will the airport be closed for the entire week just to welcome these leaders and another week to send them off? I know that I may be exaggerating but it is a fact that our beloved NAIA is ‘kaput’ – unable to operate or function properly.

Hot as it is during these dry summer months, the problem travelers face upon entering the country is hell. Airport madness – long lines, no ventilation, not enough chairs and limited choices of food and souvenir outlets – it’s not fun at all! Paging Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, what happened to our campaign line: It’s More Fun in the Philippines?

The Mactan Cebu International Airport is better than NAIA. It may be smaller but everything is in order, comfortable and convenient. I waited for almost three hours there and I did not even feel bored, or agitated. I was a happy traveler. But when we arrived at NAIA from Cebu, I felt very sad. There, restrooms were smelly and old, trolleys were dilapidated, no beautiful pictures of the Philippines on the wall except for advertisements and there were no plants and flowers to welcome the visitors. It looked more like a huge warehouse to me.

Guillermo M. Luz of the National Competitiveness Council (NCC) wrote on Airports and Competitiveness. He said that the country’s international airport is not only the gateway to a country but also the first and last impression a visitor could get of the country. It is for this reason that we need to do a full rehabilitation of the international airport, lest, we lose the chance of visitors coming back. Of course I am very much aware of all proposals sent to the President on the rehabilitation of the airport or even constructing a new one but all are still in the negotiating table.

NAIA ranked fifth in the list of the world’s worst airports published in the travel Web site The Guide to Sleeping in airports in April 2011. It was also voted by online readers as “the worst airport in Asia” and “one of the worst airports in the world.” Online voters ranked airports based on comfort, cleanliness, convenience and customer service. This lowly feeling is heightened to the max when we see and experience airports abroad.

Records show that the terminal was built for 6 million passengers following expansion in the 1990s. It exceeded its capacity when it hosted 8 million travelers in 2012 and more in 2013. Recent statistics show that foreign tourist arrivals grew 5.8 percent to 461,363 (in January 2014) from 436,079 (in the same month last year). This year, the Philippines will be playing host to a number of big tourism events. Preparations for the Visit Philippines 2015 are also underway. This means that the airport will need more space and state of the art facilities to make a lasting good impression to visitors.

Recently, Valenzuela City Representative Sherwin T. Gatchalian asked the House of Representatives to immediately conduct an inquiry on the alleged mismanagement of the NAIA. He filed House Resolution 909 to dig into the operations of the airport. The lawmaker pointed out that in 2011 the government allocated P1.16 billion for the improvement of NAIA, particularly Terminal 1. So, what happened to the money? Why don’t we see visible results?

Implementation of NAIA 1’s P2.5 billion rehabilitation plan began in December last year. It is expected to be completed by December 2014. Abangan!

The speed of the airport rehabilitation is crucial. Airport officials must intensify their act. There is too much inconvenience. Travelers do not deserve such airport service.

Just a few weeks ago, P-Noy had to apologize to passengers for the problem in the air-conditioning system at the Terminal 1. The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) said that certain air-handling units had to be shut off to prevent dust and particles from being sucked into the air-conditioning system. A safety net covering the departure hall’s ceiling was also blamed for the poor air circulation. These are all mechanical problems which should have been foreseen in the first place by the management long before the rehabilitation program began.

If the President expects tourist arrivals to increase, then he should know that part of the problem is the decrepit airports we have. I’m pretty sure that tourists are turned off with the whole situation. My golly! What a waste of income opportunities for our airline industry, local destinations, etc.

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Agriculture should be the main livelihood of many people in the provinces. It is the most practical industry because our land is fertile and rich in nutrients. Unfortunately, the industry has been corrupted. Many farmers have turned to other fields of work due to frustration. Their children have left their farms and have gone to the cities to seek for better opportunities. Why did our government allow this to happen? Why didn’t they empower the farmers with all the advantages, benefits and opportunities?

I hope the next president of this Republic will appoint a good Agriculture Secretary who has the knowledge and the ability to make our arid lands profitable for the good of the farmers. We need someone who has the technical knowhow in establishing systems and procedures that will result in abundant production and will prove beneficial to the farmers and the country as a whole. We need someone who has compassion and the heart for farming.

We have the most ideal terrain, soil and climate in this country and yet we do not take advantage of it. Many of our Agriculture secretaries have come to pass but not one of them has achieved the mark of turning this industry into a goldmine for the farmers. Instead they have allowed pests (including the fake NGOs) to continuously control and destroy the industry.

Among the three main sectors of Philippine economy, agriculture is the most neglected in terms of investments and development. There is surely a significant decline in the poor man’s sector. It seems that the government has deliberately ignored the countryside and agricultural development. What’s worst is that it has become a milking cow of our politicians and their pseudo-projects. Susmariosep!

As the Polish proverb says, “If the farmer is poor, then so is the whole country.”


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