Waiting again for last-minutes

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva1 (The Philippine Star) - March 2, 2015 - 12:00am

ATLANTA – By this time today, we’re back in Manila through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1, until now still undergoing renovation. Many long-haul travelers will find to their chagrin some basic amenities – like the newly constructed comfort rooms – are not yet fully operational while others that can be used have no running water.

This was the situation when I left Manila last week at NAIA-1. There are many visible and palpable improvements though, including the air-conditioning system back on stream. There is faster processing of passengers – not because of the renovations – but the implementation of the new regulation that requires airlines to include the P550 terminal fee in the airfare collected on behalf of the government. This at least freed up space at the departure area with the removal of terminal fee collection booth.

The legality of this new airport regulation, however, remains challenged before the Pasay City regional trial court. Various groups of overseas Filipino workers contested this new collection system as violating the law exempting OFWs from payment of terminal fee. Senators and several congressmen supported the petitions as valid and legal.

Despite these physical improvements at NAIA-1, there seems to be no sense of urgency to complete the rehabilitation of NAIA-1. Named after the slain father of President Benigno Aquino III, NAIA-1 should have been done with renovations yesterday, euphemistically speaking. The Philippines is hosting the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ summit this November.

As it is, various preparatory meetings of APEC senior ministers have started taking place here since January. The first APEC senior officials meetings (SOM) opened last month in Clark Freeport in Angeles City Pampanga and in Subic Bay Freeport in Olongapo City, Zambales. In mid-March, the next SOM is taking place in Tagaytay City.

So these APEC ministers and their respective delegations have been arriving and mostly passing through NAIA-1 and yet the host country is still amidst cleaning and clearing its airport. The sight and noise of construction activities did not escape their attention, notwithstanding airport courtesies extended to APEC delegates so they won’t be inconvenienced.

Each time I travel abroad, I could not help but pity the poor facilities of our country’s airport. We may have a small airport but this can be more than offset by better-run facilities. The problem is we have small-minded people running our small airport.

As a traveler, I am not impressed by big sized airports. For one, it’s very tiring to go through a long walk, despite walkalators and trains between terminals. The Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta is one huge airport that can tire out travelers by the time they reach immigration after a long walk with bag or luggage in tow.

We were invited by Coca-Cola Philippines to participate in the centennial anniversary of the Coke bottle in its home base here in Atlanta, the capital city of the state of Georgia. Aside being known as the home city of Coca-Cola – the world’s biggest selling soft drink product – Atlanta is also the proud headquarters of CNN, the Cable News Network located a stone’s throw away from the World of Coca-Cola head office.

Coke Bottlers Phl., along with other Coca-Cola bottlers all around the world, are celebrating the centennial of their distinctive bottle which has been keeping Coke ahead of its competition as the biggest selling soda in the US and on the planet. According to Katie Bayne, senior vice president of Coke Global Sparkling Brands, the soft drink is not trapped in its past but is always innovating and improving through the same “secret formula” first concocted 126 years ago by Dr. John Pemberton.

A pharmacist by profession, Pemberton started selling Coca-Cola in soda fountain. Pemberton later sold his company, including the secret formula. Popularity and consumption growing, the soda was eventually packaged by the new owners in portable glass bottles in various shapes and sizes until its present unique and recognizable contour shaped like a woman’s body. But the Coca-Cola bottle was actually inspired by the shape and lines of the cocoa bean which its designers mistakenly thought was the  secret ingredient of Pemberton’s Coke syrup.

Could the Coca-Cola discoverer be related to controversial US Navy officer, Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton who is currently facing charges of murdering a transgender in the Philippines? Just asking.

To date, Bayne reported, Coca-Cola is sold in almost 200 countries around the world. And since Coca-Cola started to be consumed in portable glass bottles in 1915, Bayne cited, as many as 300 billion bottled Cokes have been sold globally.

After the Coke events, we took the opportunity to also visit the CNN headquarters. The tour guide claimed CNN – dubbed as the worldwide leader in news – is watched across the world in over 250 countries and reaching two billion people everyday. Talk about numbers.

We were toured on the first eight floors of the CNN building where it has its news studio and broadcasting facilities. For $15, you will be taken to a 55-minute guided walking tour. Security is very tight for obvious reasons.

We did not see silver-haired Anderson Cooper but were told by our tour guide he holds office at CNN New York. The most identifiable CNN news anchor however was shown in a video snippet as part of the tour in one of his newscasts while in Leyte to cover the aftermath of super typhoon Yolanda in November 2013. Cooper reported “the Filipinos are strong people and resilient amid the calamity surrounding them.”

  In his spiel, Cooper says he is not one of the so-called “parachute” journalists – journalists who fly to a foreign country to cover an event and become instant experts about that country’s affairs. And speaking of foreign journalists, quite a number of them have flown to the Philippines for the APEC summit and started to set up for this international gathering.

The APEC summit would bring to Manila 21 heads of states like US President Barack Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Francois Hollande and their respective delegations. And along with them swarms of foreign journalists, including CNN.  

Less than 16 months of Mr.Aquino’s term of office, his administration has not shaken off the “teka, teka” mentality, or wait until the last minutes to get things done.

President Aquino should start cracking the whip on wimps running our airport before it’s too late.

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