What an airport mess
INTROSPECTIVE - Tony Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - November 10, 2015 - 9:00am

We truly must be a laughing stock all over the world right now. Last week I wrote about the laglag bala scam in my column and the plot continues to thicken with at least one person being caught with a bullet in the bag every day since then. How ridiculous does it look that everyone in our international airport is walking around toting bags and suitcases wrapped in plastic and tape just to prevent potential bullets from being planted. Looking at videos and photos of the airport these days is just laughable. We’re the subjects of memes the world over and at the end of the day the joke is really on us.

It’s bad enough that we have already dropped in rank when it comes to places tourists want to visit for business or pleasure in Southeast Asia, we are also making ourselves look like fools. Sure we have addressed other issues surrounding the potential reasons for all these airport bullet findings, but the fact remains, we have yet to actually do something about it. Which is honestly a pity because not only are tourists not opting to come to the Philippines, but our very own balikbayans are afraid to do so well and end up passing on chances to be with their families and loved ones this holiday season.

Some people have said that some Filipino passengers bring a bullet with them as anting-anting or a way to ward off misfortune. While that may have been true before, I honestly believe there has been sufficient information spread all over the world (this bullet story has landed us on several major international news portals and channels) to prevent this from happening anymore. People know they can’t bring a bullet with them to the airport, so why are so many bullets still being found on a daily basis? I’ve heard that sometimes catching two or three passengers a day is normal. That should not be the case.

Personally I feel frustrated, , as many do, that it has taken this long and has required this much attention to take care of something that should not be happening in the first place. Yes, we are reading about government officials condemning the situation, but what are they doing about it? According to the news, DOTC Secretary Joseph Abaya has said that they do not have sufficient evidence that a syndicate is behind the scam. On the other hand though, according to the National Bureau of Investigation their probe leads them to strongly believe a syndicate is present.

Reports claim several airport screeners and security personnel are being suspended or restricted from work until a further investigation, and while it’s a step, I can’t help but feel that it should not be this hard to put an end to this craziness. Perhaps it’s necessary to remove everyone connected and start from scratch? I truly feel bad for those who are honestly just trying to do their jobs and are not involved in this ridiculous scam, but we cannot let this go on any longer. It’s affecting the Philippines on a global level and if it does not stop it’s only to get worse and worse.

* * *

I watched with interest as Chinese President Xi Jinping and Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou met and shook hands last Saturday in Singapore, bridging a gap that has been between them for over 60 years in the wake of China’s civil war. While the historical meeting (which was closed to the public for over an hour) is a good first step there is obviously still a lot of work to be done. There is just so much bad blood between the two countries that no one can expect that to change overnight or after just one handshake.

However, I am optimistic. I know that we, as an ASEAN nation, could do better if we truly learned to work together instead of against one another. I know the Philippines has its own problems with China, but as I mentioned in previous columns, I truly believe this can be worked out diplomatically and peacefully if we all do our part. There is just so much to be gained from smooth inter-country relations.

In a previous column I also mentioned that one of the benefits of working together will be the Beijing led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). This welcome institution is set to be operational by year’s end, though it’s looking more like that will happen next year. I believe that this facility will truly help Asian nations be less dependent on the World Bank and on the European Union. At the very least, it will make interest rates far more competitive and fair for everyone. Currently supported by 57 countries, with more to come onboard, AIIB will no doubt help improve the international banking and loaning community.

* * *

On a lighter note, last week my wife Monique and I were treated to a refreshing tour of Century City Mall as they prepared for an exciting and fun-filled Christmas season. We were highly impressed by the wide plethora of stores and dining options, several of which are exclusive to Century City Mall. They’ve put together a beautiful display for the holidays with games and activities for both children and families, something I’m sure everyone is looking forward to this holiday season.

I particularly thought my granddaughter would love the Happy Reindeer Hunt the mall has put together to take place every weekend until Christmas. Children and parents can take part in a weekly riddle surrounding the reindeer decorations and mystery stories. It’s a unique and different take on holiday activities. The mall is also set to open Future Park this December. It will be the country’s first digital interactive playspace, which uses immersive technology and creative media in a wide range of games created to challenge both adults and children alike.

But alongside from the exciting holiday season Century City Mall has planned, I was mostly impressed by how much Century Properties has grown and expanded. The hard work of Ambassador Jose E.B. Antonio is evident in all of their endeavors and his sons have certainly followed in his footsteps.

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