We all know that the status of a country’s international airport is a major factor in the success of its tourism industry.
Several years ago, every time I walked through any of our international terminals, I would feel depressed looking at its deplorable condition, which is a far cry from how we, in the industry, have pictured our country in the many tourism expos we attend abroad.
This sentiment was exacerbated when the international media ranked our airport among the worst in the world for what seemed like eternity, from 2011 to 2015. It was such an embarrassment for us in the travel industry.
Good thing, in 2016, the airport’s new management, led by the hardworking and no-nonsense general manager Ed Monreal, immediately accomplished improvements in the terminal buildings.
One of the welcome changes I noticed right away was the disappearance of many “eye sores” in the terminals’ interiors. There is now more space for passengers to walk through, unobstructed by unnecessary clutter, and with beautiful pocket gardens along the way. The air-conditioning system has also improved tremendously, especially in the areas of the immigration counters and the baggage claim.
Also, the airport’s new, colorful and imposing logo is a welcome sight. The three-letter code for Manila, assigned by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), was given a fresh and modern look, making it stand tall among the logos of the other airports in the world.
Now comes this very good news that, at last, our Department of Transportation has already scheduled a thorough rehabilitation of our airport to make it really world-class and at par with the modern airports of the world.
The project will be undertaken by Megawide Construction Corporation, a leading and innovative infrastructure and engineering company in the country. Its flagship infrastructure projects include the beautiful Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA), the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX), and the Clark International Airport’s new Passenger Terminal Building.
I’m very excited about this latest development because, every time I am in Cebu, I always marvel at the very modern design and impressive interiors of MCIA. I know that the rehabilitated NAIA will finally be a source of pride for the Filipinos, especially for us in the industry. I can hardly wait to see the new design.
Of course, as expected, there are always brick-brats and intrigues that come with any project the government initiates. I already heard rumors casting doubt on Megawide’s financial capability, claiming that its equity falls short of the minimum required by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) for the project. But this was readily refuted by the Build Operate Transfer (BOT) Law which requires the project’s proponent to have the capability to finance the various phases only when they are due, and not for the proponent to straight away fork out 30 percent of the project’s total cost.
There is also a wild rumor that, when Megawide takes over the airport, NAIA’s current employees will lose their jobs. Naturally, anybody who hears this would definitely be alarmed because NAIA has approximately 2,000 organic employees and around 10,000 job order personnel.
Megawide chairman and chief executive Edgar Saavedra was quick to explain that, when they took over the reins of MCIA, they made job offers to 100 percent of its employees because they saw “the value of their talent and inherent knowledge of the airport.” They will do the same for the NAIA personnel. Those who accept will enjoy the same benefits, or even more than what they are currently receiving.
And, as part of their commitment to deliver a world-class airport facility to our tourism industry, Megawide will form an Operational Readiness and Airport Transfer Team (ORAT) which will run a state-of-the-art airport training facility not just for the professional development of NAIA’s organic employees but also for that of its contractual personnel. This capability to continuously upskill the airport’s workforce excites me because this is how a first-world airport should operate.
These merry developments certainly bring smiles to those of us in the tourism industry because we have been hankering for a world-class facility to match the image of our country which we continue to pride ourselves on at big tourism expos we attend abroad. Finally, our marketing efforts will soon be crowned by a modern airport which, I’m sure, will be reflective of Filipino culture, aspirations and ambitions.
YOUR WEEKEND CHUCKLE:
Q: Why can’t the nose grow 12 inches long?
A: Because, then, it would be a foot.
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