25 January 2011
Mr. Jose Angel A. Honrado
Manila International Airport Authority
Dear Mr. Honrado:
We are staunch advocates of local tourism. We strongly believe that responsible ecotourism is a good driver of sustainable economic development. If there is anything we Filipinos can be proud of, it is the unparalleled physical beauty of our country, and the inner beauty of our people.
But those of us who travel extensively domestically and internationally know how cumbersome, inefficient and opportunistic our traveling systems are, particularly our airports and seaports.
Take the case of the gateways of the country: our airports. There has been a marked improvement in the physical facilities of our airports, for which we congratulate those responsible for it. However, there is so much that needs to be done to further upgrade our services and make it truly world-class. We respectfully invite your attention to the tedious process of checking in and of departing from all our airports — the first and last stop of all local and international travelers.
To recall, the objective of a good airport is to make travel procedures as seamless and efficient as possible. Our airports have become perfect examples of bureaucracy, inefficiency, and what airport systems should NOT be. Indeed, it is also an example of the “checkpoint mentality” of our government.
1. There are security guards who pretend to conduct a cursory check on the entering cars. They wave their flashlights in the direction of the glove compartment and pretend to look inside the trunk. In reality, what they achieve is to waste the time of the passenger and create a garrison mentality.
2. In the entry doors of the airport, there is another guard who checks the ticket and ID. At this point begins unnecessary waiting lines.
3. There is an X-ray at the main door. While there are often a number of x-ray machines, there is only one or two open, thus creating another extended queue, and another delay.
Thursday, January 13, 2011, PAL Centennial Airport
4. At the NAIA-3, yet another guard checks the ticket and ID before the check-in counter.
5. Check-in counter
6. After checking in, we proceed to another line. We line up to pay an exorbitant amount of two hundred pesos (PhP 200.00) as the “terminal fee.” In all our travels around the world, only the Philippine airports collect a terminal fee. If we are so impoverished and must collect this terminal fee, can we not incorporate it in the price of the ticket? This would considerably ease the flow and movement of passengers at our airports. Institutions, such as airline companies and the NAIA administration office, are better placed to do the collection and remittances of large amounts of funds.
But that is not all. After paying this senseless terminal fee, we proceed to line up again for the utter futility discussed in no. 7.
7. A few meters after the booth where we pay the terminal fee, there is another stop where another officer called the Inspector Verifier will cut off the stub from the receipt of the terminal fee. This is especially true in NAIA-3 and in the Mactan-Cebu International Airport.
8. Then, after this, there is another X-ray machine. In almost all of the most airports in the world, this is the only X-ray machine that checks the hand-carried baggage. Even in the very security-conscious United States, there is only one X-ray check, and that is right before the pre-departure area.
9. Then the final check right before boarding.
This can actually be reduced to only three stages: check-in, X-ray and body check prior to entering the pre-departure area, and then at the final boarding. This is the standard used by most airports.
The process for international travel from the NAIA and PAL Centennial Airport is even worse because of the additional “checkpoints”:
1. Checking of boarding pass before entry into immigration area
2. Payment of an exorbitant terminal fee of PhP 750.00, or something like $13.45, as if people walk around with that exact change in their pockets. Worse, one cannot even pay with a credit card.
4. Checking of boarding passes before being allowed to enter the pre-departure gate
5. Another check of baggage before boarding
In the international arrival area, despite the fact that we have nothing to declare, we are made to fill up a form. This is checked by the customs officer. A few meters after the customs officer, there is another person who takes some part of the stub. Also, we are the only airport that still checks on the bag tags by more security guards at the exit door.
Most of these are not only cumbersome and downright stupid procedures, but they also create an impression that we are just putting hoops to make it difficult for tourists. We also create meaningless jobs for unemployed protégés of politicians or bureaucrats who have nothing better to do. This is a waste of people’s hard-earned money.
We respectfully request that your good office take the initiative to review this process and streamline it with the end in view. These cumbersome and repetitious processes have not made our airport and air travel any more secure. As a matter of fact, notwithstanding all these, our airports have been downgraded for its lack of security. It is not the processes that needs strengthening, rather the management of our civil aviation systems. In the news recently was a disturbing piece of information: there was damage in some aviation equipment, and the replacement part had to be ‘cannibalized’ / removed from existing damaged aviation equipment.
One must ask: where is all the money collected from the terminal fees going? Is it paying the security guards and personnel who have been placed in our airports to make our lives and travel difficult? In almost all of the airports of the world, there is no “terminal fee” being collected. If there is any payment of terminal fees at all, it is incorporated in the ticket. Incidentally, and in this respect, may we respectfully request for a financial report from your good office as to the uses of the terminal fees collected from passengers in the last five years. Despite all the monies received, as of January 2011, none of the three airports in Manila had free and consistent wireless Internet access. The pre-departure area in NAIA-1 did not even have working electrical outlets. The restrooms are still small and badly maintained. The Mactan-Cebu Airport recently installed sensor-type flushing mechanisms in their water closets, a water-wasteful technology. When checked last January 22, 2011, none of them worked! We also do not have seats allocated for the handicapped in the pre-departure areas. In other international airports around the world, there are seats near the gates for the handicapped.
While other airports around the world try to institutionalize seamless airport procedures, we are overacting to try to create a perception of security. This is not a mark of our ability to put an effective security measures. Rather, it is a mark of idiotic redundancy, utter inefficiency, and senseless and useless red tape. We end up making ourselves look ridiculous. It creates the impression that we live in a garrison state, paranoid to the nth degree, and/or are promoting unnecessary red tape right in the gateways of our country. It is a poor reflection of our people. It is also an example of a very Third World mentality — the very impression we are trying to change as a country and as a people.
Having said all these, we do not need to wonder why we have few tourists compared to our neighboring Southeast Asian countries. We have a saying in Filipino, which, when translated, means that the most difficult people to awaken are those who are already awake. Our airport officials know how utterly ridiculous these procedures are, but refuse to improve it for reasons known only to them.
There are so many other things we need to improve to make our country travel-friendly, among them having clean toilets, honest cab drivers, and traffic decongestion. But if there is one area we can work on right away to make travel to and within the Philippines easy, convenient, passenger-visitor-friendly and seamless, it is our airports — the very face of our beautiful and beloved country.
Thank you in anticipation of your kind consideration and expeditious action on the matter as we look forward to your reply. We trust that this letter finds you in good health and spirits as we again congratulate you, thank you, and wish you the best of luck in your efforts to improve our airports. If there is any way we can be of help in the terms of suggestions and ideas, please do not hesitate to let us know.
Very truly yours,
Atty. Antonio A. Oposa Anna R. Oposa
 Republic Act 9485 (2007) also known as the Anti-Red Tape Law mandates that public officials must respond to letters of citizens within 5-10 days from receipt with a report on the action taken on the matter. Please see also Republic Act 6713 (Code of Conduct for Public Officials), and Rep. Act 3019. We have purposely put in our email addresses to ensure speedy and inexpensive transmittal of your reply.
Office of the President, Malacañang Palace
Ms. Julia Abad, Chief of Staff
Presidential Management Staff
Hon. Jose de Jesus, Secretary
Department of Transportation and Communications
Hon. Alberto A. Lim, Secretary
Department of Tourism
Mr. Carmelo L. Arcilla, Executive Director
Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB)
Mr. Ramon S. Gutierrez, Deputy Director-General for Administration
Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP)
Mr. Lucio Tan, Chairman of the Board
Mr. Jaime Bautista, President
Mr. Lance Gokongwei, President
Mr. Paul Villarete, General Manager
Mactan-Cebu International Airport
Mr. Reynaldo Villar, Chairman
Commission on Audit
Tanodbayan, Office of the Ombudsman
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Print and Electronic Media Outlets