Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Travel: It's More Glum In The Philippines

One year ago today, my wife Lydia and I returned to the Philippines from a (probably once in a lifetime) trip to Europe. Our departure and arrival point was Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Mania,  and even though horror stories abound about NAIA, we were fortunate to land on schedule and had a fairly easy time navigating baggage retrieval and Immigration.  And that's the point. Why should it be a matter of odds that some people luck out in their encounters with this facility while most other travelers' experience there is negative?

The difficulties that plague this airport include a shortage of amenities and inadequate facilities.  These issues are finally being addressed, but it may be a case of too little too late.  For example only now is Terminal 1, the world's second worst airport, finally undergoing rehabilitation. And scandal-plagued Terminal 3 which was to have been finished several years ago is still operating on about half its intended capacity due to construction delays and shoddy workmanship, including a collapse of part of the ceiling in 2006 and  again in 2011. (Completion is scheduled for this year, but after all the other postponements, I wouldn't bet on it) Then there are the congested traffic conditions and tie ups in the area  that make commuting to NAIA extremely frustrating (as is the case for Metro-Manila as a whole anyway) .

As a result of  these difficulties, government officials are considering  the designation of another airport instead as the Philippines premier point of arrival and departure: Clark International Airport (CRK).  This facility is also  known as  Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) and  is located in Angeles City, Pampanga.  I've never been there, but my understanding that in terms of adequacy and efficiency, CRK  beats NAIA hands down.       

The problem is that CRK is about 89Km (55 miles) from NAIA, and the only means of commuting between Angeles City and Metro-Manila is by car or bus, which in bad traffic can take  23 hours. This is especially burdensome for travelers who arrive from abroad at one of these airports and have to connect to a  flight at the other.  But even for those visitors to the Philippines who are not making such transfers, it would make a bad impression on them to arrive at Clark instead of NAIA and then have to make the trek to Metro-Manila. The solution of course is high speed rail service between the two cities with stations at each airport.   Construction on this alternative has already started but only in dribs and drabs and is probably still years away from completion even though it was supposed to have been finished years ago.

So with all these self-inflicted obstacles, is it any wonder that the Philippines lags behind its neighbors in attracting tourism? This will continue to be the case until the government starts taking its commitments seriously.  President Aquino advocates the "straight path" to end corruption here. This policy is especially vital in the area of infrastructure. Whether by land, sea, or air, people and goods must be able to move about via a dependable, speedy, and efficient transportation system if the Philippines is ever to progress from its status as a third world country.


Kano said...

Hi Rick,

Nice post. We've been through NAIA Terminal 3 quite a lot these last months, but very few times at Terminal 1. I guess, they'll be doing some renovation there, because people where wondering where all their income goes and nothing has ever been done to make the place better for travellers.

I could not see that they'll move the airport to Clark as it is so congested coming into Manila that they will just lose too many tourists. You can still get into Makati from Terminal 1 for P100 on a taxi, if you are a little lucky.

Can you think of tourists going through Tondo by bus from Clark, I can't see it. Even on EDSA, it's terrible.

The Airport Tax has been recently reduced to P550 per traveller, from P750.

Also, every Filipino and permanant resident here pays P1,620 for contributing to the toruist facilities in the Philippines, before you travel.

We've been to Hong Kong recently and found out we had to pay P700 more (twice as normal) for "RP/SRC Fee" per person. The BI at the terminal says, it's because, on your I-Card, it's an anniversary. Both my wife and I received our
I-Card in the month of March, so we had to pay an extra P700 more for that. I can't find what RP/SRC means, so I'm clueless. Maybe she was right to charge us more, according to their laws.

Tip to everyone, if one comes back to the airport in Manila from a trip at the arrival hall, do not go out and take a taxi there, as most will charge you minimum P300 or more to go your destination in Manila. Go up or down to the "departure hall" and go out there, as usually taxis will drop people off at the departure hall before they fly, so when a taxi drops off a person, one can just take a normal taxi back to town, and it's good, too, for the taxi driver, as he will have a passenger again to take you back to Manila.

Most people still come with the white cheap taxis to the airport, so you will find these at the exit of the departure hall. Just a tip.

Just make sure, you choose a newer white taxi, as many old taxis can not go up the hill anymore.

Again, when you see disorganination at the airport, it's not always from the facilities there, but also from the Filipino people who travel at that time, they just love disorganization. Many times, I see them bringing so much luggage and boxes with them that it takes a flight counter girl to sort out their papers and luggage for so long that it takes 15 minutes or more for your turn on the line to get your boarding pass.

Only in the Philippines, a culture apart from any other nation.

Secular Guy said...


I hardly know where to begin addressing your comments except to say thanks for valuable input. I for one really appreciate the information and tips that you provided to make travel to and from the county a lot easier.