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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

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BEYOND SIGHT: Let’s give the best to the world

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By Monsi A. Serrano

There’s no denying that our country’s main international gateway requires more than a mere facelift. Passengers, both local and international, have shared their ordeals, caught in the never-ending circles and inescapable Catch 22 of our airport.

As someone deeply entrenched in the diplomatic circle, I witness the tireless efforts of our beloved friends in the diplomatic community, promoting the Philippines as “More Fun in the Philippines.” I have personally explored the vast beauty of our country, from Aparri up North to Tawi-Tawi down South, including the enchanting Sitangkai, dubbed the Venice of the South, where few dared to venture. These experiences have made me appreciate our nation’s allure, along with the warm hospitality of Filipinos, providing countless reasons for foreign tourists to come and enjoy their time here.

While our country undoubtedly has much to offer, it is worth noting that the Philippines remains a top choice for many world travelers in the region, even without extensive efforts from the Department of Tourism to rebrand or expensive marketing campaigns that might not be fun for the average Juan and Juana.

Yes, it’s undeniably more fun in the Philippines, no matter where you go. However, the not-so-fun part lies in the experiences that await travelers upon their arrival and departure. Our congested airport requires visitors to allocate 3-4 hours of their precious vacation time just to navigate through the sea of passengers and planes. Fortunately, the Manila International Airport Consortium’s (MIAC) Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Masterplan promises to address these issues through collaborative efforts.

Attending the media briefing held by MIAC, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this consortium comprises the country’s finest in the business world. They are the “Dream Team,” composed of Aboitiz InfraCapital, Inc., AC Infrastructure Holdings Corporation, Asia’s Emerging Dragon Corporation, Alliance Global – Infracorp Development Inc., Filinvest Development Corporation, and JG Summit Infrastructure Holdings Corporation. Their impeccable reputations speak for themselves, and their involvement ensures the protection of their corporate standing.

To witness these Filipino conglomerates pooling their minds and resources together to offer an unsolicited proposal for the rehabilitation and development of the NAIA is truly commendable and deserving of celebration. Should this project reach completion, it would mark the first successful, unhindered rehabilitation of NAIA Terminal 3. Ideally, this achievement would make us all proud, knowing that it was accomplished under the auspices of Filipino conglomerates.

Looking back at the tumultuous history of NAIA, we recall numerous setbacks, such as the involvement of foreign companies and legal disputes that led to claims and arbitrations in the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) tribunal, even reaching our own high court. In contrast, the MIAC’s unsolicited proposal appears to provide a viable solution for the much-needed rehabilitation, coinciding with the continuous growth in tourism.

What caught my attention was the revealed rehabilitation masterplan, consisting of three key phases of development that will enhance capacity, reliability, and overall passenger experience.

Phase 1, aptly called “Quick Wins,” aims to be implemented over the first two years, swiftly increasing the airport’s capacity to 54 MPPA by 2025 while improving reliability. It also intends to reduce waiting times at various bottlenecks throughout NAIA. Phase 2 will further increase the airport’s capacity to 62.5 MPPA by 2028 through terminal floor area expansion, addition of airfield facilities, and improved cross-terminal transportation. Finally, Phase 3 envisions expanding terminal space and airfield capacity, ultimately achieving a capacity of approximately 70 MPPA by 2048.

The MIAC also emphasized that the new NAIA will complement Bulacan Airport, Clark Airport, and the upcoming Sangley Airport, ensuring comfort and convenience for air travelers. With these four beautiful and efficient airports, airlines will inevitably compete, leading to lower fares, and individuals will have more options for their flights.

During the farewell party of German Ambassador Anke Reiffenstuel, I had the opportunity to ask Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista about the proposed 25-year contract with MIAC. Secretary Bautista expressed reservations about the length of the contract, deeming it too long. However, he also informed me that the Department of Transportation (DOTr) is in constant communication with the MIAC team, and the final result will be revealed soon.

While we eagerly await the Philippines’ ability to offer an improved and efficient airport to the world, my ultimate wish is that the MIAC’s unsolicited proposal will result in a “Triple Win” scenario — for passengers, the country, and the investors.

If this vision becomes a reality, we can proudly say that we are giving the best to the world, and it is time for our guests to experience even more fun in the Philippines. What do you think?

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