JUST when we thought revelations about criminal activity and gross mismanagement at the nation’s main international airport – the airport through which 20 foreign heads of state and thousands of other high-level visitors to the APEC summit will be passing in just a few days’ time – couldn’t get any worse, another completely ludicrous and shameful story appears.
On Thursday, it was disclosed that closed-circuit television cameras and monitors that were supposed to be installed at Ninoy Aquino International Airport along with new x-ray equipment as part of a security upgrade were not in fact installed; if this news wasn’t bad enough, it was revealed on a day that security arrangements for the upcoming APEC events were undergoing final scrutiny by President BS Aquino 3rd and his Cabinet officials, and while Senate hearings about the infamous “tanim-bala” (bullet planting) extortion racket were being held.
The CCTV cameras, had they been in place, may very well have helped to prevent “tanim-bala,” or at the very least, made identification and apprehension of the perpetrators much easier. And of course, CCTV cameras ought to have been considered a basic measure to help ensure the safety and security of the many delegates to the APEC forum. The reason these cameras are not available, however, turns out to be a breakdown of basic bureaucratic competence: According to the supplier, the Manila International Airport Authority only paid half the bill for the security systems, and thus were delivered only x-ray machines and not the CCTV equipment that was part of the package ordered by the government.
The budget for the government’s APEC preparations has been widely reported as being P10 billion, a hefty sum that exceeds the entire yearly budget of several government agencies, but one that the head of the National Organizing Council described as “moderate” in response to widespread criticism from the public.
“Moderate” is not the word we would use to describe a large-scale expenditure that quite clearly did not include even a cursory review of airport security measures to make sure that all which were expected to be in place had been provided and were functioning properly. It is only natural, at this point, to ask the alarming question, what else has the government overlooked, and what, exactly, has it spent P10 billion of our hard-earned money on?
NAIA may no longer be considered the “worst airport in the world” – that dubious honor now belongs to an airport in Nigeria – but from our point of view, it is clearly the most embarrassing. While the Senate committee devoted not a little time in its hearing Thursday afternoon trying to determine who specifically was to blame for the unpaid bills and missing CCTV equipment, we think it hardly matters: No one involved with the management and operation of The World’s Most Embarrassing Airport has been able or willing to do even a barely adequate job, or even any inclination to try; leaving any of them in place for even an instant longer critically jeopardizes safety, the peace of mind of all travelers, and whatever shreds of reputation the Philippines still has on the global stage.