Welcome WEF delegates

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The present state of the airconditioning system at the NAIA airport got a lot of ribbing from netizens on Facebook. Many said it was because NAIA GM Angel Honrado was instructed to provide a warm welcome to visiting World Economic Forum delegates. While intended to be a joke, the condition indeed is no laughing matter. If we seriously want to make tourism a major driver of inclusive growth, we must have the foresight and fortitude to see its fruition.

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The proposal of San Miguel Corporation’s Mr. Ramon Ang to build a $10-billion airport is a gallant effort if it is true that it will not cost the government any cent. Just give the go-ignal and we will build, he says.

I don’t see any reason why the government should not take on the offer. The project will traverse the cities of Parañaque and Las Piñas and cover more than 150 hectares of reclaimed land. This means more income and jobs for their constitutents. I am told, however, that the area is part of the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA), the latest site in the Philippines to become part of the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance. That is something that necessarily has to be verified.

Nevertheless, let’s take the merits of going ahead with the project. The airport is envisioned to be even better than the already world-class airports in Hong Kong and Singapore with four runways with a length of 3,600 meters each. What do we have now? Just one. And what is the effect? Monstrous delays in landing and take-off to the detriment of the riding public.

The proposed airport will be able to accommodate as many as 250 plane take-offs and landings an hour which is what we need so we will no longer have to experience waiting inside the plane for at least an hour. Thank God for the Passengers Bill of Rights, airlines are now required to provide food and lodging during situations where flights are delayed.

Ang said the conglomerate was proposing to build this for the government but will not own it. Of course this raises some eyebrows. Why would Ang take on the risks? No such thing as free lunch. Well the scheme it seems is once the airport is built, SMC will earn from terminal fees as well as fees to be paid by airlines for landing their fleet. The conglomerate will also negotiate to be allowed to have a return on equity of 10 percent from this project. Not a bad deal, I suppose.

It plans push through, we will have two brand new runways by 2019. Meanwhile, Ang also has something to say with respect to the forthcoming Asean Integration specifically on the issue of reciprocity of nations involved. He says to our negotiators, if we declare open skies and allow other airlines to come in to the Philippines, make sure that we are given the same fair and level treatment. Apparently, the experience of PAL has been to the contrary. That advice makes perfect sense and one that our negotiators should heed.

Meantime, let us extend our warmest welcome to the delegates of the World Economic Forum lest we find ourselves back in the cellar of rankings in global competitiveness.

God is Great!

thelmadm@yahoo.com

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