MY family had the privilege of spending a two-week vacation in the Philippines this early June, a travel I am thinking many kababayans would want to take at least every year. It had been three years since our last visit — a joyous celebration of my parents 50th golden wedding anniversary.
I wrote about my trip last September, but I was there for only three days to say goodbye to my brother David, who died at a young age of 45. I wouldn’t count that as a fun vacation. Bonding, yes, as we were all united in grief and remembrance of the life my brother lived.
It is so amazing how many things have changed in just three years.
For the purposes of this piece, let us start off with our landing in Manila. Based on the news headlines of the preceding weeks, I braced myself up for a horrible experience at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1. But upon the evening of June 1, I was surprised to be welcomed in a squeaky clean, fresh, cool new terminal.
An equally impressive banner story was the record time of less than 20 minutes for me to come out the tarmac, complete immigration inspections, claim our baggages with the able and kind help of the porters, go through very courteous customs inspector (no hint of asking for lagay), and exit to the arrival area sunduan area.
I was perplexed though, because what I went out to was not the familiar sight of the two-level exit. What stood before me was the new Resorts World Hotel. I knew, then, I was probably in a different place.
I asked around and my suspicions were confirmed — I was in NAIA 3, and NOT NAIA 1! And I have to thank my travel agent Mango Tours, through the professional services of my good friend, Mr. Johnny Francisco, who recommended the flights via ANA(All Nippon Airways), which I learned was a few among a few carriers allowed to use the new Terminal 3 — the largest and newest terminal in Manila! Terminal 3 also currently houses PAL Express, Cebu Pacific Air, and Zest Air airlines.
Fascinated about this new development in the airport industry that welcomes balikbayans and tourists alike, I read up more about NAIA 3.
I found out from a recent report by ABS-CBN News that the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 will start operating at full capacity next month as the Japanese contractor for the completion of the system works of the air hub is three quarters done with the repairs.
Once this airport is completed, Singapore Airlines, Delta, Emirates, Cathay Pacific and KLM will all be transferred to NAIA 3 from the aging NAIA 1 in August. This would help decongest the 30-year-old terminal and allow more flexibility in the ongoing rehabilitation efforts at the said hub, according to airport officials.
Requirements for the completion of the rehabilitation of Terminal 3 include baggage handling, flight information displays, computer terminals, gate coordination, landing bridges and fire protection systems.
As ABS-CBN News further reported, NAIA 3 where I landed recently, is currently operating at half its annual capacity of 13 million passengers, pending the completion of the system works.
The full operation of Terminal 3, however, will allow a faster and more pleasant experience for passengers flying in and out of Manila. Once completed, the 182,500-square-meter terminal would have the capacity to service up to 33,000 passengers daily at peak, or 6,000 passengers per hour. It also has 34 air bridges and 20 contact gates, allowing it to service 28 planes simultaneously.
NAIA in general is expected to reach its maximum capacity by 2018.
Looking forward, the government is considering several options to curb the growing congestion at the air hub.
According to ABS-CBN News, one possibility is to close the airport and build a new one somewhere in Sangley Point in Cavite. This is currently being studied by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
Another possibility is to bid out the San Miguel Corporation $10-billion airport proposal. This proposal, as ABS-CBN reported, involves doubling of the capacity of NAIA. It is seen to be built between the cities of Las Piñas and Parañaque.
Another option the government is also considering is the development of a twin airport system, wherein NAIA and Clark International Airport in Angeles City will be simultaneously rehabilitated.
Overall, we Filipinos in America and elsewhere around the world have some great things to look forward to in NAIA. This is long overdue, but at least I see things happening now.
Sana ay huwag magningas cogon.
Any proposals from your end?
* * *
Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com, https://www.facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos
Bakasyon sa Pilipinas 2014: NAIA Surprise!