Sunday, October 05, 2014

Money making venture at Terminal 3


This is my column today, October 5, 2014.
There’s a new scheme at the Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport that suspiciously smells like a money-making venture of some powerful official. 
In the past, carts were readily available at the various bays for passengers travelling with luggage.  These carts could be had at the passenger gates and security guards readily replenished the supply. 
When we got to the Terminal 3 last week to take a flight to Tacloban, there were no carts available!  Our search for the elusive carts took us to three gates, but there were no carts available.  We tried asking the security guards manning the gates for help, but they were passive and gave lame excuses.  It was as if everyone in Terminal 3 were part of a conspiracy to ensure that passengers to do not get their hands on baggage carts. 
We did notice the new porters in their purple and green uniforms roaming around the arrival area each pushing a cart.  They would approach each new arrival and offer their services and the use of the carts.  We also noticed new portable structures that have been set up outside Terminal 3; ticket booths manned by cashiers where passengers were supposed to buy stubs to pay the porters – one stub for each piece of luggage loaded by a porter on to a cart.  The porters were allowed free access in and out of the Terminal.
Since we were travelling with two boxes, we had no choice but to avail of the services of a porter since we could not get our hands on a cart.  Once inside the terminal, we noted that carts were deliberately parked near the check in counters and far away from the passenger gates.  The porters made sure they each just got one cart when they moved back outside. 
I talked to a security guard to inquire about the new system.  He confirmed what I suspected all along.  They have all been instructed to ensure that the porters would have something to do; in short, to not assist passengers so that we would be constrained to avail of the services of the porters. 
Obviously, someone powerful has cornered the contract to provide the porters at Terminal 3 and has decreed that everyone cooperates to make sure the business venture makes money at the expense of passengers.
Unfortunately for this powerful person, the scheme is bound to fail as passengers become wiser.  I, for one, have vowed to use only luggage with wheels every time I travel so I do not have to get fleeced again by porters.  I also noted that some passengers absolutely refused to buy stubs so they could use the carts being pushed by the porters and instead insist on just paying the porters a tip.  I almost applauded one elderly lady who very bravely just took a cart away from a porter shushing him with the admonition that the carts were public property.
And we thought nefarious schemes have been done away with in our collective march along the straight and narrow path.
***
For the first time since the strongest typhoon in history leveled Tacloban City and nearby towns in November last year, I visited Robinson’s Tacloban over the weekend.  I was happy to note that the mall is now 90% operational.  Most of the stores and restaurants were thriving.  The mall was likewise brimming with people.  Parking space was difficult to find and we noted that most of the vehicles were new.  
The sad thing, though, is that many still live in tents particularly those in the San Jose area near the airport.  The much ballyhooed relocation has not materialized.
The Tacloban runway is still being repaired so only propeller planes are allowed to land at the Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport.  The propeller planes have limited capacity, which translates into fares that are quite exorbitant.  One wonders what kind of work is being done at the runway which requires that it be closed for four whole months.  Works at the NAIA runways usually take just a few days or weeks at most; how come the repair of the Tacloban runway is taking that long?  The whole thing reeks of political power play once again.

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