By Isabel De Leon
Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Eddie V. Monreal has assured that the country’s airports are 100 percent safe with layers of security measures in place to ensure the safety of passengers.
“We are 100 percent safe and with the security measures that we are implementing, I am confident that we are safe,” Monreal told Manila Bulletin editors during a roundtable discussion.
He said passengers have to go through rigorous layers or choke points before they can enter the terminals.
“Mas mabusisi po tayo dito. I think we have about 13 or 12 chokepoints that begin from their arrival at the terminals. Pagpasok mo, meron. Paglabas mo ng x-ray papasok po kayo sa security ng airline, magche-check po ng visa. Pagkatapos po ng visa, pupunta sa counter. Pagkagaling mo sa check-in counters, papasok po kayo sa immigration, may magche-check din po ng pangalan at saka passport kung sa international ka. After immigration, andiyan po ang security check. Pagpasok ninyo sa kabilang building, pagbaba ninyo, may airline check. Pagkatapos ng airline check, titignan kung kumpleto na ang mga pasahero. Bago mag-board, kailangan ipakita nyo pa ulit ang boarding pass,” he said. (We are more meticulous here. Once you enter the terminal, there’s security and x-ray screening and you go through airline security procedures, including visa check. Then you proceed to the check-in counters. Next is immigration. After immigration, another x-ray screening and body frisking. Once you reach your gate, another security check. And again another before boarding the plane and you have to present your boarding pass and sometimes even your passport.)
Monreal said there is no way they will reduce the layers of security. “Unang-una po, hindi natin pwedeng bawasan ang security checks. Yan po ay hindi natin pwedeng ikompromiso at ako na lang po ang naghihingi ng paumanhin na kailangan po dumaan tayo sa proseso para naman sa kaligtasan ng mga pasahero natin.” (We can’t reduce the number of security checks. That is something we can’t compromise on – the passenger’s safety and security. So I apologize that passengers have to go through these layers just to ensure their safety.)
Monreal lamented that if only airlines operate on time or are on schedule, congestion at the airport terminals will not be a problem and airport authorities will not have to take the flak for it.
“We start with the flights that are being scheduled. They are given slots to operate. There is a maximum limitation in terms of the runway, take-off, and landing. These congestions happen when the airline does not leave on time. We’ve appealed to the airlines that they should operate on time. But in reality, there’s no such thing as 100% on time performance,” he stressed.
“Tinuturo ang MIAA na kami ang kadahilanan ng congestion or delay. But looking at the whole perspective of operation, marami pong bagay na una pwede kang ma-delay. Dahil wala yung eroplano mo. Pangalawa, na-delay ka dahil wala kang pamalit ng eroplano and as a matter of contingency, mayroon ka dapat na replacement aircraft. Pangatlo, baka hindi nagtugma yung crew requirements mo. Pang-apat, baka may nawawalang pasahero, offload mo yung bagahe kasi no baggage onboard without the passenger, international practice po yun,” Monreal said. (They point to us as the cause of congestion or delay. That’s not true. There are many reasons. The airline may not have arrived on time or there is no replacement aircraft. Another is crew requirements may not have matched or there is a missing passenger and we have to offload his baggage.)
Monreal said he would rather that airlines be honest enough to inform their passengers about the true cause of delay. “I’m one of the advocates on transparency in terms of informing the passengers. They hide on the issues like operational reason. Ano yung ibig sabihin ng operational reason?”
In line with this, Department of Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade has ordered the daily recording or logging of on-time performance of airlines.
He admitted that MIAA is now operating over the capacity as the airport was built. ‘We just have to manage our airport in the best way we can because of the capacity restriction,” he said.
At least five automated check-in machines have been installed in each of the three terminals of NAIA. The Bureau of Immigration plans to install more automated machines to ease immigration clearance, particularly for international passengers.
World-class airport terminals
Monreal admits that Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminals lag behind the regional airports like Jewel Changi in Singapore, the Hong Kong International Airport, Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok, and Incheon International Airport in South Korea as far as infrastructure, but more than make up for it with world-class service and warmth that emanate from the heart.
“If we talk about infrastructure, definitely we cannot compare with the regional airports. So what we’re doing right now is more on building customer service from our team, to make sure that the service that we offer comes straight from the heart. Galing po sa puso ang pagsisilbi natin sa mga pasahero. Wala pong tinitingnan o kinikilingan na nationality. I encourage our people to do good and eventually, it translates, magiging viral po yun sa mga tao, by word of mouth,” he said. (Our services come straight from the heart. We don’t look at nationalities.)
The Department of Tourism has been helping the MIAA train its front-liners on how they can showcase the Filipino culture of warmth and hospitality through their service.
Monreal is confident that with a proposal for a world-class airport now in the pipeline, and a lot of political will coming from President Duterte, it will just be a matter of time when the country will have a minimum of two runways at the airport that can accommodate all kinds of aircrafts and interconnected airports that will ease the mobility of passengers.
NAIA Terminals are running on a threshold of 22 hours of operation with 800 movements or flights per day.
‘Tanim bala,’ baggage pilferage
Monreal proudly said there is no more “Tanim Bala” or bullet planting incidents at the airport but some travelers continue to bring bullets with them either as amulets or souvenirs. The Aviation Security Group just confiscates the bullets and lets the passengers go.
Baggage pilferage remains a problem but the airport manager explained that once the bags are checked in at the origin, the contract of care is already between the airline and the passenger.
“Ang kustodiya ng bagahe at responsibilidad ng bagahe pagdala from the origin hanggang maibaba dito sa paliparan, hanggang kunin mo sa carousel is also airline responsibility,” Monreal stressed.
To stop pilferage, baggage personnel on the ground were given body cameras to document how the bags are being brought down. Monreal also equipped the carousel loading bays with Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras.