MANILA – Little by little, upgrades and rehabilitation work in the country’s airports are slowly coming into view and improving to meet international standards.
When the Philippines hosted the year-long Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit this year, visitors came to appreciate the newly-renovated Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) which was now more spacious.
NAIA Terminal 1 was expanded to accommodate 6.5 million passengers from its original design capacity of 4.5 million. After five foreign airlines were relocated to NAIA Terminal 3 last year, passenger traffic dropped to 7.1-million from its 8.4-million in 2013.
To recall, the rehab work in NAIA Terminal 1 began in January 2014 after a structural investigation was conducted in 2010. No structural investigation was previously done since the terminal was built in 1981.
Other upgrades in the more than 30-year-old airport include new flight information display boards, check in counters, weighing and feeder conveyors, new chillers, better lighting, and renovated lavatories.
NAIA Terminal 1, however, went through bad press after its ceiling were reported to be leaking in June. However this was immediately repaired through immediate waterproofing the ceiling and retrofitting the roof deck in May.
The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) said that this was the first major renovation of the terminal in over 30 years.
These upgrades have led the terminal to have received an improved ranking from being 1st in the “World’s Worst Airport” list from 2011 to 2013 to only 8th in the “Worst Airports in Asia” list this year under the interactive website “The Guide to Sleeping in Airports” last October.
In August, a portion of the flooring at the NAIA Terminal 2 which collapsed the month before has also been fully repaired. The damaged flooring was cordoned off right away to avoid further inconveniences.
Its flooring was completely repaired two weeks after the incident. Prior to re-tiling the area, the floor foundation was reinforced and the soil made more compact.
The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) is also working on acquiring an additional 152 closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras at the NAIA Terminal 2 after flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) proposed to enhance monitoring capabilities in the said terminal.
Currently, about 400 CCTVs are installed in all four terminals with 93 of them installed at Terminal 2, which exclusively houses PAL flights.
PAL will be shouldering the cost of the procurement and installation of the cameras which will be placed primarily in the check-in counter and baggage build-up areas.
MIAA, however, clarified that the proposal of PAL to install additional 152 CCTV cameras is separate from the PHP486-million CCTV project under MIAA.
In July, NAIA Terminal 3 became the first airport to house an airport lounge – the Wings Transit Lounge – which caters to passengers and non-passengers alike.
The lounge does not charge an entrance fee, however, guests who enter the lounge will have to avail of the lounge’s products or services. Wings Transit Lounge is the first of its kind to offer this service at the NAIA.
Terminal 3 in December also opened the extension of its Taxiway November (N) after over a year of construction. With this, aircraft can now make fewer turns at the taxiway towards the runway.
Fronting the apron of Terminal 3, the 1,500-meter taxiway was extended by 658 meters and was connected to Taxiway Charlie.
The extension project is meant to further decongest the taxiway – particularly at the intersection of the runways – and to facilitate ground handling flexibility of international operations.
Travel time along the taxiway is also cut from the usual four minutes to two minutes, easing flight traffic at the airport.
NAIA Terminal 4 beginning August, went back to housing all-domestic flights with the transfer of international flights to Terminal 3.
Here, larger aircraft operating out of Terminal 4 would transfer to Terminal 3, while smaller aircraft would transfer from Terminal 3 to Terminal 4. With the terminal changes, runway utilization at the NAIA is expected to increase.
This came as Terminal 4’s secondary runway, particularly runway 31, was being reactivated for the takeoff of Airbus A320s and smaller aircraft.
In addition, new markings and information markers have been installed on the secondary runway.
As for the regional airports, DOTC reported that five groups have been pre-qualified to bid the project under the government’s flagship public private partnership (PPP) program.
The regional airports project is being bid out in two bundles: Bundle 1 covers the Bacolod-Silay Airport and the Iloilo Airport, while Bundle 2 consists of the Davao Airport, Laguindingan Airport and New Bohol Airport.
The winning bidder for each bundle would be responsible for the operations and maintenance of the airports for 30 years, and in expanding the facilities.
DOTC said that the opening of bids for the project would be held in January next year while the notice of award for the project would be held the following month.
However, the department will be separately bidding out five regional airports from the development of three airports in Palawan as decided by its Prequalification, Bids and Awards Committee.
Three other domestic airports in the Philippines also made it to Guide to Sleeping in Airports’ top 30 ‘Best Airports in Asia’ list namely Mactan-Cebu International Airport (18th), Iloilo International Airport (21st), and the Clark International Airport (24th) in Pampanga.
Other improvements in airports include the integration of the Php 550 terminal fees in international airline tickets beginning February, after the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Pasay Regional Trial Court expired with no preliminary injunction.
This move, that involves collecting the terminal fees upon one’s purchase of a plane ticket, is meant to help ease congestion in ticket queuing lines and improve the overall efficiency of NAIA.
In August, MIAA also installed full body scanners which make use of low-frequency radiation, allowing safe use of the scanners for pregnant women and those with body implants.
The new scanners also make use of an advanced millimeter-wave technology that detects concealed objects on a person’s body, which means that they would no longer require the standard security frisking.
Airport authorities got into hot water after a number of its baggage inspectors under the Office of Transport Security (OTS) were proven to be involved with recent bullet-planting incidents.
DOTC and MIAA immediately revised security procedures to ensure that there were no more opportunities for the planting of evidence or extortion. Overall, it was still a good year for the country’s aviation sector as these incidents, according to the Department of Tourism (DOT) did not affect overall tourism numbers.