BY PET MELLIZA/ THE BEEKEEPER
The Iloilo Airport is among the best in the Philippines, almost everybody that has visited Iloilo would tell you that. But other than its appearance, it still leaves a lot to be desired.
In kinaray-a we call it “lamang-lamang”. Airport management skirts the essential and goes for the trivial.
The statuette of the Virgin with lighted candles and flowers greets travelers entering the passengers’ lounge. But, if you are a believer of other religions in this age of ecumenism, that image is the least that you need. The airport belongs to all Filipinos regardless of creed or ethno-linguistic grouping.
Is proselytization part of ATO’s job description? We pay our taxes so that the ATO can convert us to its faith?
What we know of the ATO is that, it is a government agency mandated to regulate air travel, specifically, promoting safety and efficiency in the air transportation business. It stretches the imagination that it still dips its hands into religion.
If I were in the ATO management, the first thing I would do is remove the image of Our Lady. It just doesn’t belong there. Better install it in a church or a shrine where it is customarily suited. Its continued presence at the pre-departure lounge of the Iloilo airport gives the public impression that the facility belongs to Catholics or that, the Philippines is the exclusive property of Catholics.
The Iloilo airport lacks amenities like internet connections that other airports offer. Instead, it dangles an image to venerate which is not its calling in the first place. Travelers pay P200 each entrance to the pre-departure lounge that has nothing else to offer other than chairs to rest on and comfort rooms for one’s personal necessities.
At the Mactan Airport different kiosks, aside from the two major telecommunications companies, offer free wi-fi signals. Travelers enjoy wide range of options where to connect to.
Travelers enjoy the worth of the P200-fee that they pay to enter the pre-departure lounge at the NAIA 2 terminal, or that in Mactan Airport in Cebu. Iloilo has none of that as the Air Transportation Office (ATO) there has perfected the art of collecting without improving its services. NAIA 3, on the other hand, has no free wi-fi.
Through the internet, travelers can use the waiting time for work or study. While waiting for a flight back to Iloilo, we used to finish an opinion piece at the Cebu airport and dispatch it right there. That, incidentally, is unavailable at the Iloilo airport that touts the city and province “premier” destinations.
A ring of racketeers is making a killing from taxi drivers at the Cabatuan airport. Taxi drivers are fleeced P50 each for lining up to take passengers. It’s some sort of “parking fee” and un-receipted. In other words, the collections don’t go to the coffer of government but private pockets of ATO bigwigs.
At one given time, there are at least 50 taxi units lining up at the airport. That’s P2,500 in one hour earned by the ring of racketeers.
The ATO at the Cabatuan airport has not thought of introducing free internet access to travelers which has become a necessity. ATO has other priorities in mind like installing the image of the Virgin Mary, which is the least needed.
Science has shortened the distances among people. The ATO at the Iloilo Airport would rather offer free veneration of the Virgin Mary as if that is the justification of its office.