This scene, the statuette and painting of the Virgin Mary greets travelers entering the pre-departure area of the Iloilo Airport in Cabatuan. The airport is supposed to be government property, for the public regardless of creed, gender, age and race.
BY PET MELLIZA/THE BEEKEEPER
Terminal 2 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA),
domestic flight section, has five tables for laptop owners to work on their PCs
or recharge. There are at least four wi-fi service providers connecting travelers
to the internet all for free. Gratis et
On top of that, there are also benches at each exit gate
fitted with outlets for travelers to recharge their cellular phones with,
again, gratis et amore.
This is the second opinion piece on the issue but yours
truly feels he has to write some more if only to persuade managers of the
Iloilo Airport at Cabatuan – Sta. Barbara towns to listen.
The Iloilo Airport has none of the amenities of free wi-fi
hot spots nor of the free electrical recharging stations that NAIA 3 domestic
section offers travelers. The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines
(CAAP), an office under the Air Transportation Office (ATO), has stopped
thinking of giving its clientele better services after the completion of the
Iloilo Airport which they love to qualify with the word “International”, the
first letter in capital.
Their mind is focused elsewhere. Instead of providing free
wi-fi hotspots, CAAP-ATO people would rather regale us with free devotion of
the Virgin Mary, an icon of one religion which may be dominant in the
Philippines but a tiny minority in Asia. Iloilo Airport is the only one of its
kind that has the icons of the Virgin Mary at the entrance of the passengers’
In Kinaray-a, there is figure-of-speech befitting the CAAP-ATO people of Iloilo airport:
“lamang-lamang”, the mind set that skips substance and dignifies only trivia or non-essential. The images of the Virgin Mary are non-essentials in safe or convenient travel, are unnecessary in
airports or government offices. Their niche is a house of worship.
The airport is not a Catholic facility. All Filipinos own it
regardless of creed, ethno-linguistic origin, age and gender. It is neither a
proselytizing tool for any religion.
The person responsible for installing those religious
symbols deserves a place in heaven – well, ahora
y ensequida. Abi, kun gusto nila
Travellers pay P200 for terminal fee but don’t get the kind
of services CAAP-ATO is supposed to deliver. The restrooms at the terminal
lounge area often run out of toilet paper and scarcely replenished. If personal
needs called you at the passengers lounge of Iloilo Airport, don’t worry, there
is always a kabu , a small bucket cut
from empty plastic containers that does the job in lieu of toilet paper.
By October, according to ATO, Iloilo Airport will accommodate
flights from ASEAN countries. Instead of installing free wi-fi hot spots, CAAP
– ATO people would rather collude with racketeers from the ATOP to ensure
monopoly of commuter services to and from the airport.
ATOP stands for the Association of Taxi Operators in Panay
whose head has succeeded in wrangling a shadowy privilege from CAAP – ATOP to
ban other public carriage operators, other than those who belong to ATOP, from
ferrying people to or from the airport.
The airport is supposed to be government or public facility.
Public carriage operators, whether taxis, jeepneys, vans and whatever, have the
privilege to transport passengers to and from the airport so long as their respective
franchises issued by the LTFRB permit them.
That’s what happened during the national convention of
physicians that Iloilo hosted early this month. The arriving guests were fetched by vans- and
buses-for-hire. The airport authority barred the welcoming delegation from
ferrying their guests on the vehicles they had hired prompting a stand-off.
In this instance, the collusion between CAAP-ATO and ATOP
overstepped into the province of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) and the
Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Boad (LTFRB), two agencies under
the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) where the ATO also
belongs. The LTO regulates the licenses of drivers and registration of all land
vehicles. The LTFRB, as the world suggests, grants the franchise for public
carriage from one to another point of destination or, if the operators paid a
higher fee, “from one to another point of destination or to anywhere in Panay.
CAAP-ATO even fleeces P50 from each taxi waiting for passengers, rightly deserving the title King Kotong.