POSTSCRIPT / November 11, 2001 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Alvarez not a credible adviser on airport deal

UNPREVENTABLE CRIME: There are certain personal crimes that the police simply cannot prevent. One of these crimes is the recent murder of actress Nida Blanca. Blaming this on supposed police or government incompetence is a bit unfair.

The assassin was obviously motivated and determined, had the opportunity and the means — and went ahead with the dark deed. There was nothing the police or Malacañang could have done to prevent the dastardly act.

No wonder many people were shaking their heads when some showbizzy politicians from San Juan berated the administration for the murder of their friend in the movie world.

The mere fact that Nida Blanca was stabbed to death in a bustling area of San Juan, which is their bailiwick, should be a hint to these politicians that when they pointed an accusing finger, three of their own fingers were pointing back at them.

In this and similar high-profile crimes, the test of police efficiency is not in preventing the act — because this is impossible — but in solving it.

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SUIT OVER PIATCO: In Angeles City, meanwhile, as their cabalen in Malacañang won’t listen to them, irate Pampangueños went to court instead.

The stakeholders of Clark International Airport, renamed Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) in honor of Cong Dadong, have long been begging President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to review the contract for the building and operation of Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay and Parañaque.

They are not asking her to review and recast the whole government contract with the Philippine Air Terminals Co. Inc. (PIATCO), but only that specific provision that would stunt the full and normal development of other airports in Luzon, including that one on Clark.

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ALVAREZ MISLED GMA?: The problem is that GMA apparently has relied on the advice of Transportation and Communications Secretary Pantaleon Alvarez that the PIATCO deal would have zero effect on the airport named after her father.

President Arroyo herself has passed on to her cabalen the assurance of Alvarez to her that Terminal 3 and the contract covering it will not stunt the development of Clark (DMIA).

Capampangans were hoping that GMA would approach the issue with an open mind and not rely solely on the say-so of a polluted source of advice.

We wonder if GMA is aware that Alvarez may not be exactly an objective and fair judge of the airport deal. He was deeply involved in various stages of putting together the contract and has had business dealings with PIATCO.

As assistant general manager of NAIA, he was in the committee that approved the PIATCO proposal. He got further involved as vice chairman of the House committee on transportation that investigated the same deal. Then, as owner of Wintrack Builders Inc., a major subcontractor for airport works, he had business dealings with PIATCO.

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PUSHING FOR PIATCO: Continuing to push the interests of PIATCO, Alvarez is now reportedly pressuring Philippine Airlines to abandon Terminal II, which it is using for domestic and international flights, and move to Terminal 3 when this is completed. The airline is naturally resisting.

The flag carrier is at the peak of its efficiency where it is now. Its executives foresee that a forcible relocation to Terminal 3 would be disruptive and may even result in the displacement of some of its workers.

Increasing the pressure, Alvarez is reportedly threatening to withdraw customs personnel processing PAL passengers passing through Terminal II if PAL refuses to transfer to Terminal 3. The airline cannot operate international flights without customs and immigration assistance.

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CLASS SUIT FILED: At the recent People’s Summit in Angeles for the full operation of DMIA, representatives from various sectors of Pampanga and Central Luzon served notice that they would file a taxpayers’ suit or a class suit to nullify the oppressive provisions of the 25-year concession contract with PIATCO.

Last Tuesday, some 500 petitioners and about a thousand supporters massed at the Angeles City Regional Trial Court to file a civil suit for the annulment of the contract and the payment of damages. Named respondents were PIATCO, Alvarez, and NAIA general manager Edgardo Manda.

They complained that the PIATCO deal would reduce the 1.5-million (passengers per year) rated capacity of the DMIA to 850,000 passengers until PIATCO’s Terminal 3 chalks up at least 10 million passengers for three consecutive years or for 25 years, whichever comes first.

The petitioners think this traffic volume for Terminal 3 cannot be achieved in the foreseeable future, thereby dooming Clark’s becoming the premiere international airport it was envisioned to be by law.

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CLARK IS FAR SUPERIOR: The downgrading of Clark (DMIA) is deplorable since this former US air base is actually far superior to NAIA in all aspects.

The bumpy, short and solitary airstrip of NAIA is a poor shadow of the two parallel top-class airstrips that the US Air Force had built and left on Clark. The airport has ample room for expansion and the upgrading of auxiliary services.

In fact, all of Terminal 3 and the rest of NAIA would fit into a small corner of Clark Field. Even if expansion and the building of additional airstrips are envisioned for NAIA, it cannot be done. Hemmed in by thickly populated communities and high-rise structures, the NAIA complex has reached its limit.

To visualize the fatal limitations of NAIA, compare it to a restaurant with a small, old kitchen. It is futile adding more and more tables (more terminals in the case of the NAIA) if the kitchen (the tiny, bumpy airstrip of NAIA) remains the same.

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BRIDGE TESTS GOV’T METTLE: There is one bridge in Manila that is proving to be the acid test of officials running this country, both from the city government of Manila and the national government.

That obscure bridge on the South Superhighway leading to Makati has been closed and traffic has had to be rerouted in all directions in a confused example of massive mismanagement.

All main arteries leading or going out of Manila are clogged: Roxas Blvd., Quezon Ave., Magsaysay Blvd., Taft Ave., etc., because traffic, including buses, trailers and cargo trucks now have to pick their way to narrower and already clogged roads to get to their destinations.

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PAGING MAYOR ATIENZA: We ask Manila Mayor Lito Atienza to display his known decisiveness by going to that blasted bridge to decide on the spot what to do with the mess.

If the contractor cannot continue the work at a satisfactory pace, the mayor should order work stopped and the span reopened. If charges are warranted, he should throw the book at the contractor.

If the work can be done fast enough, the mayor should make sure a work schedule is presented and followed. He must make sure traffic managers are able to come up with a better scheme than what is now being followed.

The national government — no less than Malacañang, we might add — should also get cracking. What is the public works department doing?

To illustrate how badly the rerouting has been managed: Note that on many approaches to the bridge there are no signs warning motorists that the bridge had been closed. Unwary motorists, especially those driving through the area for the first time, suddenly find the bridge closed and by that time it’s too late to turn back.

The signs scattered some distance away say that the bridge is under repair. They do not say it has been closed. This is misleading and cruel. Nobody cares anymore?

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 11, 2001)

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