Monday, October 09, 2017

KL, Incheon, JFK airports and lessons for the Philippines

* Reposting my article in BusinessWorld last September 27, 2017.

“Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) is the worst airport in the world” is a cliché that we often hear and read. But how true is this statement based on quantitative and technical criteria?

I have not seen technical reports on this yet but for this piece, I will make some anecdotal data based on my two foreign trips last week.

First I went to Kuala Lumpur (KL), Malaysia to attend the Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia meeting and conference 2017. Then I went to New York City, USA to attend a meeting on intellectual property and trademarks protection partly organized by the Property Rights Alliance (PRA). My think tank, Minimal Government Thinkers, is a member of both EFN Asia and PRA and my plane fare and hotel accommodations were shouldered by several organizations.

These were my travel dates last week: (a) Manila-KL-Manila, September 10 to 12; (b) Manila-New York-Manila via Incheon-Seoul, September 13 to 18.

Below is a summary of my experience, items #3 to 8. In parenthesis are years the airports have become operational.

Sources, #1 and 2: Airports Council International (ACI), wikipedia.

ACI’s top 10 busiest airports in 2016 were: (1) Hartsfield-Jackson Atlantata, USA; (2) Beijing Capital, China; (3) Dubai, UAE; (4) Los Angeles, USA; (5) Haneda-Tokyo, Japan; (6) O’hare-Chicago, USA; (7) Heathrow-London, UK; (8) Hong Kong; (9) Pudong-Shanghai, China; (10) Charles De Gaulle-Paris, France.

I have almost no complaints about the KLIA. It is big, wide, and modern. Aside from airport taxis, uber and grab cars, passengers can take the express or high-speed train to KL Sentral station in the city center (fare about 35 ringgit, 30 minutes) then take the cab or MRT/subway from there. I took the airport coach, which charged only 10 ringgit, and the travel time was about 60 minutes. I then took the MRT/subway, with a fare only 2.70 ringgit to Ampang Park, which is near the hotel venue of EFN meeting.

I have several complaints about the JFK-NY airport, mainly on the various delays as summarized in the table above. In addition, there is road congestion at the JFK airport’s passengers pick up area. Lots of waiting cars, frequent double parking, and no airport personnel at that time to restrain motorists from blocking the road. I saw these around 10 pm while waiting for the airport bus.

There was no free internet at JFK arrival area. At the departure area, there is one but it is hijacked by boingo, charging about $5 an hour. Boingo has “free 30 minutes” internet but one must watch the sponsors’ ads, and it is very slow. In short, I was not able to check the web there.

But one advantage of JFK is its connection to cheap mass transportation systems.

On my arrival, I took the airport bus to Manhattan, Port Authority terminal at 42nd street, paid $18 for the more than one hour trip. I then paid $2.75 and took the subway to my destination. When I left, I took the subway from uptown to JFK airport then skytrain, which cost me only $7.75. A taxi from uptown to the airport would cost about $70-75 including toll fees and tip to the driver.

I am not a frequent traveler, I take an average of only three foreign trips per year (all sponsored) mostly in Asia, and so my perspective will be limited compared to other people who make more than ten trips a year. Nonetheless, these are some things that the government and NAIA management may consider.

One, finalize the alternative airport to NAIA and start the work soon via integrated PPP, not hybrid PPP. While there is overall recognition of this need due to existing and future congestions, there is continued delay in the final decision as to where that airport shall be – at Sangley Point in Cavite, or Bulacan or Clark-Pampanga, or somewhere else.

Two, keep the freebies like free internet, have free drinking water fountains (currently there is none), keep the immigration entry/exit fast. And avoid scandals like “laglag bala” (of the past administration) and robbery/extortion of rich passengers. Just kick out and file charges against airport or immigration personnel involved in those scandals.

Three, expand the airport bus in all four terminals to more destinations other than Pasay-Makati. With heavy daily traffic in Metro Manila, passengers from far away cities like QC, Navotas, or Antipolo, should avoid being driven to or from NAIA.

Government should allow and encourage the energy, financial resources, and technical expertise of the private sector in finding various solutions to airport and road congestion.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Novotel Airport Hotel Bangkok, Part 2

Continuing a belated post, Part 1, about my stay in Novotel at Bangkok airport in November 2015. My room, big and spacious.



Buffet meals, I had 3 buffet meals -- lunch, dinner and breakfast the next day -- in my short stay there. Lots and lots of food, delicious.


I feasted on lots of seafood. I finished these 3 plates + dessert of small cakes, some fruits.


Not sure if this is from my room or from the hallway, the airport can be seen.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Bonista Resort, Escalante, Negros Occidental

Last February, I brought my family to Bonista Resort, Brgy. Buenavista, Escalante City in Negros. They visited my father who was still in a hospital in Sagay City, just a few kilometers away.

This is the main attraction, a big pool lighted with different lights at night.

We stayed in one of the rooms here, overlooking the sea. P1,500/night, children below 10 years old are free, P300 extra per head for those above 10 years old.

The sea viewed from the building.


At the back of the building there is a wide, open space, good for team building or simply running/playing area.

I forgot to take photos of this area, got these from the web.

Nice white sands.
Our two girls enjoyed the pool a lot.

The sea itself is not good for swimming though, very shallow water even during high tide.


There is a protruding rock behind the open, grassland area shown above. Views on the left, and the right of the rock.


Late afternoon, low tide, one can walk far away from the pool area. High tide returns at night, then recedes again by morning.


The next day, 6-7am, low tide.

The place is about 17 kms. from Escalante city proper. 5 kms. on the highway, then 12 kms. going to the barrio, towards the beach. Cemented road but many parts are damaged and dilapidated.

See that tiny spot on the map above Bonista, that's Jomabo island, another attraction in Escalante.

No time to visit that island, we headed back to the hospital and visited my Papa again.

Novotel Airport Hotel, Bangkok

November 22, 2015, our Bangkok-Paro, Bhutan flight via Druk Air was cancelled. I and many others were going to Bhutan to attend the Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia Conference 2015. The airline put us at the Novotel airport hotel, not far from the airport.

I was impressed by the modernity and hugeness of the hotel. The entrance.

The lobby. So wide and spacious.


The swimming pool, so tempting. But I did not bring a swimming trunk in that trip, I was expecting a friggin cold Bhutan in that trip, no overnight stay in Bangkok.


Lots of indoor and outdoor gardens inside the hotel.


And plenty of small statues and sculptures.


The next day, we went back to the airport, practically walking distance but the appropriate terminal may be far. Seen from the hotel is the airport's parking area. By airport bus the departure terminal is about 5 minutes away.

There is a Novotel in Cubao, Quezon City. Also modern and beautiful but not as big and spacious as its airport hotel in Bangkok.

See also:

Thailand trip, Part 1, June 10, 2008
Thailand trip, Part 2, July 22, 2008

Plaza Athenee Bangkok, December 04, 2013

Thailand's bright nights, October 26, 2015

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Escalante, Negros - Tabuelan, Cebu RORO trip

Until the 80s and 90s, the main ports serving the neighboring islands of Negros (Neg. Occ. and Neg. Or.) and Cebu were the ports of San Carlos City and Toledo City, respectively. Over a decade or two ago, the Escalante, Negros Occ. - Tabuelan, Cebu ports became operational.

Escalante Port, PPA and Coast Guard offices.

I took this photo last month at the Ceres terminal in Cadiz City, Negros Occ. Six trips a day, Bacolod City to Cebu City, another six trips a day coming back. Ceres buses are loaded in 3 different boats (and 3 different shipping lines?).

Here's the schedule of one shipping line.


Another docking station under construction, Escalante.

The area looks like a very small gulf, ideal for RORO ports as the docked boats can be protected from strong winds and big waves during heavy storms and typhoons.

The Aznar shipping line, preparing to dock at Escalante port. This is the boat that I took going to Cebu. Here it was carrying only one Ceres bus and a few cars.

We entered the boat. Huge area for cars, buses and trucks. This was later full of vehicles -- many trucks and cars and 1 Ceres bus. Passenger fare is around P190 I think, I don't remember.

The passengers area. No aircon section, just open air.

So this was my route, Cadiz to Escalante, boat to Tabuela then Cebu City. I got these two maps from the web, I did not make them.

Another map showing the other route, San Carlos in Negros -- Toledo in Cebu. A third route would be in Tanguil, after Barili, Cebu -- Guihulngan, Negros Or. And a fourth route would be Santander-Dumaguete, am not sure about this.

Tabuelan Port, Cebu. Small and underdeveloped and already busy.

See this, 3 boats squeezed with each other in a small docking area. The distance between the boats would be around less than 1 meter. Our boat is in the middle, where a Ceres bus is coming out.

I like the road scenes from Tabuelan to Carmen, Cebu. In another post.