Sunday, October 21, 2007

The new Iloilo airport

The old Iloilo airport is in Manduriao, Iloilo City. And the most prominent structure near that airport when a plan is about to land, is.... an SM City Manduriao!

Having an airport within the city proper is good because passengers from the city and Guimaras island will not need to go far if they're flying. The only problem of course is that an airport in the city proper naturally will have limited space for any expansion. Or no space at all for any expansion.

The new airport, opened only a few months ago this year, is in the town of Sta. Barbara. It's about 22 kms. from the city proper, passing by the town of Pavia. The airport should be ok for some international flights because it is modern enough. Departure lounge on the 3rd floor, arrival area on the 2nd floor, and airport cargo equipment and staff on the ground floor. The design is like a midget or small version of many big Asian international airports.

The runway should be at least 1 km long, could be 1.5 kms. Hence, it can possibly handle a B737 or equivalent size of Airbus planes. Surrounding the runway and passenger terminal and other structures are vast rice fields and rural houses. So a further expansion in the future should pose no problem.

One thing impressive about this airport is that despite its modern design and features, the terminal fee is a modest and very reasonable rate of only P30/passenger. If you compare it with the current old, ugly and congested domestic terminal in Pasay charging P200/passenger, the rate of the latter, operated by the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), would really look like a highway robbery.

Hong Kong

I've been to Hong Kong 3x. My first was in April 1998, during the PDE (Program in Devt. Econ., UP School of Economics) study tour; second was in September 2004, during an international conference on "The Role of Government in Asian Economies", sponsored by the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF). And my third was last September this year, for a short meeting with some friends among the International Policy Network (IPN) circle.

In my 1st visit 9 years ago, the airport was still in the city, and we didn't move out too far from the city proper (HK and Kowloon areas), where we attended some meetings and briefing with a number of HK government economic agencies. HK's skyscrapers were really impressive, and they didn't seem to be tiring building more. We also visited the Ocean Park, other urban parks and amusement centers.

We had a day tour also at Shenzhen, China. At that time, I remember the roads were very wide, there were a few skyscrapers, but the development plan was meant for something really big -- a big city, a big future commercial center.

In my 2nd visit 3 years ago, we landed at the new, bigger, Chek Lap Kok Airport at Lantau island. I remember I was impressed by the huge infrastructure investments put by the HK government in connecting that island to the main islands of HK territory. That long bridge for instance going to Kowloon was really huge and modern. Also the several kilometers long of stone-cement terraces to prevent land slides and falling rocks on roads along steep hills.

Nonetheless, the conference schedule was very tight, we had little or no time to move around the city, except after dinners. One of those nights, our friends from Lion Rock Institute, particularly Andrew Work, toured us to some of the most interesting strips of bars in HK. I was proud telling friends from other countries that the performing rock bands in most of those bars are from the Philippines. Those bands they could amplify the pulsating night with lots of fast-beat rock music from the 70s onwards.

In my 3rd visit a month ago, this time, the schedule was not hectic, but it was only for 2 days and 1 night, had to rush back to Manila for the 1st bday party of my daughter. From the airport, one can take the Airport Express train to the city for HK$90. I thought it was rather expensive. I asked how much the bus fare, it's only HK$33 up to Kowloon, my destination. So I took the bus. It's a comfortable ride, of course not as comfy and as fast as the train. But I also enjoyed watching the territory from Lantau island to Kowloon. It took the bus about 45 minutes to a bus stop in Nathan road, and the bus driver told me to get off where my destination, Intercontinental Grand Stanford at Mody road, is nearer.

There are other 5-star hotels along this road and neighboring streets. This area is near the Causeway bay, where one can see HK island and its glittering skyscrapers, particularly the very tall and very bright International Finance Center building, just across the bay.

At night, those skyscrapers are really fantastic to see. One can imagine how many big powerplants would be needed to sustain the energy needs of those buildings, the roads, parks, and residential areas.

I haven't been to HK Disneyland, and I haven't gone back to the Ocean Park since my first and last visit to that place. They should be good places to tour my daughter and wife someday.

On a Satruday night at Nathan road, on my way back to the airport, I noticed there was a big mosque for Muslims. I saw many many Muslims coming out of the mosque. I didn't realize that there is now a big population of Muslims in HK, but they are mostly migrants -- from Asia and Africa especially.