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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Land at your own risk in the Philippines

The botched hostage rescue, now a textbook case worldwide on how not
to resolve a hostage situation, has brought shame to the nation and
prompted cancellations of tours to the Philippines from Hong Kong and
the Chinese mainland during one of their peak travel seasons. But even
before one deranged ex-cop and the government’s incompetent response
spooked foreign visitors, the Philippines was already struggling in
its efforts to attract more travelers.

One immediate reason was the breakdown of the VOR or very high
frequency omni-range station at the Ninoy Aquino International
Airport, which prompted authorities to turn back or divert flights
during nighttime or periods of poor visibility due to smog. Airport
authorities tried to downplay the problem by saying pilots should just
use their eyes for landing, but of course many refused to take that
risk.

The VOR as well as the instrument landing system and distance
measuring equipment at the NAIA were damaged at the height of storm
“Ondoy” last year. The ILS and DME were repaired and became
operational only last Thursday afternoon, while the VOR is working
only because the NAIA borrowed a transmitter from the airport in
Subic.

How much does it cost to rehabilitate the VOR? A transmitter costs P14
million, authorities said, while VOR replacement parts costing P3
million also need to be purchased. The total amount is smaller than
the individual pork barrel allocation of congressmen, or the pay and
bonuses received last year by each of the top executives in the major
government-owned or controlled corporations. The Department of
Transportation and Communications was prepared in the previous
administration to spend $329 million on a government broadband network
project, but not a fraction of that amount to upgrade navigation
facilities in the country’s premier airport.

The uncertainty of being able to land in the airport of one’s choice
in this country is on top of the many problems that have long
bedeviled visitors in the Philippines. Traffic, pollution, security
risks, poor tourism infrastructure, unsafe mass transportation
facilities – all these problems have contributed to making the country
lag behind its regional neighbors in terms of tourism arrivals. The
inability to replace airport navigation equipment is another
disincentive to travelers that can and should be quickly remedied.

EDITORIAL- Land at your own risk -
http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=606868&publicationSubCategoryI...

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