The Wheel and Axle

Airport Airhead

by on Dec.02, 2011, under Snark

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A recent editorial by Teddy Locsin, Jr. caught my eye on the interwebs earlier today.

I expected better from someone like Teddy Locsin, Jr.

In it, he makes a well-stated case against the anomalies involved in “contracting” the job of refurbishing the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), which recently cropped up in several online lists as Asia’s (and in some cases, I believe the world’s) worst airport. These anomalies should indeed be called out, especially in light of such a high-profile issue.

However, Teddy’s entire argument crumbles at the very onset because of his opening statements, and any credibility he may have had in pursuing his opinions are lost in a sea of more ignorant proclamations thereafter.

“Bloggers branding NAIA the worst airport were homeless gays,” he begins charmingly. “Naturally, they complained the NAIA women’s toilets are inadequate, there’s nowhere to lie down, no kneepads in restrooms in any case.”

Beginning one’s argument with homophobic slurs is never a good idea. You’ve instantly lost maybe 10% of your audience, and significantly more so if you count said audience’s supporters. To generalize bloggers who have shared their opinions about how bad NAIA is as being “homeless gays” is offensive to gays and straights alike. Let us remember that resorting to name-calling is a sign of a weak debater who could not find a strong foundation for his own points.

Also, to insinuate that all that gay folks think of is oral sex while kneeling in public restrooms is a pretty disgusting thing to say on what should be a professional and, one assumes, intellectual forum.

He also later deridingly uses “Famfanga” as a term, continuing his ignorant bigotry and lack of proper debating skills.

“Nobody, who is anybody, notices the airports they pass through. My best friend, mining magnate Ronnie Zamora has travelled the world. After immigration, he said, the airport is just a blur when Ritz, Four Seasons, Mandarin or Shangri-la whisk him away,” he continues. “What about the toilet? He has done his business in the plane. Travelers flying economy, in tight seats, with smelly toilets, want to get as far from the plane, as fast as they can.”

After making his homophobic rants, Teddy shifts into full-on elitist mode with his “nobody who is anybody” diatribe.

Teddy, perhaps only 5% of all airport passers-through are an “anybody;” the rest are just “nobodies” like us who cannot afford lengthy stays in first-class hotels while sitting on a pile of hundred-dollar bills and making phone calls to Zurich to move money to the Cayman Island accounts.

The “nobodies” like us don’t always have the option to be whisked away in limousines from the airport to go to our crystal castles. Many have no choice but to stay in the airport for several hours waiting for connecting flights to other destinations. Many of these “nobodies” are also foreign tourists who bring in money that help our shitty economy, and if their “Mabuhay! Welcome!” sign to Manila is a stinky airport with thieving staff, you can kiss your economy goodbye.

And if “nobodies” like us who cannot afford a stay in the first-class lounge need to wait for hours, then the airport better damn well be at least comfortable, secure, and clean.

The primary function of an airport may indeed be immigrations and customs, but it has secondary functions as well – customer service being one of those.

“I killed the idea of doing anything to an airport that already works well.”

This, of course, is the most laughable, self-deluding statement one would hear in this editorial.

To say NAIA works well is like saying the Philippines is a global super-power. Never mind the aesthetics of the restrooms. Just think about the damned falling ceiling and the corrupt airport personnel running the place. Security and safety are utmost priorities wherein NAIA has failed miserably, and that is no big secret.

And while we do not expect to see an airport that looks like it came out of the wet dream of some Dubai architect, we expect a level of beauty and basic cleanliness. The airport is the gateway to the nation, and if your foreign guests find your gateway shitty, what would they think of the rest of your nation? This is the kind of thing that kills the tourism industry, which is one of the few industries that is keeping our economy afloat.

“But no, the finicky insist on a brand new airport we cannot afford or the old one remade according to Architectural Digest.”

I am neither economist nor financial analyst, but common sense will tell me that this airport can afford to be remade.

With the exorbitant “terminal fees” and “airport taxes” being extorted from the thousands of travelers passing through on a daily basis, I guarantee you money can be found to fund any renovation three times over if said money wants to be found. Other airports such as HKIA and Singapore have significantly better-maintained facilities, and these do not charge such fees.

The elephant in the room, therefore, is: where does all that money go? With the deteriorating conditions of NAIA, it certainly isn’t going to its basic upkeep, never mind any aesthetic overhauling in mind.

And this, at the end of the day, is what should be lambasted primarily. Not whether NAIA’s renovation plans have anomalies or not (which should still be questioned), but why it needs renovation in the first place when there should be more than enough money flowing through to maintain it. “Should” being the operative term – this is the root anomaly in this situation, the question of where all that money is going to.

This is what needs to be investigated in the first place. If it had been done so years ago, then the airport would likely have been fixed way back, and it never would have landed on any “worst” lists at all that would necessitate this reaction from the government.

Some have mentioned Teddy’s editorial may have been satirical. Maybe. However, in the video wherein he expresses these opinions, he does not sound satirical at all.

And while one is entitled to one’s opinion, one should be careful in how that opinion is expressed. Otherwise, one will just come off as an airhead, and that’s never good, especially if you are supposed to be a respected journalist.

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