Privatize O and M of NAIA
- Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - April 21, 2014 - 12:00am

P-Noy apologized last week for the air conditioning breakdown at NAIA 1. He suggested the blame should be laid on government procurement procedures. They ordered necessary parts November last year but will only arrive this August.

Said P-Noy: “Humihingi tayo ng paumanhin at pasensya pero talagang sa higpit ng mga patakaran sa gobyerno – hindi ka naman puwedeng um-order ngayon at i-deliver within 30 days.”

If P-Noy believed that explanation from his favorite NAIA GM, gross stupidity should be added as a ground for impeachment. Nine months for delivery of air conditioning units?

I want to believe that P-Noy didn’t believe that explanation but chose to protect his beloved GM anyway. He did that by not visiting Terminal 1 because seeing horrifying evidence of his bosom buddy’s incompetence will leave him no choice.

I don’t understand that at all. He was already in the area and people have been screaming bloody murder over conditions at Terminal 1 for the past week. How can the President not inspect what needs to be inspected?

I am sure that a self respecting President who sees first hand the lousy situation in a terminal named after his martyred father would have fired the guy in charge, friend or no friend. He was obviously in denial of reality to justify to himself why he is still keeping an incompetent friend in such a vital position.

I will grant that government procurement procedures are cumbersome and time consuming. But the excuse is untenable. A manager worth his salt would have planned ahead for such eventualities.

There are hundreds of malls all over the country and all are centrally air conditioned. I am sure the GM of any mall is not allowed to have more than a few hours or maybe a day of non functioning air conditioning. He is going to get fired with an excuse like the one the NAIA General gave P-Noy.

Now, tell me… what is the difference between a mall and an airport terminal? These are just climate controlled concrete boxes designed to keep thousands of people comfortable as they catch flights or shop or both.

If at all, an airport terminal is more important and flawless 24/7 operations expected. It is also not the first time a NAIA terminal suffered this problem. NAIA 2 and 3 also had serious air conditioning problems.

Because these problems happen rather often, one would expect the NAIA GM would have learned his lesson and taken necessary precautions. Even a monkey or a rat in an experimental laboratory learns something from a negative experience.

One other excuse they are giving is that there is on-going renovation and they had to turn off some air con units so as to protect these from the dust. A Facebook friend rejected this excuse as he cited the experience at LAX when the Bradley terminal was being renovated.

“Los Angeles Airport’s Bradley terminal was renovated for two years and that did not disrupt the air conditioning nor did it disrupt other functioning facilities. There was thorough planning before the contractor started working.”

I remember that when the air conditioning at Terminal 2, which is exclusively used by PAL, also went on the blink, the response was more immediate. But that’s only because Ramon Ang figured he needed to act fast or suffer reputational risks for the airline. The cost of repairing the problem may seem big but still small compared to potential business loss.

Of course repairing the terminal’s air conditioning system is the responsibility of NAIA management but RSA decided PAL will just go ahead and fix it even if getting reimbursement from NAIA is impossible. New chillers were ordered and independent units were also ordered and installed in key places in the terminal. I am sure it did not take nine months.

That’s the difference between a private sector manager who got his position through great performance and a government manager who got his position because of friendship with the President.

If I remember right, RSA also ordered the major repair of the reserve power generator, problems with the electrical system and the broadband line damaged by the on-going construction at T1. I can’t get confirmation from RSA on all these due to the long holidays but that’s what PAL people on the ground are telling me.

I am sure the only remedy here is to bid out to the private sector the operations and maintenance (O and M) of NAIA terminals. This means that obviously incompetent GM and his equally useless staff will have to go and P-Noy won’t even have to break his heart to fire him.

A private company managing an international airport is not a new thing. It is being done all over the world. And even here, the idea is not new for DOTC. PPP Center just issued a press release announcing a public bidding for the O and M of six domestic airports.

Cosette Canilao identified these airports up for private management as Laguindingan, Panglao, Puerto Princesa, Davao, Bacolod and Iloilo. If DOTC thinks these airports can be run by private management, why not NAIA?

Private sector management of NAIA means faster response time in addressing problems. In a limited way, PAL showed that result when it assumed responsibility for fixing the air conditioning system in T2.

Even that ongoing major rehab at T1 that took almost two years of study under DOTC’s Mar Roxas and his clone, Jun Abaya, would have been done by now. And we won’t even need the threat of an APEC summit meeting here to speed things up.

Same thing with that CNS/ATM system… that was delayed two years too by Mar, caused taxpayers a billion pesos more in delay penalty charges. That CNS/ATM could have helped relieve the congestion problem at NAIA that is costing the airlines a lot of money and causing anxiety among passengers. It could have also helped earn revenues for the country by tracking airlines flying through our air space.

Sec. Jun is also being worse than pathetic when he said that things like non functioning air conditioners no longer get to his level. He said he has managers to worry about those things. Correct but in the end, there is command responsibility.

I am not surprised Sec. Jun didn’t know about the air con problems until P-Noy texted him. I would be so embarrassed if it was my boss who pointed out a problem to me that is within my area of responsibility.

I had the same experience with Sec. Jun. I think it was a year ago when I texted Sec. Jun about T3 being an oven. My wife was leaving for Singapore via CebPac and was at that terminal when she reported that to me. Sec. Jun said he doesn’t know and will check with Gen. Honrado of NAIA what’s going on.

That’s when I started to lose respect for someone I thought was a hot shot Pisay and Annapolis grad who is also a lawyer. In my years in management I have learned that no job is too small for me to at least know what’s going on.

I learned command responsibility the hard way with a fumble that caused my boss, the late Energy Minister Ronnie Velasco to give me a stern management sermon I never forgot. He was not interested with my explanation that someone in my staff goofed. All he knows, he told me, is that I had a job to do and I failed.

It is unfortunate Cabinet members today seem to be management softies. That’s a pity because the President himself is no management hot shot. They should be covering up for him. Instead, P-Noy had been taking the blame, apologizing for blunders on behalf of his staff.

Well, at least P-Noy has learned to apologize. He must however, still learn to manage and that includes firing non performing staff even if he happens to be a very close personal friend.

Some say P-Noy owes his life to this NAIA General who retrieved him from a bloody encounter scene during one of Gringo’s coups. Showing utang na loob is okay but P-Noy has done more than enough for this general and wala talagang ibubuga… talagang palpak. P-Noy also took an oath to serve us, we the people, he called us his boss. It is time to do that, Mr. President. Enough should be enough.

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is Follow him on Twitter @boochanco


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