26 January 2008

Guess what? The Philippines isn't safe!

Before our return flight to San Francisco, my dad warned us that we needed to get to Ninoy Aquino International Airport at least 3 hours before our scheduled flight time, preferrably 4 hours before. Alfie and I pooh-poohed his suggestion; after all, 4 hours at the airport? With 3 kids? Just before a 14-hour flight?? Besides, at San Francisco International, they usually suggest arriving 2 hours before, what's wrong with that? We decided to humor him and plan to be at the airport 3 hours before.

Turns out he was right. Once at the airport, we had to line up six times, and we needed almost all of those 3 hours to get through all the lines:

1) Line to check in
2) Line to pay foreign travel tax
3) Line to pay airport tax fee
4) Line for immigration
5) Line for security check
6) Line for security check (a separate check done by Philippine Airlines)

When we finally arrived at the waiting area, it was already time to board the plane and we had to line up yet again (which actually makes it seven lines total that we had to endure before boarding the plane).

You'd think that with all these lines -- where they check and recheck your passport and tickets and visas and green cards and boarding cards, where they scan you and unpack your bags and feel you up -- that passengers can at least feel sure that airline and airport personnel are doing all they can to ensure passenger safety. Yet just a couple of weeks ago, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) declared the Philippines to be an unsafe port of origin because it has failed to comply with their international aviation safety standards.

So we are now a "category 2 country", along with 21 other countries like Bangladesh, Ghana and Guyana. This means that Philippine carriers operating in the US (namely PAL) cannot expand their operations, and may continue their current flight operations only under heightened scrutiny. So every time a PAL plane lands in LAX or SFO, it needs a special inspection by the FAA. With these extra inspections, I imagine PAL is going to have to revert to its former nickname -- Plane Always Late. Even worse is the negative effect on tourism that is sure to follow, since this downgrade casts the Philippines in a bad light.

Yup, unfortunately, even after all those security checks at the airport, they say it's an unsafe port. The culprit is not airport security measures; apparently it's the operations, maintenance, licensing standards. It's not even PAL's fault -- the safety rating program assesses "a country's ability, not the individual air carrier, to adhere to international standards and recommended practices for aircraft operations and maintenance." At least the Philippine government is now scrambling to pass laws, bills, whatever, to recify the situation. Cmon guys, get your act together!

Bonggamom also blogs at the Silicon Valley Moms Blog and Finding Bonggamom.


mamazilla said...

greaaaat... how sad is it that the "unsafe" rating doesn't scare me nearly as much as how much MORE time i'd be trapped while attempting to entertain two toddlers. yikes.

Karmela said...

mamazilla -- it's because two toddlers ARE scarier than a posse of terrorists. ;-)

Outgas Happens said...

curious about organic food in the philippines.

Does anyone know what if any options there are for organic in the phils? I'd really like to find some organic beef there.

mamazilla said...

outgas - i've seen posts from organic growers re: organic beef and poultry, fruit and tea on www.marketmanila.com

hope that helps! :)