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MANILA - The Ninoy Aquino International Airport is perceived to be among the world's worst airports - failing, among many other things, to have orderly waiting areas and clean toilets.
For one, Philippine Airlines president Jaime Bautista
said that "with this, palagay po namin, maraming matutuwang pasahero dito
sa ating bansa [we believe many passengers here will be overjoyed]."
The tourism sector feared that apprehension over being the victim of "evidence planting" at Philippine airports would turn away tourists.
But with the memorandum of understanding signed between the Transportation department and local airlines Thursday, clean toilets at the airports are now expected to be the norm starting next week.
The Manila International Airport Authority is currently the one in charge of the upkeep and maintenance of all the toilets at NAIA. Passing on this responsibility to the airline will allow the government to focus more on other facilities such as airconditioning units and the CCTV system."
According to Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, the move is just one of the many service upgrades passengers can expect at the country's premier gateway.
"Expect an operation that is fully CCTV-ized, expect an airport that is communication-friendly, expect our airport where the toilet no longer stinks and the airconditioning works well. Today is a meaningful day. We are taking one big step to address issues that have made people in the republic uncomfortable and angry," Tugade said.
While all these changes will mean extra costs to the airlines, they say they don't mind as long as these translate to greater comfort for travellers.
Lance Gokongwei, president of Cebu Pacific, said they "are very grateful for the opportunity to work with the government and the MIAA to provide an even better service to our passengers, so maraming salamat [thanks a lot]."
Free wi-fi connection at airports across the country is also being planned starting August.
"In due time," said Tugade, "all our airports will not only smell fresh and clean; they will also be communication-friendly. We are now working and hopefully we will put it in place, in the next 100 days, free wifi -- 1 gigabyte in all airports."
To further make travelling safer and breezier, transport officials say they also will be implementing a no-arrest order for passengers found to be carrying bullets in the airport. The new policy is apparently in response to the massive outcry against the so-called "tanim bala" incidents at the airport, where dozens of departing passengers - locals and foreigners - were suddenly found to have bullets in their luggage at the security check areas.