NAIA-1 gets P1-billion face-lift

By Recto Mercene, BusinessMirror

Posted at Nov 07 2011 07:16 AM | Updated as of Nov 07 2011 09:14 PM

MANILA, Philippines - A newly refurbished Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1 will rise from the shell of the old, much-maligned main gateway, but still would not provide free sleeping quarters for vagrants and those on a tight budget. The repairs will cost P1 billion.

According to Terminal 1 Manager Dante Basanta, the NAIA-1 had a “dayroom” decades ago, rented at P840 per day ($20) and located near the arrival area, just beside the duty-free shops.

(The “dayroom” is still there, available for those who may want to use it, although it’s not being properly advertised by airport authorities. Most of the time, however, the area is used as a holding room for those scheduled for deportation and who are awaiting their flights.)

The face-lift of NAIA-1 will start in January and is expected to be finished within 2012. The 67,000-square-meter building has a capacity of 4.5 million passengers a year. Last year it served way beyond its capacity—or some 7.3 million people.

The tight space and limited amenities have irked some bloggers who, unable to find sleeping quarters at NAIA-1, graded it the worst in the world.

NAIA-1 was recently voted as the “World’s Worst Airport to Sleep In” by the “The Guide to Sleeping in Airports,” a web site of  low-budget travelers who used the airport as overnight motels to save on money.

But Manila International Airport Authority (Miaa) General Manager Jose Angel Honrado said this is not why the passenger terminal is being spruced up; the undertaking had been discussed by various administrations in the past.

Honrado said the firm of Leandro V. Locsin and Associates, the original architect of NAIA-1, is helping conceptualize ideas about how the newly rebuilt structure would look.

Also part of the project are furniture and interior designer Budji Layug, architect Royal Pineda and Cebuano designer Kenneth Cobonpue, who are providing their expertise pro bono to give the NAIA-1 a major face-lift, 30 years after it was constructed. The original design was by National Artist for Architecture Leandro V. Locsin.

Transportation and Communications Secretary Manuel Roxas II is spearheading the NAIA-1 restoration. He held consultations last week with top officials of the customs, immigration and quarantine bureaus, as well as the Miaa.

Customs Commissioner Rozanno Rufino Biazon, Immigration Commissioner Ricardo David Jr., Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. and Honrado attended the meeting.

The interior renovation will cost P450 million, while the park development will fetch P500 million.

“The proposed P1-billion budget will help build a new image of the Philippines,” according to Pineda, who said in a recent interview that Naia 1, like all modern airports, would provide a “boutique” experience, “not so much for its modest size as for its distinct atmosphere of civility and expedience.”

To expedite the flow of arriving and departing passengers, concessionaires such as banks and insurance companies that are now located smack in the middle of the arrival and departure zones would be moved to the sides.

“Flow takes precedence. The proposed master plan includes freeing up the space to accommodate more passengers by transferring the offices and banks elsewhere,” Pineda said.

The arrival area, which had been expanded recently, will be surrounded by glass so that passengers could see all the way to the lobby and beyond, according to Honrado. He also said the wall that separates the customs from the luggage section would have to give way so that natural light from the outside would illuminate the area.

There are also plans to make the waiting lounge more pleasant and to add restrooms, Honrado said.

The proposal calls for refurbishing the facilities, decongesting, developing a park and enhancing the retail environment. It also calls for NAIA to work equally hard on the software, and the services.

Honrado said the National Competitiveness Council Program (NCCP) asked Layug, Pineda and Cobonpue to offer their own suggestions on the face-lift as part of a program to improve the country’s image. The NCCP was established by Presidential Executive Order 571, which seeks to improve the country’s competitiveness from the bottom third of competitiveness rankings to the top third by 2016.

According to the three designers, the airport and Roxas Boulevard need the most attention since they provide the visitor his or her initial impression of the country.

Pineda said the renovation of NAIA-1’s structure would  be limited; it can no longer be expanded; nor can it accommodate extra load, he said in their web site. “We will create a boutique airport. With a small terminal, we can show efficiency and hospitality.”

Pineda said function would be the main priority. “It’s not just about adding toilets and rectifying the look, but also verifying the structural integrity of the building,” he said.

The team also recommended improvements in the operations, such as incorporating the terminal fee in the ticket instead of letting people line up. Only those with exit clearances, exempting them from travel tax and terminal fees, should queue in the counters. “Let majority of the passengers enjoy the smooth flow in the airport,” Pineda was quoted as having said.

Taking into consideration the Filipino culture of hatid-sundo, Honrado said the designers have addressed the need for an arrival extension for families and friends sending off or welcoming the passengers.

Honrado said the design team had proposed that the concrete open-parking lot in Terminal 1 be transformed into a three-story parking space and a lush landscape lined with select food outlets. The proposed park will showcase not only the best of Filipino dining brands but also changing art exhibits. A canopied walkway will lead to the greeters and well-wishers’ lounge.

Welcome parties can wait in the restaurants and enjoy the garden so that the lots can also become income-generating spaces.