Ninoy Aquino International Airport: It's Everyone Else's Fault!

If incompetence had a name, it would be Jose Angel Honrado, General Manager of Ninoy Aquino International Airport. If it was believed that NAIA was a ship that could not sink any further, we should all consider using Honrado as the anchor to finish the job once and for all. There have indeed been many dark days in the history of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. But at the end of Honrado's tenure, we may have finally reached the darkest of them all.

Image Source: Inquirer
An article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that at his last flag-raising ceremony as the General Manager of the Manila International Airport Authority, Honrado finally revealed the true cause of all the woes that the country's main gateway has had to endure over the years: the media.

Really? Whenever you have a commander and chief who chooses to blame everyone else but himself and refuses to accept ultimate responsibility for the agency that he has been entrusted with, then there is indeed truly no hope left at all.

From the title of the World's Worst Airport to a series of incidents that have included everything from murder to leaking roofs, sink holes, power outages, bullet-planting, and collapsing ceilings, Honrado blames the media for doing their jobs, while he failed to do his. 

His leadership has even influenced his fellow colleagues, who were also inspired to blame others for the airport's shortcomings. It was only two months ago that an overseas foreign worker complained that her bag had been damaged and items had been stolen from inside. NAIA officials insisted that the incident must have occurred at Hong Kong Airport

According to Honrado, it all began in 2011 when NAIA earned the title as the World's Worst Airport. Since then, the media has been "hounding us day in and day out," stated Honrado. He added that the MIAA was devasted after the agency was blamed for not resolving the "tanim-bala" problem even though they allegedly had no oversight or influence over the airport security screening process.

Honrado's incompetence can be summed up by this statement he made after NAIA Terminal 3 was hit by a five-hour power outage, which he described as a "blessing in disguise." His response to the incident: "We became more aware of the importance of maintenance." Is this guy for real? 

It's incredibly ironic that an individual who doesn't even recognize the importance of basic maintenance could be associated with one of the world's safest industries. However, it's hard to know whether one should point the finger solely at Honrado or at President Aquino for allowing this farce to continue for so many years without correction.

Honrado highlighted his incompetence further when he said, "The succeeding months proved to be non-significant, but not to the media. The broken glass panels, a 2x2 meter slab falling, the low water pressure, and the wrong spelling of the signages were highlighted for lack of something big." 

If mediocre and unsafe were acceptable standards for what should be considered a normal operation, then Honrado is highly qualified for the job. All I can say is that we should be thankful that the media, which represents the voice of the people, cared enough to highlight these incidents as significant. But perhaps the more significant issue is the fact that Honrado believed these incidents were insignificant. 

If safety is not a significant issue to the person entrusted with the safety of millions of passengers, then serious questions need to be put forward. Furthermore, if he can't even accomplish simple proof reading and ensure that signage is spelled correctly, then what exactly is he being paid to do? Does he even work? But at least we know our terminal fees have been well spent. Right?

In his final address, he told employees of NAIA that they had survived. "I dare say, we survived them all," said Honrado. Indeed, they were incredibly lucky to survive in an airport run by him! "Please accept the assumption that I did my job as my conscience and competence allowed me to do it," added Honrado.

It was obviously an assumption that Honrado was competent because he wasn't hired to be the NAIA chief based on any relevant experience or proven track record in airport management. Indeed, all NAIA employees are left to do is assume that he was doing his job because there are simply no facts evident over his entire term to suggest or prove that he did anything, much less do it competently. Can you believe that NAIA doesn't even have a functional website for passengers with real-time arrival and departure information?

Luckily, employees of NAIA aren't fooled by Honrado's rhetoric. As he recounted his alleged milestones, employees mocked him, highlighting their resentment over unpaid and withheld benefits. Meanwhile, more than 1,000 contractual workers that were responsible for maintenance in NAIA's four terminals remained bound to repeating six-month contracts without regularization and benefits even though some had been working at the airport at least fifteen years. 

Honrado's tenure at NAIA is indeed a period best forgotten. It was a dark moment in the country's history and a bruise on the country's pride. If there is any legacy that Honrado has left, it is the taste of failure and a reminder to employees and the travelling public alike that we do not ever want to see such incompetence at the helm of the nation's primary international gateway ever again. The Philippines deserves better.

In fairness, Honrado did most likely win at least one award during his tenure -- the award for the highest number of calls for resignation that any NAIA chief has ever seen. Kudos to him for being that callus and arrogant that he never once obliged over the six years that he was in charge. A Japanese official likely would have been shamed to resignation or possibly even suicide after earning the title of the World's Worst Airport!

We deserve a gateway that we can be proud of that is efficient, safe, comfortable, warm, and welcoming to everyone who passes through it. It should be a facility that represents the heart of the Filipino to each foreigner that arrives and showcases the best that this country has to offer. For balikbayans, it should represent, "Welcome Home!" as opposed to "I'm so glad I left!"

After all, it is the very first impression that anyone sees when they arrive in the Philippines. But if the primary international airport cannot be perceived as safe and welcoming, what is a tourist to expect for the rest of the country? One can only hope that the next General Manager will paint a much brighter picture that is better reflective of the Philippines and worthy of the Filipino. Better yet -- award the management of NAIA to a private operator that can deliver results like in Cebu.


  1. The title 'world's worst airport' really only ever referred to Terminal 1 at the time, which has now been improved with new false ceilings, a better paint job and new carpets plus improved toilets and a brighter check-in area.

    Ideally it ought have been demolished.

    T2 is incredibly stark and boring: hard steel seats.

    T3 is very good, except foe a lack of seating in the public areas closer to where on enters after coming though immigration and security.

    T4 is small, old but simple and more or less acceptable.

    The airside transfer buses are a big improvement.

    About time that the old, long shuttered Philippine Village hotel was demolished. There might be a tax or land transfer issue.

  2. This article should not be publish in this website it has nothing to do with Flight Network. The content of the articles are all about incompetencies of a person who run the main gateway of the Philippines. Just saying.

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