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Two weekends ago was a busy one for SCMAP. Two of us flew to Cebu for the Visayas chapter’s third Sharpening the Supply Chain Practitioners—kudos again to the team in Cebu for another well-attended and very meaningful event. Two more flew to Davao for the establishment of our new chapter in Mindanao—and with the team firmly in place there now we are confident we can bring companies there both a new venue to discuss their supply chain concerns and a voice in the growing national discussion on competitiveness.

 

That meant we were flying back and forth in a span of three days, and that meant us seeing first-hand—once again—just how congested the Ninoy Aquino International Airport is. All of our flights were delayed. My flight to Cebu, for instance, left two hours behind schedule, although they did cite “additional servicing of aircraft”, which seems more tolerable than “late arrival of turnaround aircraft”. That said, our boarding gate—which was accommodating passengers from at least four flights—was getting uncomfortable full, and the Cebu Pacific ground crew’s confusion over where to make us wait was making things worse for impatient customers like me.

 

It’s easy to dismiss these issues as concerns only for those in Manila, but it has a national effect, too. My flight back to the capital from Cebu was also delayed. I expected this—our president-elect Christine Pardiñas, who spoke at our Cebu event, was delayed by an hour. The far more accommodating ground crew had answers for me, too. “Expect at least an hour delay, sir,” the lady at the check-in counter told me. “We’re still having problems with the plane at the NAIA runway.” A domino effect that’s stretched for a week—it’s even postponed the concert I was supposed to be watching the weekend prior.

 

The delay was longer though. By the time we were supposed to take off, I was told that, in reality, the plane that’s supposed to bring me home has yet to leave Manila. Passengers were confused, particularly as the flight information displays did not say “delayed”. By the time we finally left Cebu it was time for the moon night—and the Cebu Pacific team already gave us free meals. I arrived at half past eight; it should have been half past five.

 

The reaction to the Xiamen Airlines plan making a hard landing at NAIA has been predictable. “This goes to show we should build a new airport” is a line I’ve heard from several senators. Not that I disagree with them, but with continuing lack of clarity as to what our air transport strategy is for the capital—do we expand Clark, do we build airports in Bulakan and Sangley Point, do we keep NAIA?—we might as well say things will stay the same.

 

This reactive viewpoint also extends to how we develop our airports. NAIA’s Terminal 3 was supposed to be this state of the air facility that can accommodate all these passengers—but at its current state it’s become clear that they only planned for the demand of the time, rather than the demand of the future. And it’s not like we can expand the passenger concourse at the terminal now. We live with what we have.

 

From both the perspective of a supply chain stakeholder and an end consumer, it’s frustrating that the government is reactive when it comes to transportation issues. And narrow, too. Take the controversial HOV traffic policy (aka “no singles allowed”) on EDSA. I can’t believe Metro Manila’s mayors were so keen on seeing EDSA traffic move faster at the expense of every other road in the capital and beyond. They only had one metric in mind. I was thinking, “maybe if they had the ability to gather and analyze more data about Manila’s traffic, they wouldn’t come up with this idea”—but, alas, we don’t.

 

But you might say I’m giving the government a hard time—especially now that the Build Build Build program is rushing to finish all these infrastructure projects to relieve traffic in Manila. Sure, that deserves kudos, too. But I can’t help but think this is just us catching up with current demand—and, after this spurt of investment, we will fail to anticipate future demand. These flyovers will be congested again, and we’ll be back to square one. The Philippines really needs a robust transport policy that looks ahead; that clearly outlines plans for land, sea and air; that promotes public transportation not just as a means of decongesting urban areas but as a way to spread development and equalize the playing field for those who can afford five cars and those who can only take a jeep. Either that, or we’ll keep on running through time.

 

2018 SCMAP Supply Chain Conference: We are happy to announce two more speakers to the most prestigious event in Philippine supply chain. Joining our panel on last mile logistics are Dannah Majarocon, managing director of Lalamove Philippines, and Jun Ynion, founder of XLog. Register now through our website, scmap.org.

 

Henrik Batallones is the marketing and communications executive of SCMAP. A former board director, he is also editor-in-chief of the organization’s official publication, Supply Chain Philippines. More information about SCMAP is available at scmap.org.

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