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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, February 2, 2018
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Come to think of it
with Carlos Antonio L. Leonardia



What is the official name of our airport? Do people still call it the “New Bacolod Silay Airport?” How about Bacolod-Silay International Airport?

Whatever that label is, anyone who has been there recently would agree that the words “new” and “international” should not be attached to an airport that looks much older than its 10 year-old age. Over that short period the facility that provides the first and last impression of our province to travelers has somehow been allowed to become shabby, uncomfortable and inconvenient.

The check in area shouldn't look and feel like a bodega but it does. The ceilings are dirty, nobody minds the broken ceiling fixtures, and the walls look like they already need a new coat of paint. It wouldn't feel so bodega-like if the temperature in that section of the airport were more comfortable but as far as I can remember, the air conditioning there has been consistently non-existent. I pity the airline personnel who have to man the check in counters every day.

The pre-departure area isn't usually that bad but last Thursday night when I was there, the aircon was not working and my kids and I could feel and smell its effects the moment we stepped through the x-ray machines. Considering that we were there at night time and it was cool outside, I could only imagine what kind of hell the place must've felt like at noontime. Hopefully we were just unlucky that night and the issue has already been addressed by airport management because it would be a great embarrassment if aircon outages in the predeparture area were a common occurrence.

When we got back from our trip after a couple of days, we were reminded why Bacolod people are in such a rush to exit the aircraft as soon as it lands. There are not enough serviceable luggage carts in the baggage carousel area so you have to hurry up to be able to score one. Our party made the mistake of being seated at the back of the aircraft so by the time we got to the carousel, trolleys were no longer available. Perhaps airport management is just porter-friendly.

An airport that can be considered both new and international should be comfortable to wait in and convenient to get out of. Poor air-conditioning and a shortage of trolleys make it an embarrassment for Negresnses, especially because these are issues that should be easily addressed by proactive airport managers.

Our airport had the potential to be among the best in the country, that is, if only it had been maintained better in its first decade. The facilities are decent enough to accept international flights and the view of the sugarcane fields and the mountain ranges of Negros Island is unmatched. It didn't even need many improvements because all it needed was to be taken care of properly.

Unfortunately for us and our airport, tender loving care was not available so we are now stuck with a glorified and highly secure bodega of international standards. Since even just getting it back up its original look will cost a lot, we can probably only hope that the planned airport expansion will include the renovation of the existing structure.

The problem is that even if the airport is expanded and renovated, we can bet that the same thing will happen to the structure and facilities if airport management has the same mindset as it does right now.

What makes it hurt even more for Negrenses is that the management of the Iloilo airport which opened only a year earlier than our Bacolod-Silay airport was able to keep their airport in tiptop shape, enough to rank 12 th among Asia's 25 best airports for 2017 in travel website Sleeping in Airports list. What did Iloilo do that Bacolod-Silay failed to do? Maybe we should consider pirating their airport manager, that is if he agrees to take on what could be the monumental challenge of making our airport as good as Iloilo's after what our airport management put it through.

It doesn't matter if Iloilo has more international flights than Bacolod because the point is, we will never get more international flights as long as our airport isn't even in the same ballpark in terms of management and quality. Shouldn't it be high time for our public officials to get their heads together and see what can be done to make our airport better so it can live up to its potential?

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