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MANILA, Philippines – Five days before Christmas, 4 people were killed in a drive-by shooting at the arrival bay of Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), the main gateway to the Philippines.
The dead included a town mayor and an 18-month-old baby whose companions were waiting for a relative caught in the holiday traffic on the way to fetch them at the airport.
While the Mindanao politician and his wife have had brushes with death in the past, initial reports of their ambush focused on an eyebrow-raising lack of CCTVs at the crime scene. The security cameras could have helped identify the motorcycle-riding killers.
This is not the first time the lack of CCTVs at the newest terminal in NAIA grabbed headlines. In the summer of 2012, at the baggage carousel, celebrity couple Claudine Barretto and Raymart Santiago were engaged in a brawl with newspaper columnist and TV personality Ramon Tulfo.
The he-said, she-said accounts could have been easily checked against what the security cameras could have captured from start to finish. However, only a few seconds of the brawl was captured by a smartphone video.
Mar Roxas, then the transportation secretary (he is now interior secretary), blamed it on the delays in the signing of a deal with Takenaka, the Japanese builder of the airport terminal with a checkered past.
He had explained that the provision of CCTVs was among the deliverables of Takenaka when that completion contract between the Japanese contractor and the Philippine government is finally signed after a decade-long wait. Watch this clip from a previous press conference.
That contract with Takenaka was finally signed in August 2013 after long negotiations over work and service guarantees. It also came after contract fees (around US$40 million) were finalized.
The deal involved upgrading and providing the airport systems – yes, likely including installing CCTVs all over the terminal – that are centrally controlled by a system only Takenaka has access to.
Remember: NAIA-3 was supposed to be a modern airport terminal where even the baggage handling, air-conditioning systems, flight information displays, computer terminals, gate coordination, fire protection systems, and other nitty gritties needed to seamlessly operate and efficiently run.
At the time, however, the other international airlines cramped in NAIA-1 could not transfer to NAIA-3 because the baggage system at Terminal 3 was still manually controlled and the security X-rays required by international aviation bodies could not function yet.
The lack of CCTVs is just the tip of the iceberg, one of the many items in the long to-do list that could be started only when a deal is finally sealed with a contractor chosen to complete and upgrade the unfinished terminal.
For about a decade, Filipino officials had been keen on signing up Takenaka, which already knows the building and could finish the work faster than a newcomer. But negotiators from both parties played hardball. There were allegations of not negotiating with clean hands.
But the 2013 deal was eventually hammered out because of an upcoming deadline: the Philippines will host the APEC meeting in 2015. Officials want the entire NAIA-3 up and running efficiently by 3rd quarter 2014.
The negotiators had to iron out who is accountable for what and for how much. The coverage of the project involves structural retrofitting and rehabilitation, as well as the replacement of systems that Takenaka installed before work on the 98%-finished facility was stopped in December 2002.
The NAIA-3 project – designed to address the fast-growing number of passengers and flights already choking the airport terminals and single runway – was unilaterally abrogated by the Arroyo government to show the world we don’t tolerate wrongdoings by investors.
After the Supreme Court nullified the contract in 2003, the Filipino-led Piatco consortium and Germany’s Fraport AG filed separate arbitration proceedings in Washington and Singapore.
The Philippines spent billions of dollars in legal fees to highlight that the Filipino and German investors padded their costs, tried to bribe government officials and regulators to increase their margins and lock out competitors, and violated local laws on foreign ownership in the course of doing the project.
Only half of the one-kilometer-long airport facility was opened for commercial use when NAIA-3 was partially opened in 2008 since the Philippine legal team and various engineering groups stressed the other half is not structurally safe. Some parts couldn’t withstand Intensity VI earthquakes.
Takenaka was caught in the middle of this legal, structural, and financial mess over NAIA-3 between the government, Piatco, and Fraport. They were like lovers in a roller-coaster relationship, and middlemen who would try to patch them up over and over were aplenty. Meetings were held here and in Japan.
Both walked the tight rope. On the one hand, they wanted closure and just complete the airport; on the other hand, they wanted to make sure they don’t incriminate themselves.
With 4 lives lost before promises of a better future is even realized, the past catches up again. – Rappler.com
Lala Rimando was former business editor of Rappler. She has written in-depth reports on the twists and turns in NAIA-3’s legal, financial, and structural issues. Visit her blog, the Lala Rimando Journal, for her thoughts on business, the economy, and other interests.
CCTV Image from Shutterstock