After an amazing trip to Taipei, we arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 sleepy and cranky following a 1AM flight from Taipei. It was almost 4AM and we are tired and badly in need of sleep. Like any enterprising Pinoy, we avoided the line of cabs at the Arrivals area, mainly because they do not use the meters and in the rare instances that they do, it is set too fast which results to almost 3x the normal fare.
Along with other arriving passengers who apparently had the same idea, we went up the Departures area where metered taxis were known to drop off departing passengers. The first thing that greeted us (and a sign of things to come) was all the doors roped off, with a handwritten “closed” sign taped in the middle. To further emphasize a point, discarded passengers’ chairs was placed on the same area, should someone have an idea to sneak past the rope. All four exits had this, and all the tired and sleepy passengers were asked to head to the last exit at the farthest corner of the terminal.
Desperate to find a cab and finally go home, we headed for the only exit available. Outside was a line of white taxi cabs eagerly engaging the emerging passengers who were all harried looking. Everyone wanted the same thing: it was 4 in the morning and we all just wanted to go home and sleep in our beds.
Because we have been burned before by crooks masquerading as taxi drivers, we asked the guard on duty if the line has metered taxi – the guard said yes. Not satisfied, I asked the taxi driver who was eagerly stuffing our luggage in his trunk if his taxi was metered. Again, he said yes. Satisfied with his answer, we climbed on the back seat and waited for him to open the meter (which, all taxi drivers do before even stepping on the gas). Nothing. So I asked him twice to switch on the meter. On my third try, he finally opened his meter. It was then that we realized that his so-called “meter” is different from the correct meter usually seen on cabs. Instead of the cost of the trip, what was reflected instead were just numbers. Good thing we weren’t that far from the airport doors. We asked him to stop the car, pulled out our luggage and walked back to the taxi stand.
Now that I think about it, I realized that it took him so long to switch on his meter so that we won’t have no choice but to stick with him, since the airport’s drive way is dark and long and we will find it hard to hail another one considering it was 4AM.
Well, he thought wrong. My sister and I walked back to the cab stand and realized that all cabs in line were not metered taxis at all but those who contract passengers depending on their destination. The real metered cabs were out in front and were not allowed to enter the cordoned area where the scammers masquerading as cab drivers were located.
We were lucky to find a real metered cab, who explained that the NAIA 3 does not allow them to fall in life and usually blocks them from reaching the passengers. As soon as they drop off passengers, they were asked to leave the premises immediately. Even if there are passengers who are flagging down. The guards usually point these passengers to the line of white cabs. Our concern was this: what is important to the security people of NAIA – earning extra bucks by conniving with these unscrupulous drivers or ensuring the safety of passengers? We spent so much to promote Manila and the rest of the Philippines to foreign guests so that they will come and visit what our country has to offer but we can’t even provide them a better infrastructure, especially safe and credible transportation from the airport going to the city. The pathetic looking rope with handwritten “closed” signs — the pathetic row of chairs, is this what we want them to see the moment they step off the plane and into our country?
I feel for the Department of Tourism, whose efforts to promote the country and make it appealing to visitors was truly commendable. While DOT is doing its job, the airport management is still as lousy as ever.
When I relayed this information to my friends who also frequently use the NAIA 3 and usually gets their cab from the Departures section, they said that this might be an isolated incident since they didn’t experienced this at all. I learned that all their flights are in the morning and they are usually in the airport by at least late afternoon. It is then that I realized that this scam might be in full effect during late evening to early morning flights when people are few, there are no police presence and passengers are desperate to go home and rest.
No matter the time, I think the airport security should look into this. Not all who use our airports are freaking millionaires who can pay for unmetered cabs and deal with the crap usually given by crooks (masquerading as cab drivers). We were appalled considering that the flight we are in had tons of OFWs and foreigners who all wanted to get out of the airport as soon as possible, and the first experience that they will have is an encounter with scums like these cab drivers.
I realized that this rant will fall into deaf ears. In fact, I even sent a message to DOT as soon as I arrived from Taipei but no one bothered to reply to my message. Maybe because I am not a celebrity or a celebrity blogger, but damn it, I pay my taxes and I deserved to be heard. I am still thinking if I should refer this matter to public affairs programs airing here in Manila while I do not welcome the hassle it will give me (provide a statement, etc.) I kept thinking that if I don’t do anything, the unscrupulous behavior of airport taxis will continue.