Category Archives: Transport

Don’t Trust ‘Em!

banner3This ad for a flight to Hong Kong from Manila for just P888, or less than US$25 is a come on. There are so many extra charges attached, many of them hidden and some, when booked online, you can’t avoid if you wish to complete the booking! This is very typical of how many businesses operate in the Philippines. Dodgy business practices we outlawed decades ago are still legal here and nobody seems to care. the reason is the businesses are owned by the rich who own the place, government included so why would they want to change anything? Unlike our countries where we believe the people are important, in the Philippines and many Asian and African societies it is the rich and powerful who are important and the people are there simply to serve them and keep them rich and powerful.

I recently booked 7 seats from Singapore to Cebu and return with CebuPacific and thought the fares were between SGP$39 and SGP$59 each, each way. Maximum total should be 14 x SGP$59 or SGP$826. The final bill after struggling through the online booking process was SGP$1832.60! So much more than what I expected I hadn’t loaded my MasterCard Debit card with enough money and the first attempt failed! We didn’t want 20kg of baggage, we were happy with carry-on only as the fare page said was what you got. We didn’t know you paid extra to choose your seat because I couldn’t progress past this point to the checkout without selecting seats! Then try and get a refund! Forget it. They don’t answer emails and calling them is an expensive international call that results in talking to someone with no authority whatsoever and about as much concern for the customer! Last time, Cebu Pacific, last time I will ever fly myself or my family with you, no mater how cheap the fare seems to be. Sharp ppractise in my book!

 

Darwin to Cebu? We’ll see

Once more they are claiming flights from Darwin to Cebu. This is not the first time these flights have been mooted. I hope they go ahead and are hugely successful. Meanwhile, I can fly to Singapore on Scoot for $138, then on the Cebu for P3000, say $75. So for $430 return I can get from Sydney to Cebu and back via Singapore. Add a few bucks for luggage and better seating and you still are spending just $500 or so. The catch with the new deal will be the cheap flight into and out of Darwin for those who don’t live in in the NT.

New route to boost tourism, Direct Darwin-Cebu flights begin December
By Ehda M. Daggoc (The Freeman) Updated September 21, 2012 12:00 AMComments (0)View comments

CEBU, Philippines – The Department of Tourism (DOT-7) announced the entry of Australian Northern Territory company Wild Orchid Airlines that will offer a regular direct peak demand charter flights between Darwin, Australia and Cebu on December 15.
In a statement, DOT-7 regional director Rowena Montecillo revealed that this move will boost the tourism sector, specifically in Cebu saying “Darwin’s proximity to Asia allows great opportunities for people from the Northern Territory looking for a new, affordable, safe and exciting holiday destinations for singles, couples, families and groups.
Wild Orchid Airlines has chartered a fully serviced and crewed Qantas Boeing 737 that has been booked to fly from Darwin during peak travel periods which include Christmas and the midyearschool holidays, Easter and the mid semester beak.
The direct flights will depart Darwin at 1:00PM every Saturday afternoon, during these dates, arriving back from Cebu at around 9:30PM that night. With only 3 1/2 hours flying time, Cebu will now be available for Darwin people.
Utilizing a Qantas Boeing 737 and crew, Wild Orchid offers a full service Economy and Business Class cabin with a worldwide recognized level of service. One can soon travel directly between Darwin and Cebu in a short 3.5 hour hop.
In the past, to get to the central Philippines hub airport, passengers need to take connections in Manila and/or Singapore – making this an arduous two-day journey with the cost and inconvenience of overnight stopovers.
With the entry of Wild Orchid Airlines, getting to Cebu from Darwin is as simple as a short 3.5 hour flight. It’s quicker than getting to any Australian capital city or any other international destination excluding Bali or Dili.
Record from the DOT revealed that Australian national arrivals to the Philippines only grew by 2.2 percent as of April this year, compared to the same period in 2011.
In the first three months of this year Australian arrivals to the Philippines totalled to 16,615 a 2.2 percent improvement from 16,263 in 2011.
Ealier, Australian government executives underscored the potential of the Philippines to attract the huge family tourists from Australia. This is one of the markets that Philippines should target in the Australia traveling market.
Cebu, for instance, has greater edge in attracting this particular market because of its good location, diverse attractions, and position as a convenient gateway to other destinations in southern Philippines like Boracay and Bohol.
Family Tourism in Australia is a significantly growing market because Australian families travel more frequently now. The Philippines, if it were to offer good packages, could be a new and fresh destination for this huge Australian tourism market. (FREEMAN)

Blame The Bullet

In Naga City an avoidable tragedy has left five dead and 8 seriously injured after a trike driver crossed the railway line in front of a Philippines National Railways train at a level crossing. The trike had 13 passengers, including the driver’s son and daughter and the high school teacher and her field trip group. Those who know how small these trikes are can imagine how packed this trike was. This is typical of the brain dead idiots that drive on the roads here. What is even more indicative of what you have to deal with living in this country is that the police are going to “file a case of ‘reckless imprudence resulting to multiple homicide and injury and damage to property’ against the PNR”.

Obviously the teacher or one of the victims is highly connected and the cops have to explain how come they don’t police the crossing and bust idiot trike drivers who play chicken with trains. What is ludicrous is charging the train driver, as if he can stop a train on a dime like a trike can. But that is the mentality there and if you choose to live there, get used to it. It makes perfect sense to them because as I said, most likely there is a rich or politically well connected person putting pressure on this. It could go as high as the High Curt and injustice can win if the person pressuring things is sufficiently powerful. It’s a bit like shooting some one in the head deliberately then blaming the bullet, the bullet maker, the gun maker and the victim… but never the person who squeezed the trigger. Never.

As If They Will Reinstate This Nutcase!

MANILA, Philippines – A dismissed policeman armed with an automatic rifle seized a bus in the Philippine capital Monday with 25 passengers aboard, most of them Hong Kong tourists, in a bid to demand his reinstatement, police said.

Police sharpshooters took positions around the white-blue-red bus, which was parked near a downtown Manila park, and negotiations to free the hostages were under way, deputy director of Manila police Alex Gutierrez said.

Two of the Hong Kong tourists, both women, were released and were being debriefed by police, Manila police chief Rodolfo Magtibay said. Police had earlier reported that the tourists were from South Korea but later corrected themselves.

Others on the bus included three Filipinos — a driver, a guide and a photographer, Magtibay said.

The hostage-taker, identified as former Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza, was armed with an M16 rifle. He demanded that he be given back his job on the police force a year after he was fired, Magtibay said.

Mendoza hitched a ride on the bus from the historic walled city of Intramuros and then “declared he is taking the passengers hostage” when the bus reached Jose Rizal Park alongside Manila Bay.

The area also includes the seaside U.S. Embassy and a number of hotels.

The curtains on the bus windows were drawn and live TV footage showed two police negotiators walking to and from the bus and communicating with Mendoza from the window near the driver’s seat.

Magtibay said they were also using the driver’s cell phone to talk to Mendoza.

“We should really resolve this quickly so that it will not have a wider effect,” Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim said.

That’s Classified!

There is a new classified ad site for all things Philippines. Philippine Finder is the place to go for real estate, cars,  items anything that is up for sale for the expat or retiree. There is also a personals section where you can find friends, activity partners or seach for romance.  You can advertise there free of charge. Right now it is a little light on for ads, but so was the Yellow Pages the day the first telephone was installed! The more people who use it to advertise and respond to ads, the better a service it will become.

HEADING HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS

Christmas Chaos At NAIA 2!

I had left my place of employment in Quezon City seven hours before my flight was due to depart.  Being PAL it would be later than that, of course.  In nearly twenty years of flying with PAL I can’t remember when they weren’t late, hence their slogan, “Planes Always Late”.  I was hoping to snatch a standby seat on an earlier flight but that was not to be.  Seven hours up ones’ sleeve is a bit much, even for Manila and despite the stupidity of the taxi driver who actually hit the world’s longest car park (EDSA) five kilometers, half an hour and fifty peso on the meter before he had to if he had known his way around.

Still, two hours to the airport wasn’t the worst time ever recorded.  The lines at the security checkpoint just to get in were horrendously long and of course full of Filipino’s more important than others, pushing their way to the front wherever a turned back or lapsed attention allowed.

Mind you, standing in a long queue with nothing to do but watch the pretty Filipina’s walk by isn’t the hardest duty to pull on this earth.  There were several very obvious “Japanuki’s”, Filipina’s who had just returned from working as an entertainer in Japan.  You could tell them by one of two ways,  They either displayed a loud, garish and weird dress sense picked up from the Japanese girls or they were in the company of a middle aged Japanese man and one or both displayed loud garish and weird dress sense. The colour blind slutty schoolgirl look is in this season.

There were several bargirls heading home for the holidays with their foreigner boyfriends, standing out like sore thumbs as they flaunted their wealth in a way only a poorly educated gal from the provinces going home with cash to spare could do.  The boyfriends were also of a type; older, larger and doting on their diminutive dates.  One or two wore shorts and shoes with black business socks!  Nothing looks worse than black ankle length socks worn with shoes and shorts.  Buy some white sports socks for goodness’ sake!

The married couples, bringing home the anaks for the grandparents to dote over for the first time were also obvious.  Either she was dolled to the nines to show it was her first trip back or she was dressed well down showing how used to the whole tiring trip she had become over the years.  Either way it was the kids that got the doting over.  Romance may not have been dead in the marriages but was probably (and sensibly) on hold until after the stress of travelling with junior was over with.  At least until the trip back to Minneapolis or Manchester or Melbourne or maybe Munich.

Rich Filipino’s were everywhere, vying for who was most important, even though nearly every flight to the far flung provinces they called home were serviced by aircraft without a Business Class.  Never mind, buy an overpriced pastry at Delifrance and make sure someone sees you doing it!  The drive to the airport had been interrupted several times by convoys of window tinted Expeditions and Suburbans with motorcycle outriders and ominous looking bodyguards following in the Revo.  Sirens and horns and flashing lights everywhere.  Get out of my way, I’m more important than you, I can afford an entourage!

I even saw one convoy that had three outriders who were not armed and not Police.  It seemed to me they were a civilian escort service with police like motorcycles.  I must confess having done the job myself when I was in the Military Police, these civvy’s did a better job of controlling intersections than the Police I had seen trying several times.  I guess you get what you pay for!

I thought one convoy might be Erap heading for his flight to Hong Kong, due today unless someone threw a conscience ridden spanner in the works.  Then I figured since he had attended FPJ’s funeral yesterday by helicopter he wasn’t going to fight the traffic in the back of a Benz!

My taxi ride by the way, cost P245, at least P70 over the average fare and thirty minutes longer than necessary thanks to the drivers’ ignorance and incompetence.  His driving was erratic and amateurish and I think he has a lineal recognition issue to deal with.  We never seemed to sit within a lane, just straddled the white lines!  Nevertheless we made it and with no chance of getting an earlier flight, I settled in for an afternoon of working on the laptop and sipping over -priced coffee at the aforementioned Delifrance.

Before I knew it I was boarding my flight and we were less than ten minutes late, a new PAL record!  Next challenge, getting a Cebu cabbie to use the meter!

BATTENING DOWN THE HATCHES

Your Intrepid Editor Dines Italiano While Typhoon Namandol Bludgeons Manila

The Pollo Diavalo was, to be honest, superb!  The Maple Butter that covered the succulent breast of chicken spread its’ tasty treats onto the accompanying vegetables, the bread was still warm and the butter spread itself without complaint.  I was thoroughly enjoying the meal, and the old guy on the grand piano running through a medley of old standards.

The Jameson’s Irish Whiskey was a nice surprise, not many places even in Makati carry much in the way of whiskies other than Johnny Walker or J&B, even getting a decent bourbon can be an iffy proposition.  Somehow, the meal, the malt and the mood were just right.  I felt decadent, just like the Manila social set dancing, dining and drinking the night away as the army pulled out and Macarthur declared Manila an open city over 62 years ago.

The rain was literally lashing the windows of the Italian restaurant on Tomas Morato Avenue, Quezon City.  Outside it was black, bleak, wet and windswept but “for awhile” I could sit back and enjoy the ambience of the restaurant and the pianist and just enjoy myself.  I rarely enjoy a meal in a restaurant here in the Philippines as much as I was savouring this one.  Admittedly the staff had to leave the plates just that little bit too long before being reminded to clear them away and for some reason my Jameson had taken rather longer to arrive than you would think, given the proximity of my table to the bar, but this is the Philippines.

If you want perfect service of a standard you would expect in a western restaurant, go to the west!  At least the waitresses were pretty, friendly and tried their best.  If you don’t grow up in an environment that values and demonstrates efficiency then you can hardly be expected to have any idea of what proper silver service is all about.  I called for the bill and after a fairly lengthy delay it arrived.  Three Jameson’s and two cokes plus the superb chicken? About fifteen bucks! I’m not normally this extravagant but what the hey, there’s a typhoon coming!

My meal over with, I decided to head up to Mickey Dee’s for my favourite dessert, a caramel sundae.  Forget the fancy Tiramisu’s and Gelati, give me good old vanilla soft serve ice cream with caramel flavouring any day!  I even bypassed Seattle’s Best Coffee, Starbucks’, Figaro, Liberia, Mocha Blends, Gloria Jeans’ and Baang! on my way to the Golden Arches!  Two of them had already closed to give their staff a chance to fight their way home in the typhoon and the others offered overpriced brews I am seriously trying to give up.  Paying half a Dong’s daily salary for a cup of java does seem a little decadent when you start to do it on a daily basis and get rather blas about the whole thing.

A bunch of Dong’s were huddled in the rain around a Corolla, trying to jigger the door open.  The driver was looking desperate, probably Ma’am or Sir were due back from their dinner and would be mightily upset that their limo had swallowed its own keys.  I knew from experience they would be hard pressed to open the car with just a wire coat hanger, you really need a brazing rod or something stiffer.  If I had my trusty old Slim Jim with me I could have had her open in a jiffy, but “going about equipped” is probably an offense here too, just like back home.

I had learnt the trade when I was a Military Policeman and had used it numerous times to my own advantage as much as anyone else’s so I know how dumb you feel when you lock the keys inside.  I also know the sweet relief as the door pops open but for this driver it was not to be.  Pretty soon the Dongs drifted away, but not without trying me out with a tentative “Merry Christmas Sir” plea for a handout.  After what I had just spent on a meal and a few drinks for one person, I wasn’t up for a spot of charity, never mind the weather!

My umbrella played hide and seek with itself all the way up the street, the tall buildings making the wind veer and wander so you couldn’t keep your brolly head to wind.  More than once I rounded up like my old sailboat on Sydney Harbour in a southerly just to save the umbrella spokes from terminally twisting themselves inside out.  The rain came in horizontally under the brolly that I had to hold in front of me leaving me walking blindly along the soaked sidewalk.  I had a few close calls with fellow pedestrians before I made it into the sanctuary of Macca’s.

I finished the caramel sundae, said goodbye to the clown and returned to the wind swept, rain soaked street and cast about for a jeepney to get me back to my room.  Two jeepneys roared past, ignoring my signal and naturally, empty.  Finally a very full jeepney came to a halt in front of me and I went to the back to clamber in.  Even though I hadn’t spotted anywhere to sit I scrambled aboard, knowing from experience a place would magically appear as I needed it.  It did and I plonked myself down with what little dignity I had left.  Trying to get my bear size bulk into these cut down sardine tins is an exercise in wishful thinking sometimes. At least it was so windy and cool outside I was appreciative of the muggy warmth inside the vehicle.

What I didn’t cotton to was the smell.  It was like clinging to the collar of a giant, wet dog.  That damp dog smell, the one you get a whiff of just before he shakes four gallons of water onto you and your new carpet.  That’s the smell!  I hoped it wasn’t me and since the girls squeezed in either side of me didn’t seem to be squirming too much, I figured it came with the jeepney.

Getting from the jeepney stop to my lodgings proved to be another challenge in keeping my umbrella alive and me more or less dry at the same time.  We both made it without further loss or injury and I basically just settled in for what I knew would be a long, wet, windy night.  I gave thanks that I was nice and dry and warm and not wet, freezing and homeless like many would be that night.  Only the other day Tropical Depression “Winnie” had claimed over 300 lives.  I wondered what the butcher’s bill would be for this little spat Mother Nature was giving us?  I called the wife and made sure she and the kids were safe and well, then went to bed.  After all, once you’ve battened down your hatches, there’s not much else you can do in a Typhoon, Nature pretty much has her own agenda!

MANILA MEANDERINGS

This Month We Meander Around Malate.

The first time I came to Manila nearly twenty years ago I ended up in Malate on my second night in Town. The first night I had rolled out of the plane into the APP Shuttle Bus, been handed my cold San Miguel Pilsen and watched as Roxas Boulevard rolled by on my way to the hotel in Ermita. I think I was in my first bar (The New Bangkok Bar for the record) within an hour of exiting Customs! The second night I had wandered down M.H. del Pilar Street all the way to Malate Park, where the Church and The Aristocrat Restaurant were located. I dined in Shakey’s Pizza with a great cover band hammering out some fabulous rock and roll tunes and the beer was cold, the pizza was cheezy and the atmosphere simply fantastic.

In those days and until a year or two ago, Malate Park was a pick up place for prostitutes, usually managed by fat women or sad transgender types. It had little to offer during the day and less at night unless you wanted to risk a confrontation or set up and there was no need with Ermita’s night life so close and so vibrant. Nearby the restaurants around Remedios did a decent trade along with several pension houses and the casual attitude to “Bakla’s” there gave it a thumb’s up from The Lonely Planet, yet they would cast scorn upon the seedy sex tourist ridden Ermita nearby. If only they knew that Malate has always been the home of numerous “love motels” where the Filipino clientele take their casual affairs and hookers in numbers no wave of foreign tourists could ever match.

When Mayor Lim closed down the Ermita bars in 1993-94, (mainly I feel as they were an easy target and besides, the rumours were he had his girlie bars safely tucked away in a different jurisdiction!) Ermita pretty much died out and only today, ten years on is it showing signs of recovery. It will never jump like it used to but it may attract some more much needed investment. A side effect of Ermita closing was that Malate suffered too. There was no longer any spill over of tourists and tourist dollars. The trendy restaurants around Remedios felt the pinch and took it hard, although lately they have recovered well and now thrive.

The face of Malate has changed a little, more Korean and less European influence. Once upon a time all the restaurants were owned by expat Germans, Spaniards and Swiss. Now they are Korean, Japanese and even Chinese and Middle Eastern. At the Remedios end of Mabini Street and Adriatico there are numerous coffee shops, nite clubs, restaurants and bars offering regular entertainment. The love motels are still around like Anito’s and Sogo, but they have all pretty much moved upmarket in décor and style.

Malate Park has been remodelled and two new statues and a large fountain fill the plaza. The church, once a gutted, shell torn wreck at the end of WW2, now stands proudly overlooking a plaza where once again families feel safe enough to wander. The plaza leads out onto Roxas Boulevard and looks out across Manila Bay. Along the Bay the new Bay Walk offers several places to sit and enjoy a snack, a meal or just a cold beer or three.

The skyline along the Bay towards Ermita has changed too, now looking very clean and modern. In the other direction towards Pasay and the airport lies the snooty Manila Yacht Club, the Headquarters of the Philippine Navy and beyond that the Philippine Cultural Center. Back across Roxas lies the Central Bank of the Philippines and behind that Harrison Plaza Mall. Harrison Plaza is still a dark, dingy and seedy mall that is frequented by prostitutes and their pimps. A known hangout for gangs who often pose as Police and terrify tourists into handing over large sums of cash to get off trumped up charges. Not a place to treat lightly.

Heading back towards the park you come across the Manila Zoo. This zoo has been progressively improved over the years but it is still what zoo’s used to be like back when most of us were kids. Lots of bars and cages and not a great deal of interaction. I have always found the animals and their cages to be clean and well cared for, but very sad when I compare the facilities with the world class Taronga Park Zoo of my home town, Sydney. Things are improving though as there are fewer instances of visitors killing the animals by feeding them with rubbish such as plastic bags! (this is how the giraffe died!) Asians do have a more callous, casual attitude towards animals than westerners, so don’t be surprised if the place strikes you as sad. I know both times I have been I have had to leave before I made it to the Kangaroo enclosure. I just shudder to think how I would feel seeing my Nation’s Emblem kept, Filipino style.

Overall I must say Malate comes alive at night and that is the best time to visit. Stay away from Harrison Plaza and stick to Adriatico and Remedios and the Malate Park area and you will enjoy a very cosmopolitan evening indeed.

TRAFFIC-MANILA-AARGH!

We Play Word Association To While Away The Hours Caught In Manila’s Traffic.

The other day I had to take a cab from one end of Makati, (Jupiter and Makati Avenue intersection), down Sen. Gil Puyat/Buendia Avenue to the LRT station on Taft. Straight run down one road, more or less. I entered the cab at 09.21 am, as proven by the printed receipt I have in my possession! Yes, a Manila cab with a receipt printer on the dash! The driver said he mainly works the Alabang area and sadly had to bring someone into Makati when I snaggled him. He promised he was heading back there as soon as he dropped me at the airport. I wasn’t going to the airport. He swore. I digress, where was I? Yes, in a cab at 09.21am heading down Sen Gil Puyat Avenue.

I arrived at my destination at 10.44am, 83 minutes and just 4 kilometres later! At a cost of P152 I had spent 71 minutes of that time standing still. At least the cab was stationery, I was squirming a fair bit in frustration! The “waiting time” is recorded via this machine the taxi was fitted with and this is how I know we didn’t move for exactly 1 hour and 11 minutes, in total. I wonder how long the journey would have been if I had taken it right in the middle of the peak “hour”? Of course peak hour in Manila lasts from 6am to at least 10am and then again from about 3pm to 8pm!

When I arrived in Manila the other week I took a taxi from NAIA2, the PAL terminal. I had to go upstairs to the departure drop off area as the airport management have cleared all taxis away from the arrivals area so they can maximise their revenue from airport “limo” services. In other words, the official going rate for a ride into Makati was P345, yet my cab cost me P120, and that included stopping twice to repair a busted fender and change a flat tyre! And this was at 7pm, the very height of peak hour!

When I came back to Manila this week I grabbed a cab at 9am for the trip to Quezon City. It took 90 minutes and cost me P200. The meter said P172 but the driver had asked for an agreed upon fare. I didn’t mind but I insisted he run the meter just so we could compare. Now maybe he was trying to get as close to the agreed P200 as possible, just so I didn’t do a Filipino on him and change my mind, but another person on the same flight arrived at the same destination as me 30 minutes sooner and for P150! His taxi took him via the “very traffic” EDSA route whereas my driver ducked through the middle of town following for the most part the northern railway line and squatter camp.

Traffic in this city is heavy, no doubt about it. It is, however, better disciplined than Cebu traffic, of that I am certain. Far more policing and more effective policing as well as more stringent road rules do make some difference. My favourite giggle is the “color coding” system used to limit the amount of traffic. On Mondays, cars whose license plates end in 1 or 2 are prohibited from being on the road. Tuesdays its 3 and 4, Wednesdays 5 and 6, Thursdays 7 and 8 and Fridays 9 and 0. Sensible system and one day a week is easy enough to overcome, arrange a lift with friends, work at home, use the other car, swap plates whatever. Now, can someone tell me where the “color” comes in to this system of coding? Another case of Taglish at work, methinks!

I have only been living and working here in Manila for a few days now but already the traffic is the locus of control over my life. Where I go and when I go, even if I bother to go anywhere, all is determined by the time of the day or night, the position of the stars and the planets and the omens in the entrails of the sisig soup the jeepney driver is having for his lunch! Where I am working and staying is right across from the Pantranco Jeepney Terminus, or Bat Cave as I call the dark and dreary dive. What it means is I can hop on any one of several jeepney lines and ride them to the end of their route, then simply ride back the same way and know I will never pass my stop!

Naturally, the best way of beating the clogged streets is to rise above it all and ride the LRT or MRT. These light rail systems are terrific. For less than P20 you can go from one end of town to the other, then swap lines and go somewhere else! The LRT has two carriages at the front reserved just for women, as I found out the hard way! I didn’t follow what the security guard was trying to tell me (move along, the first two carriages are women only you stupid foreigner!) and I stepped into a clean, quiet, orderly carriage…….full of women! I knew something was wrong and, concerned it was a trap set by my wife to tempt me into cheating on her, I quickly leapt out and ran to the next carriage. I was then able to stand at the end of the carriage and look through the large window into the women only car all the way to my station.

It can get crowded and those stairs leading up off the street are steep and many, but the MRT/LRT system can’t be beaten. There is a new east-west MRT line I will take one of these days, just to say I have done it! My only hesitation is to warn that pickpockets love the crowded conditions and they are very, very good at their craft. Never think for a second your wallet or purse is safe whenever you are within spitting distance of an MRT/LRT station or car. Then again, keeping one hand on your wallet is a small price to pay for missing out on sitting in the traffic for hours at a time.! If you have plenty of time to spare then why worry? Of course Manila is hardly an ideal retirement destination so most foreigners here are here for work and time is important.

An alternative might be to have a driver so you can sit in the back, read the newspaper or a report, make some calls on the cell phone and generally get some business done while in the traffic. At least it hasn’t degenerated into what Bangkok residents were forced to do a few years ago; basically live in their cars! They would leave home very early, give the kids their breakfast from the back of the family van parked outside of the school at the crack of dawn, then head for work, drop off hubby then fight back to school for the kids then back to work for hubby and then home so late it was re-pack car with the meals for the next day and hit the sack! What a life!

Manila’s traffic problems won’t go away, even as gasoline prices rise higher than ever before. More and more people are buying cars and more marques are opening dealerships to offer their wares to the car buying Filipino public. As the population moves upscale and can afford more and more luxuries such as personal vehicles, the only question left will be where can they enjoy them? More freeway systems are called for but the disruption caused during construction can be immense. I remember back in 1997 while the Skyway and the Ortigas overpass were being built, the traffic was just as bad as today, and there were fewer cars on the roads! Getting rid of the jeepneys and death-rattle buses is one answer, but hard on the lower income earners who need cheap mass transport. More light rail is another possible solution, but again construction will be a pain. Meanwhile, be as Filipino as you can, smile and go with the flow!

Taxi!

A Quick Peak At What Can Be Either A Nightmare Or A Dream.

taxi

An expat I know owns nearly a dozen taxis in Cebu.  Each one brings in P600 per day Boundary.  Boundary is the term for rental and goes back to the days when there were boundaries taxis had to work within and is often confused with the more apt term of bounty.  Most cabs in Cebu are worked 24/7 with a driver renting the cab for 24 hours by paying a boundary of between P550 to P700.  He then has to make enough to cover his gas which can be as high as P1000. An average day will make him P500 and then he has a 24 hour break before getting another shift.  A good driver can look forward to making P8000-P10,000 a month, not bad for spending your day in airconditioned comfort.

For the owner of the cab, the story can be either a dream business or a nightmare, usually it depends on who you get to manage the business and drive the cabs.  If your cab is earning P600 a day, that’s P15,000 a month if you work on a 26 day month.  This allows for maintenance and drivers that don’t show, either sick or lazy.  Since you can buy a cab from P250,000 for the rinky dink Kia surplus cars you can achieve ROI (return of investment) in about  16 months, or a more realistically two years.  Whether the rinky dink Kia will last that long at the hands of a Filipino cabbie is another thing.

If you buy a new Toyota Corolla, the cab of choice for us Bears, then you will pay about P650,000.  Add in license fees and you are looking at probably four years to recoup your investment.  At the end of that time you can still sell your cabs and make a profit of 15% or more, depending how well the cab stood up to the work.

Maintenance is a major cost for the cab owner and many also diversify into running their own mechanical workshops, often making more money than the cab side of the business.  I devised a business idea last year for running car washes via a small, cheap pressure washer but all the know all  said nobody here would pay to have their car washed.  In the last six months I have seen dozens of car wash businesses crop up along the side of the road using the very same cheap pressure washers and doing a lot of cabs and other vehicles.  If you own a washer as well as the workshop and the cabs, you have the whole thing sewn up!  As the cab fleet grows the next thing you need is a used car dealership to move them on.  I don’t think the law here requires you to inform the prospective purchaser that the vehicle was previously a taxi, as you must back home.

My friend with the dozen cabs says at first it was an expensive gambit that was little more than a drain on his resources while he kept the car sellers and mechanics happy.  He went through several trusted managers before he found one who really was honest and efficient and hasn’t looked back since.  That manager now owns a share of the business, something my friend had intended all along but nobody stayed honest with him long enough to qualify!

Drivers were another problem.  He found he had to have them pay security deposits on the vehicles to get them to respect them and drive them with some care.  Now, two years down the track he has a core of reliable drivers who look after the vehicles.  I suggested he have two drivers share the same car every time and give them a rebate each month if the maintenance bill on the vehicle is below the average.  The average varies from month to month but each car can cost up to P5000 per month in oil, tyres, aircon and other general wear and tear even before bingles and scratches are looked at.  In the nine months since he trialled that idea his average monthly maintenance costs on those vehicles fell by 25% or more.

Naturally he doesn’t really own the business as it is illegal  for a foreigner to own 100% of a land transport business.  His wife is the owner and he supervises the manager.  At first he was supervising
virtually every minute of the day but now he has found a reliable manager he admits he pops in to the office once a day and more to be seen by the staff than to actually supervise anything.

Insurance on the vehicles can be cost prohibitive if you have a spate of accidents and premiums are increased beyond what is economically viable for the business to support, but that is perhaps the only other drawback to owning taxis.  Where most foreigners come to grief is that they buy a taxi and have a relative of the wife drive it and it is not treated as a business.  The relative either begrudges paying the boundary and being harped on at about looking after the car, or simply doesn’t care and works the cab only sufficient to bring in some beer money, fobbing off his Kano brother in law when the boundary is asked for.  More horror stories come to the fore when talking about accidents and minor car park scratches.  Other drivers often see a licensed Taxi as a ticket to get their existing panel work paid for.  Some drivers may even work in collusion with a relative to have an accident that is the taxi driver’s fault and has the relatives vehicle being  repaired at the expense of the taxi owners insurance premium.

However, more is often less when it comes to headaches and nightmares and owning several cabs tends to add a note of serious attention and take the venture out of the hobby business mindset.  You can make money owning cabs and in many ways it is hassle free but it does take organisation, management and good selection of staff to begin with.