Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Warning: Tricksters and Scammers Await Arriving Tourists and Travellers

Taking Philippine Airlines from Cebu, we arrived at quarter to 12 midnight in Terminal 2 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. The difficulty is finding a budget friendly taxi that is safe and secure to take us home. There are taxis in queue at the lobby of the arrival area, but I brought my mom and my sister to the departure lobby instead. I thought that there is a likelier chance for us to get a taxi from there, since there will be those taking passengers for departure.

It took us more than fifteen minutes, one taxi came by but the driver said he would be out of the way since he was going to Cavite. Then the security officer whistled for that taxi to leave. A lady guard approached us and asked where we are going. She warned of "kuratongs" in the airport - taxi drivers getting into the departure area to pick passengers for a higher price.

Kuratong means scam. The guard explained that there are taxi drivers who get inside with fake passengers dropped off at the area, so they can enter the airport. Sometimes they would bribe the guards of the terminalto to let them in. The thing is they ask more excessively than the franchised taxis operators in the airport. Worst, those taxis could be colorum - unregistered to operate from the Land Transportation Office.

After that first taxi that came by, we waited. I was conscious that I had my mom and sister with me. My mom could n ot be standing for long at the lobby, as it was past midnight and she had been complaining about her arthritic knee. Another taxi came. I asked the driver if he could take us to Taguig to drop my sister off her house and then to Sta Ana to take us home, with a hint that I would just add some amount to the meter rate.

The driver agreed. I loaded our luggages while my mom and sister got inside the cab. The taxi moved, but the meter was not still on. I informed the driver about the meter. He pressed a button then told us that he would be charging us 70.00 per kilometer. We complained it was excessive, but I was thinking of just getting to Taguig while I kept my eyes on the meter.

I uncomfortable inside the cab. The aircon was not working well, the doors have no locks and it smells like soiled socks in it. It was very dark outside, no lit public space that we could drop off. Seeing Terminal 4, I thought of getting off there, where security officers where standing by, but the car was running fast.

On the road to Villamor, the driver swerved left going to Tramo without informing us. Immediately, I asked where we are going. Then, he said, he would just be gassing up. That was rude for me. Passengers should be informed by the driver of what's going on and where we are going. The meter then was at 2.7 kilometers. I said uncalmly, "Yes, go get some gas, and we're getting off at the station."

I thought, the gas station would be a better place to get another taxi. It was safer for us to get off there, take our luggages off the compartment and argue with that driver. I told my my sister and my mom to get off the taxi which surprised them. But, they knew something was wrong, and my voice was not calm at all. We paid the driver 180.00 which he asked from us, though I told my sister to give him only 100. Then I took a picture of the cab's plate which was PWC 721.

I felt the need to get off from that taxi, not only because of its excessive charge and uncomfortable feeling I have. The driver misinformed us in the first place, unlawful, and swerved out of the way. He could do things he wanted. If I tried to pull him off the road, we could get out of the cab and he could run away with all our luggages at the back seat compartment. He could hold us up somewhere, drive us off road and still run away with our money and luggages.

Regulated taxi meter rate is 40.00 flat for the first 500 meters and additional 3.50 for every 300 meters.  From the gas station to my sister's house was 16.7 kms. If we proceeded with the first taxi we took, we could have been charged more than 1,000.00 pesos. That is more than the charge of the franchised airport taxis. Although, the driver of the other taxi we rode was amiable and accomodating  I noticed a discrepancy too in his taxi meter, it added 3.50 every 100 meters.

Airports and piers seem to be a vulnerable place for tourist tricksters and scammers. In Tagbilaran, trycicle drivers would offer 200.00 per ride to the terminal in Tagbilaran, while outside the airport the regular charge is just 20 per head. In Cebu pier 1, taxi drivers would offer a ride to the Capitol area for 200.00, while regular meter rate is just 70.00 to 80.00, and jeepney fare would just be less than 20.00. In Cubao, if you are taking the bus and getting a taxi to nearby Manila, taxi drivers will mug you with their contract price of 200.00 or more, while from Cubao to Manila, the meter rate is just less than 150.00

Tourists may be informed of tricksters and scammers. Upon arrival, whether by air, land or sea, the tourist is not ready for any haggling. They are in a hurry if not excited to get home and rest. It is unhospitable, unaccommodating and rude to trick the tired passengers. Tourists and travellers alike, local or foreign are generous to tip the warm, hospitable and accommodating driver. Drivers need not deal with contracted price because for sure, a soul consoled with a safe drive home rewards another heartily.

Now I wonder, is this how fun in the Philippines?