Terminal Illness

I don’t quite get why we have to pay for the terminal at the pier.

I’m being disingenuous of course. It’s obvious what the fees are for – the x-ray scanner and the people who man it, the seats, the two large flat screens of almost nonstop travel tips (“To avoid getting seasick…”), washrooms, seats, air-conditioning. What I don’t quite understand is why passengers with tickets have to pay to get into the terminal before they’re granted entrance to said terminal.

The moment you enter the Dumaguete seaport, coins start dribbling out. There’s a small fee for merely driving into the pier area (PhP 10). This fee doesn’t cover the cost of entering the terminal, it just covers the cost of opening the gates so one can drive to the terminal (which is literally seconds away).Then you’ll find yourself queueing up at the  counter to pay the terminal fee (PhP 15) before you’re allowed to pass through because it doesn’t matter if the boat is leaving in the next twenty minutes and you won’t even be using the terminal long enough to warm the seats, you still have to pay the piper.

Of course  you’ll end up behind someone trying to fish around in his pockets for change but who’ll take forever because both his hands are busy holding bayongs filled with twitchy fighting cocks all crowing their wattles off  while  you stare at a bobbing MV Dinagat, willing it not to leave without you. It’s not the chicken breeder’s fault that the process is absurd and a complete waste of time. We’re  all being asked to get a ticket so we can go in and use the ticket we’ve already bought. It’s like being made to pay to see trailers when you’ve already paid for the whole movie.

There has to be an easier way to do this. Nowhere else offers the singularly frustrating experience our terminals do. Not even our airline terminals are immune. For most airports, the fees are included in the price of airfare; it’s no fuss, no muss, you’re in and out in a jiffy. In the Philippines, the airport terminal fee is a separate charge, with the exception of international flights out of Manila.

Airports and seaports fall under the umbrella of public infrastructure. Our taxes already go to their upkeep, and it’s safe to assume all of the shipping lines using Dumaguete’s seaport are also required to pay their dues, as are the vendors who use the terminal as a place of business. Charging passengers these extra entrance fees, however small, seems superfluous at best and a shakedown at worst.

If these fees are truly unavoidable, why not take a page from the airfare playbook and  incorporate terminal fees in the price of the boat ticket?  The purpose of a port is to get you moving, not get your money while you’re moving. Travel is stressful enough as it is, and there are enough lines all travellers are required to stand in without throwing in a couple more extraneous ones.At the end of the day a boat ticket is a receipt that says passage was booked and paid for. It should allow a passenger entrance into the port, into the terminal, and ultimately into the ship. Nothing can be simpler and more convenient than that.

 

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