One hour and 40
Don’t you wish you could get to work that quickly? Far too many can’t. One hour and 40 minutes was how long it took me to get from Alabang to Royce hotel in Clark. From Quezon City it was 10 minutes over the hour. That’s what could be achieved if the nightmare that is daytime Edsa is banished. We no longer measure travel in distance in the Philippines, but in time. Once SLEx is connected to NLEx (expected by September 2020), Ayala Alabang will look more attractive than Forbes (have you tried driving down McKinley?) as the inevitable shift to Clark occurs. And please, please don’t change the name; don’t pander to political egos.
Having spent the day there recently, I can say there’s no doubt in my mind now that the Philippine capital must shift to the Clark-Subic corridor over the next half-century.
I’m challenged to find any reason why not. Thoughtful opposition is welcome; let’s argue this fully toward a final agreement this year. Is it to be Clark-Subic, or not? And if not, where? It must be in Central Luzon. Where else has the vacant land and deep harbor (two essentials)? It will be an epochal change. It will not mean the death of Metro Manila, which would remain a/the major commercial center. It does mean Manila becoming less frenetic, and Clark a desirable workplace where government and business meld.
The government should shift first. And as Transportation Secretary Art Tugade has courageously shown, it has already. On July 28 he moved his central office to a modern, stylish building in the Global Gateway. I couldn’t believe I was in a government office. You’d actually want to work there. Businesses should follow.
The Supreme Court should rethink its relocation to BGC, and the Senate, too. Both are planning to shift now, and need to shift now. Very serious consideration should be given to Clark. BGC has been screwed up with its too-narrow roads and crowded high-rises, with no off-street access, lack of any parks of note, or overpasses or roundabouts (which work in a disciplined society) at intersections. And it’s accessible by only two narrow clogged roads that will get increasingly worse. It’s already a city of the past, completely unadaptable to the future. The “city planners,” whoever they were, if any, should be shot, along with the government officials who allowed it to be the mess it now is. Here’s a city less than two decades old, and still only half-built, and already choked with traffic.
I’m assured by Vince Dizon of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) that at Clark there will be parks—large, tree-filled parks—so Clark Green City will indeed be a green place where people can breathe healthy air. Its wide roads won’t be compromised, and over/underpasses will be built, as well as an underground metro while it’s still easy to do. Clark Green City is envisioned as the Philippines’ first smart and disaster-resilient city.
Aside from its locators, Clark Freeport also has a modern hospital; universities such as UP and Ateneo and number of international schools; hotels (Royce, where I stayed, was very nice, with very efficient staff and edible food except for the
buffet—I’m a fussy eater); the inevitable malls; a number of small factories; and firms providing support services.
There’s an incredible water park almost complete, and a couple of golf courses on amazing terrain (golf cart operators need not apply). One tends to forget that there are some beautiful mountains there.
Two new green 10-story office blocks were opened recently, with very attractive office space, close to the airport. But this is all just a start. If the BCDA promotes it properly — and after talking to Dizon I think they just might — you’ll see a megacity there in 20 years, one that is truly modern-designed.
According to the BCDA, a fully developed Clark Green City will have more than a million residents and generate an estimated 800,000 employment opportunities. With all that, the BCDA expects the business district to contribute nearly P1.6 trillion to the national coffers every year, representing about 4 percent of GDP.
And that’s only Clark. Subic is even more exciting in its major-city potential.
E-mail: [email protected] Read my previous columns: www.wallacebusinessforum.com.
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