Vision to reality in Clark
I went on a dream recently. A visit to the New Clark City (and please don’t change the historic name, we don’t need to recognize another politician).
What I saw was the first step toward the nation’s next capital city. As I’ve long argued, the deep water and protected harbor at Subic, and the vast open land surrounded by magnificent mountain ranges and with a minimum elevation of 54 meters above the ocean at Clark, make this area the ideal place to move to.
Manila isn’t a disaster waiting to happen, Manila is a disaster that’s already happened (try getting to work sometime). Edsa is the finest exemplar of this.
I flew, by helicopter, to Clark last week and I saw the slums the endless poverty that constricts Manila has imposed on the populace. I didn’t see any parks, let alone trees. Greed and lack of government control have destroyed what used to be the Pearl of the Orient.
And with Manila Bay on one side and Laguna de Bay on the other, the city has nowhere to go but north and south. And there’s nowhere there anymore. Manila will be underwater as the oceans rise; it
already is in some areas.
I was in Clark in January, and met with Vince Dizon, the President/CEO of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA). He showed me where the New Clark City would be and the plans to develop it. Looked good, I thought, so I sat back to wait the next few years for something to happen. I am used to the promises of governments that can go on for years, if not decades. Try a new airport, as an example—24 years just to decide, let alone build.
But last week, it was hard to accept that what I saw was actually done by a government agency. In 2019, the Philippines will host the Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) at Clark. Well, here we are after six months, with a 20,000-seat stadium already well along the way. A 2,000-seat Aquatics Center is rising, being built by Alloy MTD Philippines Inc.
These facilities are part of the National Government Administrative Center that is already 20 percent complete. Foundations have been started for 1,360 housing units for government workers, plus an athlete’s village for 1,000 athletes, including 101 special facilities throughout for PWDs. All work is ahead of schedule; the land has been cleared and roads started for government offices, commercial areas and an industrial park.
And the government is moving there over the next five years. In fact, the Department of Transportation under Art Tugade already relocated a year ago. And it worked.
What won’t move are the Senate and the Supreme Court. Both are living in the past, and will relocate to BGC. Twenty years from now, recognition will sink in that this was an archaic choice.
Clark airport has the runways to handle up to 332 domestic flights and 158 international flights weekly, with plenty of room to expand. The terminal is being modernized and expanded by Megawide Construction Corp. and India’s GMR Infrastructure (the same team behind the much-acclaimed Cebu airport terminal expansion project). The Clark airport project involves the development of a new terminal building. Who will operate and maintain it will be decided on Aug. 30. It will have the capacity to serve 12 million passengers annually by 2020. According to the PPP Center, that project is 3.4 percent complete as of May 2018.
Then there’s the train that the government has pledged to complete between 2022 and 2025. The P225-billion Manila-Clark Railway project will be funded by official development assistance from Japan. Another train line will be built to Subic to take people and cargo. The expressway is already there.
I’ve been told that buildings will be restricted to five stories; the high rises can be a later allowance elsewhere. Roads are to be three or four lanes a side, plus a bike lane and a footpath. And parks and open spaces will comprise 30 to 40 percent of the total 9,450 hectares.
It’s time for business to start considering the move—though not too soon, as infrastructure needs to be complete. Let office space built by enterprising development corporations come first. But it’s coming, so plan for it.
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