Like It Is

We lost a good man

/ 12:35 AM August 23, 2012

We have just lost a good, decent and, in this age of doubt, honest man. Jesse Robredo was a man who gained acceptance for the reforms he effected. He was respected by those who worked with him or for him. My heart goes out to his family, my deepest sympathies to them.

Now, let’s have some good news for a change. I went up to Clark last week and toured the place. It’s not the derelict, forgotten region you think it is. Progress is evident there. Mind you the place has a long way to go, but the plans are there and, more importantly, it’s moving forward.


It hosts Texas Instruments which has a huge factory that is expanding; Yokohama is shipping 21,000 tires a day and growing this number to 50,000; Samsung-owned Phoenix Semiconductors reported $566 million in exports last year, and is doubling that; HLD, a Chinese company producing pipes, is expanding. And more business establishments are moving into Clark. What all this says is that those in Clark succeed. You don’t expand if you aren’t competitive in this day and age. Clark hosts a number of smaller and medium-sized companies that are also doing well.

Exports from Clark-based firms reached $3.9 billion last year, a 170-percent increase from the $1.45 billion recorded in 2010.


Being developed is a major industrial estate by Peregrine, a Kuwaiti-financed venture that is converting 177 hectares of empty land into a world-class estate. What I like is that all the wiring—for electric power and communications—will be underground. So will the water supply and sewage disposal systems be. Parking will underground, not under a 50-story office block, but below a green park. So the industrial estate won’t be the concrete jungle we suffer everywhere else. I like that—parks should abound in a city.

The estate is divided into four specific sectors: A business park for business services, a logistics park, an aero park, and a town center. It will become a coordinated, planned community.

Then there’s the airport, of course. Already nine passenger airlines are using it for domestic and international flights. Add to that FedEx and UPS, and you have 320 flights per week flying into and out of Clark. But it’s all budget stuff so far. The airport is still a long (far too long, as far as I’m concerned) way from being the country’s primary airport. But it will be. There is really no choice and there’s no point in looking for one anymore. Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez’s marvelous effort at getting 10 million tourists just can’t happen without a new modern airport that’s truly—not just pretending to be, or promising to be—world-class. President Aquino has personally been to airport terminals elsewhere, he knows what they look like. He’s visited Naia 1, enough said. It’s time to stop the talk, it’s time to build Clark into the country’s premier airport. Now!

I also had a tour of the new Zuellig building, an impressive, beautiful office block that meets the highest levels of environmental standards. And I got a briefing as well on the price of electricity from Meralco. The main point I already knew, but it seems few others understand it: Meralco is not the reason for the high prices, it only serves as a conduit of the electricity to end-consumers—and it presents the cumulative bill. The high cost of electricity is due to the cost of producing it. We have old, inefficient (by today’s standards) plants that, in being privatized, must now amortize the purchase of plants all over again. Fuel is expensive and this situation will only get worse. And if the economy grows more rapidly, as government and all of us want, we’ll have power shortage in the not-too-distant future. New plants are urgently needed, but they are not yet coming.

The bottom line is, don’t expect any significant reduction in your power bill even with the full opening of the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market, but do realize it’s the power generation that accounts for 65 percent of electricity bills. Transmission charge accounts for 9 percent, and taxes for 10 percent. Meralco’s charge for its distribution service is only 16 percent.

The Zuellig office block will hopefully be the model others will follow, that other local governments should insist must be followed. Its design reduces the need for power by 15 percent compared to a normal office block (pretty important given the above) and has underfloor  services for a clean office. It is an energy-efficient, environment-friendly office block that sets new standards of building design.

* * *


In Rwanda they have a “Clean-Up Day” once a month. On that day everyone must stop work or whatever they are doing, and lend a hand in cleaning up their neighborhood. Let’s do it here. In the 37 years I’ve been here I’ve heard this promise made every year after every disaster: This year we’ll clean up the trash so the flooding will be less.” Every year the promise is forgotten as soon as it is made. I’m convinced that when a Filipino politician promises something, he considers it done. Well, promises aren’t accomplishments.

Let’s have our monthly “Clean-Up Day.” Let’s help the poor who’ve suffered so much from this flooding so they would not suffer again from floods. Gina Lopez is doing a great job of cleaning up Pasig River’s tributaries, but she is but one person, and that’s just one river. She needs a much wider support, the kind that is actually given, not just promised. Let’s undertake a nationwide clean-up on a once-a-month Clean-up Day.

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TAGS: `clean-up day’, clark economic zone, jesse robredo, Peter Wallace
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