Building future memories of Clark
AS a little girl, I remember Clark as a restricted and fenced-up military base surrounded by shops that sell US goods. It was a United States Air Force base in Angeles, Pampanga, which is currently about a two-hour ride from Quezon City via the North Luzon Expressway and the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway.
After the Mount Pinatubo eruption and the eventual departure of American forces in 1991, the base eventually became the site of Clark International Airport (CIA), the Clark Freeport Zone, and the Air Force City of the Philippine Air Force.
Plans were drawn to make Clark a world-class destination for aviation, commerce, infrastructure and leisure. Investors from the tourism, manufacturing, and the information-technology and business-process management industries made Clark their home. The Department of Science and Technology-Information and Communications Technology Office in 2010 identified Metro Clark as one of the Centers of Excellence for IT-BPM operations, a position it still holds to this day.
The heart of the facility is the CIA, complete with its parallel runways system, airfield ground lighting system, navigational aids including its primary and secondary radar, communications and emergency equipment.
The airport’s proximity to Metro Manila and Subic Freeport gives it an important role in tourism, transportation, industry and economy. It can tap the rich market north of the Philippines and serve as an alternative to the congested skies and streets of Metro Manila.
Last year transport officials gave incentives to airlines and travelers who use the CIA facilities. It has a capacity of 5 million passengers annually, but only around 877,000 passengers were recorded to have used it in 2014.
The strategic location of CIA makes it a viable center for the AsiaPacific region. Low-cost budget carriers, budget fare and full service airlines, such as Asiana Airlines, Cebu Pacific, Emirates, JinAir, Qatar, Tigerair, Philippine Airlines and Airasia Zest, use the Clark facilities. It is home to United Parcel Services, making it hospitable to both passenger and freight.
Investors have all their needs within their reach and enjoy the free-port privileges and incentives, as well.
Clark Development Corp. posted a revenue of P1,554 billion, net income of P697 million, and cash position of P2.33 billion. For 2015, employment has reached an astounding 82,382 jobs.
In February I visited Clark again after so many years for the 20th Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, a gathering of aviators from the Philippines and the world. For four days and with thousands of tourists and balloon enthusiasts, various flying spectacles were showcased, including hot-air ballooning, aerobatic exhibitions, skydiving, motorized paragliding exhibition, aviation formation, search and rescue flight demonstrations, and microlight and ultralight flying.
Clark is now an aviation complex with a service and logistics hub. It is home to Omni aviation training school for pilots, airline cadets, maintenance and ground services.
Other activities that bring people to the area include the Clark International Marathon, Clark Animo Marathon, and the Clark and Mount Pinatubo Sky Tour.
Recently CDC and the Bases Conversion and Development Authority launched the P1.8-billion Clark solar-power project inside the free port. The solar project could energize households in Pampanga and Clark when fully operational. CDC President Arthur Tugade said the solar project would help ensure adequate and cheap power supply to current and future locators within the free-port zone. The Clark solarpower project will reduce carbon footprint inside Clark and supports the development of Clark Green City, an integrated city involving commercial, industrial and residential developments.
As a child, I saw Clark as an intimidating place. After Mount Pinatubo erupted, Clark needed help. Presently, I see it as a land of opportunity….
With a new government soon to be elected, I wonder how they will build our future memories of Clark.