Build­ing fu­ture mem­o­ries of Clark

Business Mirror - - OPINION - Je­main Diaz de Rivera E-mail: je­main_­di­az_de_rivera@ya­

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.

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