By HENRY EMPEÑO
CLARK FREEPORT — “Dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.” Using this Arab proverb to illustrate the mindset of the Duterte administration regarding its ‘Build, Build, Build’ program, Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) President & CEO Vivencio B. Dizon said the government is creating momentum to realize the full development of Central Luzon, particularly the Clark airport, which is touted to be next growth driver in the region.
“BCDA is going all-in in this region,” Dizon told senior officials from various private companies during the Asia CEO Forum Clark on Wednesday here at Quest Hotel Clark.
Noting that a lot of problems are spawned by lack of infrastructure, Dizon said the BCDA will be prioritizing the Clark-Subic area with multi-billion infrastructure projects like the NorthRail project, Subic-Clark railway, Clark airport expansion, and the Clark Green City project.
“These projects will not be finished within five years, but the momentum is what’s important,” Dizon said.
“The Duterte government wants to generate enough momentum in its infrastructure program, so that the next administrations will not be able to backtrack from the development track,” he added.
Dizon also said that while project implementation has always been a challenge to governments, the Duterte administration has a different approach to infrastructure, which he described as the “secret sauce to development.”
“President Duterte is known as a doer, with the will to get things done,” Dizon said. “He told me, ‘Just do it, Vince.’ That’s his mindset, so we really have to thank him for that,” he added.
Dizon said the NorthRail project was planned during the time of President Ramos, but noted that “nothing happened (because there was) no clear decision, and no fast action.”
“But this administration is dead-set on completing the project. The Manila-Clark railway is full steam ahead,” he added.
The NorthRail project involves the development of an 85-kilometer railroad that would connect Manila and Clark, and will be composed of two segments: the first from Tutuban to Malolos, Bulacan, and the second from Malolos to Clark, which is called the Clark Rail Transit System.
In subsequent phases, the project is also seen to provide Manila with a north to south connection, reaching as far as La Union in the north to Laguna in the south, Dizon added.
The BCDA official also mentioned the proposed Subic-Clark railway project as a component of the Central Luzon infrastructure program. This project, he said, “will initially be a cargo railway.”
“The focus now is to build connectivity,” Dizon explained. He said that as part of the project, there will be a P12-billion road project the will be composed of a four-lane carriage way and a two-lane railway.
Meanwhile, Dizon also announced the opening of the tender for Phase 1 of the Clark airport expansion project on July 21, and asked international, regional and local companies to join in building “Asia’s newest gateway.”
“This project is long overdue,” Dizon said, adding that the proposed Clark airport terminal will have a direct connection to the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway, as well as to the Manila-Clark Railway.
The airport project would entail constructing new passenger terminals; building new access roads, ramps and taxiways; expanding freight and cargo facilities; and building a second and third runway.
The airport expansion has been described as an ambitious plan to increase airport capacity from the current 4.2 million passengers per annum to 8 million in the first expansion phase, 22 million in the second phase, 46 million in the third, and 80 million in the ultimate phase.
Dizon said that the biggest project of them all, however, would be the Clark Green City, or the Global Gateway Clark project, which will be located in a 177-hectare area that will cover both the tourism and techno-industrial areas at Clark Freeport.
The $5-billion project, according to proponents, will be composed of four zones: the Aeropark, which will take in research and development firms, and information technology ventures, BPOs and educational institutions; Business Park, which will have the prime lots for retail companies, as well as pocket gardens and residential units; Town Center for retail establishments; and the Logistics Park for warehousing, distribution and light manufacturing concerns.
In addition to these, Dizon said the Clark Green City will also include a government center, in line with President Duterte’s directive for government centers to start moving to Clark; an agro-industrial park; a mixed-use complex; an integrated care development; and the so-called Philippine Sports City, which will be President Duterte’s legacy project for Filipino athletes.
“The BCDA is master-planning properties to integrate development, not to compete with each other,” Dizon also said.
During his presentation, the BCDA official likewise called on the private sector to participate in the projects.
“Government cannot build all of these. We’re going to need help from the private sector,” Dizon said, adding that the government would be providing infrastructure support to facilitate the building program.
PHOTO: BCDA President & CEO Vince Dizon presents the development plan of the Duterte administration for the Central Luzon area