EVEN before the presidency of Noynoy Aquino and Rodrigo Duterte, there was already a definite plan of the national government to make the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) aka Clark International Airport as the international gateway. There was something started during the watch of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, but somehow the plan was stalled due to several hiccups, shall I say. The growth of the Freeport, the economic zone and the much vaunted Clark Green City is anchored on the full development of Clark airport. The master plan indicated that.
But somehow it was stalled because for what could be the real reason and possibly only Mr. Ramon Ang knows why the news that filtered from business pages of metropolitan newspapers was that he proposed to build a $10-billion main air gateway somewhere near the former Sangley Naval Base, in proximity of Metro Manila. And another one somewhere in Bulacan province. A big puzzle. And big time property developers like the Gokongwei group were also trying to partner with Mr. Ang. Not to be left behind were the Ayala group and the SM group of the Sy family which also wanted to have a stake. It made Clark International Airport Corporation officials nervous.
That announced move of Mr. Ang doused cold water on the effort of making Clark Airport as the affordable gateway. That was few years back. Ang’s plan was temporarily shelved or maybe went to the waste basket, particularly now that the Duterte government is dead set to make Clark Freeport Zone as “the next big metropolis.”
This in consonance with Duterte’s “Build , Build, Build” program. The newspapers quoted Department of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and was saying “Clark will soon be the showcase of the Duterte administration’s economic strategy.”
Former Bases Conversion Development Authority presidents like Narciso Abaya, Arnel Casanova and Board Chairmen like Aloysius Santos and Felicity “Tong” Payumo and the many former officials of this government agency since it was structured in 1993 were already saying and were of the belief that an international airport is the growth driver for Central and Northern Luzon. Duterte’s economic managers are seeing it through now.
In the many years I am observing the developments of this once American military installation covering it as a newsman in the sixties and seventies, till I became a director of Clark Development Corporation and Clark International Corporation in 2001 to 2019, I know it will morph into something big, maybe bigger than Manila metropolis. And now it’s going so much ground. There’s no doubt the winds of progress is moving towards the Pampanga and Tarlac direction via the Clark Freeport.
Three expressways, The North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway(SCTEX) and the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union( TIPLEX) unlocked the value of the Central and North Luzon regions. And expectedly, the big players the likes of SM Development Corporation of the Sy family, the Ayalas, Andrew Tan’s Megaworld and Filinvest of the Gotianuns among others are “already in town”.
Let government speed up construction of the railways now. It should have been done long time ago. As a good manager will say, “the deadline was yesterday.”