Interview: Vivencio B Dizon

What role will the Clark Green City (CGC) project play in the decentralisation process, and how will it support future growth in the country?

VIVENCIO B DIZON: Growing frustration with traffic congestion in Metro Manila, which has had a major impact on the lives of residents, has made decentralisation imperative. The CGC project will play a major role in providing medium- and long-term solutions for the metropolis. Although government can – and will – build more roads and improve mass transport systems, at the end of the day, Metro Manila has become unsustainable. For instance, its population density has reached roughly 19,000 people per sq km. As a result, the only viable solution is to find another location where we can encourage economic activity, jobs and investments.

Clark is an ideal place, given that it comprises a large area of contiguous land and has connecting infrastructure in place. Both the North Luzon Expressway and the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway provide connectivity to the CGC project from Manila, while the Central Luzon Link Expressway will connect it to the provinces of Nueva Ecija and Aurora to the east.

In the pipeline is the development of a rail project connecting Manila to Clark and even further north towards La Union, following the existing route of the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway, which would greatly boost the economic potential of the region. In addition, we will build a railway system connecting the Subic Bay and its seaport to Clark, allowing for the transport of cargo and passengers, and strengthening the position of CGC as a logistics and economic centre.

In addition, Clark International Airport (CIA) will help to establish a dual airport system for the country, complementing the performance of Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport. CIA will target its own catchment area in northern and central Luzon, consisting of roughly 23m people, especially as the frequency of flights continues to grow. Although the 288-ha business district is already being developed by Filinvest, there are several industries that the CGC will be able to host. The challenge moving forward will be to plan and provide incentives for private investors across different sectors, in addition to establishing supporting infrastructure, education and health facilities.

How can stakeholders, whether private investors or local government units (LGUs), collaborate to facilitate the development of the CGC project?

DIZON: The CGC project will be built from the ground up. In the past, the problem with developments like CGC was that they created an enclave of prosperity while the surrounding areas remained unchanged or stagnated. Growth cannot be limited to the CGC area. Therefore, we aim to work closely with LGUs and the host provinces of Pampanga and Tarlac, so they will grow in tandem with the project.

Ultimately, the success of CGC will depend greatly on the successes of LGUs, as they will be the primary suppliers of skilled workers. The cities of Angeles and San Fernando in Pampanga contain many high-quality educational institutions; however, many employees in Clark still come from Manila. This shows significant potential for boosting local employment, as long as LGUs and their educational institutions are equipped to meet demand. For these synergies to be optimised, LGUs and provinces will need to plan their own development within the context of what happens in Clark.

To facilitate this process, all the stakeholders in the areas hosting the CGC project will be briefed on the plans for the programme, future infrastructure developments, and the type of investments that will be received. This way they can prepare themselves for the changes. In partnership with the government of Singapore and the Temasek Foundation, LGUs will not only be made aware of the most recent, available opportunities, but trained to develop their own planning so they can provide for the economic and sustainability needs of the developmental area.