FORMER PRESIDENT Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, President Duterte's adviser on Clark-Subic development, visits the Clark Freeport office with Vice Governor Lilia Pineda and BCDA Chairman Vivencio Dizon in this file photo
By Claire Morales True, Managing Editor
CLARK FREEPORT – A megalopolis is rising in Pampanga in answer to the already congested Metro Manila.
Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who is a presidential adviser on Clark and Subic flagship projects, is spearheading the megapolis plan by initially pushing several infrastructure projects to what she called as the Pampanga Golden Triangle as Luzon’s next megalopolis.
The envisioned megalopolis, with the vast Clark Freeport whose expanse covers all the way to Tarlac and the borders to Zambales, was once proposed to be the next Philippine capital and the site for a new Malacanang palace by the late Senate President Blas F. Ople and several other leaders.
It was reported that to make the vision for a megalopolis a reality, world renowned urban planner Felino Palafox Jr. has drafted a development plan for Pampanga Golden Triangle with key infrastructures such as new roads, mass transit systems and regional transport networks.
According to published reports, the Pampanga Golden Triangle consists of the cities of Angeles, San Fernando and Mabalacat, which spans the Clark Freeport Economic Zone and the expanded Clark International Airport.
Also part of the envisioned megalopolis are its surrounding municipalities of Porac, Floridablanca, Lubao, Guagua, and Santa Rita which are in the second congressional district which Arroyo represented in the House of Representatives and Bacolor, once the country’s capital under the Aguinaldo revolutionary government.
The three cities of Angeles, San Fernando and Mabalacat and six municipalities represent fast-growing as well as high-density settlements within Pampanga, Manila Times’ Aaron Ronquillo reported. Other Manila media also made reports on the grand megalopolis plan.
“The potential rise of the Pampanga Megalopolis is limitless. It also has the opportunity to become one of the most livable, sustainable, and resilient places to live in the Philippines. Being the front door and gateway to Asia makes Pampanga possibly the next biggest financial and economic center in the country, ” Palafox said in an article.
Palafox said his plan envisioned a wider megalopolis composed of an agropolis for farms, food production and agro-industrial businesses; ecopolis as the center for environment tourism, education and natural heritage; aquapolis as the center for waterfront development and marine food production; and the aerotropolis, the airport driven city which is the center for business, logistics, technology, innovation and education.
From the Pampanga Golden Triangle, it was gathered that the development will spread to a larger part of the province, according to Arroyo.
“The private sector and the government cooperation will play a significant role in transforming Pampanga into the country’s next major economic corridor,” Arroyo stated.
Together with former Pampanga Governor Lilia Pineda, Arroyo tapped private space planners to undertake the Pampanga Megalopolis 2017-2040 study.
The province can truly become the gateway of Asia to the Philippines as well as the business and financial center of Northern Luzon, according to Arroyo.
Furthermore, Pampanga can be a major investment hub in the region as it is supported by existing and future infrastructure projects, from the Clark International Airport, North Luzon Expressway, Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway to the Manila-Clark Railway.
Pampanga already serves as the gateway to Central and Northern Luzon.
The development of the Subic-Clark corridor, interconnecting Subic, Clark, and Tarlac and the rise of Clark International Airport as well as the construction of Manila-Clark Railway will boost the status of the province as the “Gateway of Asia” to the Philippines, Arroyo noted.
More than a substitute to the Manila International Airport, Clark International Airport can accommodate the logistics and airport industry of both Central and Northern Luzon.
The construction of the Manila-Clark Railway is now in full serving, while the Clark-Subic Railway will start soon.
Under the masterplan, Pampanga will also have integrated mass-transport systems including Bus Rapid Transit, an LRT, wide roads with special lanes that promote walkability and bikeability, and a feeder system using medium-capacity vehicles.
At present, Pampanga is one of the largest consumer markets in the Philippines, with five SM shopping malls, three Robinsons Malls, a Vista Mall, a Nepo Mall and 50 Jollibee outlets
Included in the plan is to build feeder system loops and intermodal stations to accommodate a sustainable mass transport system. This is to address the congestion along MacArthur Highway, particularly along the San Fernando-Angeles and Angeles-Mabalacat sections.
“Access and connectivity of all cities and municipalities in Pampanga is critical to its social, environmental and economic growth,” said Arroyo.
These projects will be supported by regional transport networks such as the proposed Bataan-Cavite Link, which could also be a part of the proposed circumferential road that will connect Pampanga to the Calabarzon region.
The project is expected to enable the transport of people and goods between Central and Southern Luzon without having to traverse the congested roads of Metro Manila.
In addition, the plan also involves the construction of roads to provide better connectivity between tourism destinations in Pampanga, such as the Candaba Wetland and Nature Park, Floridablanca Astroscience Center, Mt. Arayat Eco-Adventure Park as well as tourism information centers, information kiosks and tourism circuits.
Aside from land transport, the plan also pushes for the development of Pampanga’s water resources.
This would entail building water retaining ponds and reservoirs is expected to mitigate flooding during rainy seasons and become a source of water during dry season.
Arroyo said disaster resilience and flood protection should be integrated in the infrastructure plan.
“Pampanga, being exposed to numerous natural hazards, should be addressed, especially flooding, for it to better protect its industries and economic interests, as well as the health and quality of life of Kapampangans,” she said.
In addition, Pampanga’s cities and municipalities could also invest and develop water treatment plants and distribution systems to provide clean water for domestic and industrial use.
To generate more jobs and create more economic opportunities for the people, the plan also covers agro-industrial development zones.
Arroyo said these zones will attract investors to introduce new products, manage supply chains with best practices and export products to the huge Asian markets.
“With a progressive approach through the Agropolis and Aquapolis, Pampanga will move towards a progressive future anchored on growing a menu of commodities for value-added processing, catering to import substitution as well as the export market.