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Gov’t betting big on Clark Freeport

Several flagship infra projects to make the area ‘the next big metropolis’
By: - Reporter / @bendeveraINQ
/ 05:16 AM April 14, 2018

CLARK FREEPORT ZONE— The Duterte administration is set to make Clark Freeport Zone “the next big metropolis” with several flagship infrastructure projects seen bolstering economic activity in the former US military air base.

“Clark will soon be the showcase of the Duterte administration’s economic strategy. We expect this area to be the growth driver for central and northern Luzon,” Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III told a press conference during the roadshow here for the Philippines’ hosting of the 51st Asian Development Bank annual meeting on May 3 to 6.

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Dominguez said Clark was ideal to be the center for agro-industrial activities as well as a hub for cutting-edge technology companies and world-class sports facilities.

“With the recent groundbreaking of the 40-hectare piece of land where the National Government Administrative Center will be developed, the New Clark City will house various backup government centers that will ensure continuous business operations and services in the country at the onset of a natural disaster,” Dominguez said.

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“Clark, in the near future, will be the next big metropolis,” the chief of the Duterte economic team said.

The Finance chief noted that at least two soon-to-rise big-ticket infrastructure projects would benefit Clark.

One is the P211.43-billion Philippine National Railways North 2 project which would connect Malolos, Bulacan to Clark Airport and Clark Green City.

Based on earlier documents, the Japanese government would finance the 69.5-kilometer PNR North 2, with the loan agreement expected to be signed by the fourth quarter of this year, following National Economic and Development Authority Board approval in June last year.

Another major infrastructure project in the free port is the P12.55-billion new terminal building of the Clark International Airport which, Dominguez said, would increase the airport’s capacity by eight million passengers per year and would help pave the way for the accelerated growth of Central Luzon and nearby areas.”

As a whole, the government plans to invest “heavily” in infrastructure in Central and Northern Luzon in a bid “to have major alternative growth areas,” according to Dominguez.

In fact, three of the Duterte administration’s flagship infrastructure projects already approved by the Neda Board are in central and northern Luzon, [including] the P4.37-billion Chico River Pump Irrigation Project, under which 8,700 hectares of agricultural land will be irrigated, benefiting 4,350 farmers and serving 21 barangays in Cagayan Valley and Kalinga, he said.

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Last Tuesday, the Philippine and Chinese governments signed the P3.135-billion loan agreement for the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project, the first flagship infrastructure project to be financed by China under the Duterte administration’s ambitious “Build, Build, Build.”

The $62.09-million dollar- denominated loan will cover 85 percent of the project’s total contract amount of P3.689 billion.

The Chinese loan for the project to be implemented by the National Irrigation Administration was slapped an interest of 2 percent a year, maturing in 20 years inclusive of a seven-year grace period.

Dominguez signed the loan agreement on behalf of the Philippine government on the sidelines of the Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan, China, while Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua represented the Export-Import Bank of China.

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