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Gov’t sees Clark as Philippines’ next big metropolis

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New Clark City
An artist’s impression of New Clark City, which is being developed by the Bases Conversion and Development Authority. — THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION/HANDOUT

By Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan, Reporter

CLARK, PAMPANGA — New Clark City is poised to be the showcase of the Duterte administration’s efforts to beef up infrastructure spending, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said on Friday.

“This will soon be the showcase of the Duterte administration’s economic strategy,” Mr. Dominguez said during the second leg of the Philippine Economic Briefing.

“We expect this area to be the growth driver of central Luzon, especially since it sits at the nexus of the network of expressways and soon a railway running from here to Manila and Los Baños,” he added.

Mr. Dominguez noted President Rodrigo R. Duterte has already approved three big-ticket infrastructure projects that will benefit Clark Freeport Zone. These are the P211.43-billion Philippine National Railways (PNR) North 2 project, the P12.55-billion New Terminal Building for the Clark International Airport, as well as the P4.37-billion Chico River Pump Irrigation Project.

The New Clark City, which Mr. Dominguez described as the “country’s next big metropolis,” is envisioned to be a hub for agro-industrial firms, including food processing and technology companies.

New Clark City will also house the planned 40-hectare National Government Administrative Center, which is designed to be a hub for administrative government offices that will ensure “continuous delivery of services in the country at the onset of a natural disaster.”

“This is where the future begins,” Mr. Dominguez said.

The Finance chief noted the increased inflow of official development assistance from Japan and China, as well as lenders World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB) will support the Philippines’ infrastructure program to stimulate rapid growth.

STRONG GROWTH
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia meanwhile said he expects the Philippine economy to grow “better than 6.7% this year,” which would be driven by “public spending on infrastructure.”

He added the administration is making it a priority to link regions outside Metro Manila in order to broaden the country’s growth base.

Rolando U. Toledo, the Budget department’s Fiscal Planning and Reforms Bureau chief, said the government is banking on the speedy release of budget allotments as well as the one-year validity of appropriated funds through the Budget Reform Bill — which is currently up for plenary deliberations in the Senate.

“This will reflect actual goods and services that will be delivered in the fiscal year, not intentions or commitments,” Mr. Toledo said.

At the same time, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Nestor A. Espenilla said the country’s economy has increasingly become broad-based, “creating more opportunities across more sectors in the society,” which he said is supported by “low and stable inflation,” and a robust external payments position that shields the economy from external headwinds.

However, Mr. Dominguez noted the Philippines may be affected by a possible trade war between the United States and China.

“We are growing our market locally so we are very robust. We don’t rely much on exports or imports as much as other economies, so we are sort of insulated. But still I’m not downplaying it. If there is a full-blown trade war, everybody is going to be affected… Walang nananalo. So if our two markets get hurt, China and the US, we will also get hurt. I’m really concerned,” he told reporters after the briefing.

The world’s two biggest economies have recently fanned fears of a trade war. China has warned it will hit back at any US protectionist moves after President Donald J. Trump’s threats to impose tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese imports.