CLARK FREEPORT ZONE, Pampanga—The Duterte administration is undertaking at least three flagship infrastructure projects under its “Build, Build, Build” program as the linchpin of its strategy to develop major alternative growth areas in Central and Northern Luzon, according to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III.
Dominguez said these three projects already approved by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board, which is chaired by President Duterte, are the: 1) P4.37-billion Chico River Pump Irrigation Project, which will provide water to 8,700 hectares of agricultural land, benefitting 4,350 farmers and serving 21 barangays in the provinces of Cagayan and Kalinga; 2) P211.43-billion Philippine National Railways (PNR) North 2 Project, which will connect Malolos in Bulacan, Clark Airport, and Clark Green City; and the 3) P12.55-billion Clark International Airport New Terminal Building, which will increase the airport’s capacity by 8 million per year and help pave the way to the accelerated growth of Central Luzon and nearby areas.
In his opening remarks at the regional press launch here of the Philippines’ hosting of this year’s 51st Asian Development Bank (ADB) Annual Meeting, Dominguez said the Clark Freeport Zone will soon be the showcase of the Duterte administration’s economic strategy of developing growth centers outside Metro Manila to make the benefits of the country’s fast-paced economic expansion more inclusive.
“The end-goal of all our efforts remains the same. We seek to liberate our countrymen from poverty. We seek a meaningful life for all in a setting of broadly shared prosperity and undiminished liberty. We are ready to take our place among the accomplished nations of the world,” said Dominguez at the third leg of the press launch, which was held at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Convention Center here.
Dominguez, who is this year’s chairperson of the ADB Board of Governors, said the Philippine government’s development strategy jives well with the theme of the institution’s annual meeting of “Linking People and Economies for Inclusive Development.”
The aggressive infrastructure modernization program being implemented to link isolated communities to the mainstream of national wealth creation, the government’s policy revisions to improve the ease of doing business, the increased use of new digital technologies to create a more investor-friendly climate, and the continuing reforms in the financial sector to provide a capital base for businesses and enable more Filipinos to invest are among the initiatives currently being undertaken by the Duterte administration to make development more inclusive, Dominguez said.
“As much as this is a key moment for the ADB, it also is a key moment for the Philippine economy,” Dominguez said. “We are growing rapidly and improving continuously. We are innovating and introducing reforms in tireless fashion. We are building on past gains. We aim to lead our own region in the pace of economic expansion.”
The Clark Freeport Zone, for instance, will be developed as the country’s next big metropolis and transformed into the “New Clark City” that will house the 40-hectare National Government Administrative Center, which will serve as the government’s backup operations hub to ensure the continuous delivery of services in the country at the onset of a natural disaster.
Dominguez said New Clark City is also ideally suited as a center for agro-industrial activities as well as home to cutting-edge technology companies and world-class sports facilities.
“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,” Dominguez said.
Dominguez said the Annual Meeting of the ADB Board of Governors and other related meetings to be held in Manila on May 3-6, as well as the preliminary discussions leading up to this summer event, will enable the finance ministers and central bank governors of the Bank’s 67 member-economies to learn from the best practices and experiences of each other in hurdling the challenges of today’s global economy.
“The Philippines is proud to host this gathering that brings together the major decision-makers of Asia’s emerging economies. This is an opportune time to rethink the development process and the role the ADB plays in the face of many challenges brought about by technological change and shifting political attitudes,” Dominguez said.
Some 3,000 delegates are expected to troop to Manila for the 51st ADB Annual Meeting, among them the finance ministers and central bank governors of the ADB member-countries, bankers, representatives from the private sector, civil society, academe, multilateral institutions and the media.
Among the issues to be discussed during the 51st meeting are globalization, jobs in Asia, financial technology, private sector mobilization in terms of funding infrastructure, building resilience to climate change, expanding opportunities for women entrepreneurs, and tapping technology to maximize the skills of aging populations and utilizing it as an effective tool to make development inclusive.