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Tale of two countries

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Charles Dickens put it perfectly in the famed opening line of “A Tale of Two Cities,” since this is apropos to the current scenario involving the Philippines and the United States. Right smack in the middle of the Tubbataha Reef-USS Guardian issue that damaged an estimated 1,000 square meters in the UN heritage site, the trade relations between Filipinos and Americans are showing signs of flourishing thanks in large part to the US-Philippines Society (USPS), an association of American and Filipino businessmen seen to strengthen economic ties between the longtime allies.

But just like any other friendship, the relationship between these two countries also encounters a few bumps now and then, which makes everything highly interesting. The US embassy has already issued an apology about the Tubbataha incident and has vowed to work closely with the Philippine government in addressing environmental concerns. Other than the reef incident, the relationship between the two countries seems to be on a smooth course especially in the area of business and trade, something that USPS founders envisioned when they established the organization June of last year, with former ambassador to the Philippines and USPS chairman John Negroponte representing American business leaders and co-chair Manuel V. Pangilinan for Filipino businessmen.

In a speech delivered before the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines and the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Negroponte reaffirmed alliances with Asian countries like the Philippines, noting that despite the economic crisis, the US remains to be the world’s largest economy.

The investment support of the United States in the country is highly felt in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry as the Filipino business sector looks into expanding businesses and investing in the US as well.

President Noynoy Aquino’s working visit to the United States gained a lot of ground mainly attributed to the Philippine government’s reforms and vigilance against corruption.

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MVP confirmed this, recalling that the “members of the US delegation who met with President Aquino were impressed with reforms and economic inroads made (by the Aquino administration) so far.”

Somehow the “daang matuwid” efforts resonated with both the American and Filipino businessmen. The businessmen showed steady confidence as evident in the growing Philippine economy and increased trade relations between the two countries.

As they say, may the best of times win.

Best use of Clark

The redevelopment of the former Clark Air Base in the Philippines, now the Clark International Airport and Special Economic Zone, has the potential to provide significant economic benefits as a thriving aerotropolis serving the entire region, according to an Urban Land Institute (ULI) advisory services panel convened to examine new uses for the former US military facility.   

The Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) of the Philippines sponsored the ULI panel which visited the area recently.

Among the panel’s recommendations for the base’s  redevelopment are as follows:

- Focus on establishing a new airport facility of world class design and character that will serve as the gateway to the Philippines;

- In conjunction with the new airport, take steps to improve the ground transport system, including enhanced rail and road access.

- Ensure that development of the districts surrounding the airport property is undertaken in a coordinated and mutually supporting manner so as to create housing, commercial and industrial uses, as well as educational, recreational and tourist facilities.

- Implement a new, centralized management structure that insures comprehensive oversight and coordinated activity at all levels and

- Obtain financing through a mix of techniques, including funds generated from the redevelopment of current facilities in Metro Manila that could result in relocating government agencies to Clark (which could entail public-private ventures, concessions, fees and rents).

“The integration of the Metro Manila urban core and the redevelopment of Clark can be key factors in the city’s success as a regional business hub. We are pleased to have worked with the BCDA on this important initiative,” according to ULI leader James DeFrancia, chairman of the advisory services panel.

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