Misplaced arguments

HIDDEN AGENDA - Mary Ann LL. Reyes - The Philippine Star

One of the reasons why President Bongbong Marcos vetoed the enrolled bill that would have created the Bulacan Airport City Special Economic Zone and Freeport in Bulakan, Bulacan and adjacent to the New Manila International Airport is because it is near the Clark Special Economic Zone in Pampanga.

This, PBBM said, is against government policy on creating special economic zones in strategic locations.

If this is the case, then why did the government allow and even appropriated funds for the conversion by law of the Bataan Economic Zone into the Freeport Area of Bataan, which is only 90.6 kilometers away from Subic Freeport, or a short one-hour drive away, and is 117 kilometers from Clark Freeport or a quick hour-and-a-half’s trip by land?

FAB seems to be doing well, and is not poaching locators from Subic and Clark, but is instead attracting its own set of locators.

Bataan is actually bordered by the provinces of Zambales and Pampanga. In fact, Ayala Land’s Anvaya Cove project is located in Morong, Bataan but is more popularly but mistakenly known to be in Subic. The Bataan National Park meanwhile straddles the northern half of Bataan Peninsula near its border with Subic Bay Freeport Zone.

If the proposed Bulacan economic zone will offer the same incentives under CREATE Act as those being offered in Clark and Subic, why would existing locators bother to transfer?

According to San Miguel Corp. president Ramon Ang, whose company will be owning and developing the San Miguel Aerocity, has said that they are looking to attract not just any locator, but high-tech export-oriented industries such as world-class semiconductor manufacturers, battery power storage system manufacturers, electric vehicle makers, modular nuclear power assemblies and other new and emerging tech industries who will benefit from the cheapest logistics cost due to the project’s proximity to the airport and seaport.

Ang added that the ecozone also looks to attract world-class education and healthcare providers into Aerocity.

According to one report, the Aerocity, which is 100 percent privately funded at no cost to government, will have a “Silicon Valley” focused on semiconductor manufacturing, industrial batteries, electric vehicle makers and other new and emerging industries, a “University City” in coordination with leading universities in the US, Europe and China, and a “Medical Center” with tie-ups with leading California hospitals like Stanford.

On the ground, Aerocity which is expected to reap $200 billion in yearly export revenues, will create seven modern satellite cities around NMIA sprawled over 9000 hectares. An Aerotropolis, envisioned by urban planner and designer Jun Palafox, will be home to more than two million people in the next 30 years.

But even if locators in Subic and Clark and other nearby ecozones and freeport zones do transfer to the Aerocity or Airport City, all of which are mandated to offer the same set of incentives because of CREATE Act, will our government suffer any loss from such imagined consequence? I don’t think so.

We have to admit that the veto is still related to the issue of SMC’s NMIA or the Bulacan Airport being close to and competing with the Clark Airport.

SMC’s top executive has emphasized that apart from the considerable distance between the two airports, Clark is approximately some 100 kilometers from Metro Manila, a distance wide enough to support a multiple airport strategy like what Tokyo, New York and other large and progressive cities all over the world have employed.

Tokyo has two major airports, Narita and Haneda while New York area has four – LaGuardia, JFK, Newark Liberty International, and Buffalo Niagara.

One study showed that 53 of the 125 busiest metropolitan regions worldwide contain multiple airports offering commercial services.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong, Denver in Colorado, Munich, Singapore, and Austin in Texas have opted to close the older airport in favor of a new, bigger, and more efficient one.

The same study mentioned that in most cases where capacity constraints led to multiple metropolitan airports being in operation, the newer airport was the intended primary airport and it is only in a very few cases, with London being the main example, where the newer commercial airports planned to absorb traffic overflow.

And stressed that the country would need several airports to efficiently serve Filipinos, tourists, and industries, anticipating the long-term population and economic growth of Metro Manila and Luzon provinces in the next 20 to 30 years and taking into consideration the limited expansion opportunities for the current gateway which is the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

He noted that NAIA only has space for one runway operating at any given time compared to NMIA’s four parallel runways.

A world-class airport terminal will be built together with a modern and interlinked infrastructure network that includes expressways and railways.

He pointed out that “what we do not want is to repeat the mistakes of the past where we were not quick enough to develop new infrastructure, giving rise to overcapacity and congestion in our aging roads, ports, and facilities, and even in our skies,” adding that “temporary fixes will not do anymore and we are building for the future, with a clear vision of a fully developed and progressive, prosperous Philippines.”

Ang said that regardless of the outcome of any further government review or action on the ecozone, SMC remains committed to building the NMIA which is seen as the solution to decades of air traffic and land congestion that have severely limited the country’s growth.



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