28 years after Pinatubo, Clark now a bustling freeport zone

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CLARK FREEPORT – Twenty-eight years after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, the former US-run Clark Air Base became one of the premiere economic hubs of Asia.

The 15th day of June marks a significant day for Filipinos especially for those who are near this Freeport. It was when the wrath of Mount Pinatubo heavily devastated some areas in Central Luzon including the former Clark Air Base.

Because of the thick volcanic ash  and continuing devastation from Mt. Pinatubo, US abandoned Clark. The Philippine Government through the Senate voted on Sept. 16, 1991 not to extend Mutual Bases Agreement giving the US government another 10 years to stay at the devastated American air base.

They believed  the US former base will never be revived because of the massive destruction wrought by the catastrophic eruption and massive lahar flows that lasted for seven years and that Clark it will never be the same.

True enough, because of the resilient resolved of the Kapampangans, it has never been the same. Only, it became even better. The economic activity in this Freeport thrived into something that no one has ever imagined. Dreams were realized through resiliency and with trust and conviction, progress was seen.  

With the creation of Republic Act 7227, Bases Conversion Act (as amended by RA 9400), Clark Development Corporation (CDC) was created and became the implementing arm of Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) to manage Clark Freeport Zone.

From a measly number of six investors in 1993, Clark is now a home to 1,038 locator-companies with a total investment of P154.6 billion that provided more than 123,000 job opportunities for Filipinos. Not only did the Freeport provide possibilities, it also became a nucleus of economic renaissance.

Recently, CDC has remitted P816 million cash dividends for 2018 and has submitted to the National Treasury a total of P4.07 billion total cash dividends since 1996 to present. It became the only government owned and controlled corporation with a local coverage that has been listed by Department of Finance as one of the top dividends contributors in the country.

Along with these feats, Clark is now also being recognized as a major hub of infrastructure developments. One of the major projects under the ‘Build Build Build’ program of Duterte Administration has been poised here. The New Clark City which is 9,400-hectare land at the Clark Special Economic Zone which will also be the main hub for the upcoming South East Asian (SEA) Games 2019.

With all the developments shaping up in this Freeport, CDC President and CEO Noel F. Manankil acknowledged the support and effort given by the investors and stakeholders to make all of these things possible.

“We can now only be thankful to our locators and the rest of our stakeholders for not just helping CDC but revving up the local and national economies,” Manankil said.

 Clark has certainly risen from the ashes as it became a place where all dreams were realized. It truly works.  Like a dream.