CLARK FREEPORT — The forthcoming expansion and modernization of the Subic port by private firm Harbour Centre Port Terminal, Inc. is seen to further bring economic development not only in Subic Freeport Zone but also in Central Luzon and Northern Luzon.
Thus said Clark Development Corporation Chairman Edgardo D. Pamintuan noting that, “If Clark is the region’s international gateway for airborne commerce, Subic serves the same role for seaborne.”
“That’s the reason why we have this Subic-Clark growth corridor, serving as the platform for the region’s global supply chain,” said Pamintuan.
Pamintuan cited the importance of the growth corridor to the current global economic situation, where foreign investments and trade have become inter-related and linked by infrastructure requirements.
“Both foreign and local investors, especially those involved in imports and export-oriented manufacturing, require the types of infrastructure available in Clark and Subic but at the level of capacities that befit their current and future requirements. In short, they need the element of permanence that are best guaranteed by both physical and policy infrastructure, the entry of Harbour Centre Port Terminal, Inc. to Subic will achieve this purpose” Pamintuan explained.
“This is particularly so in the Philippines, whose archipelagic nature makes it accessible to the outside world by only air and sea. We are not part of any Asian continental landmass like the Middle East or even the Mekong sub-region that are accessible by land. Nonetheless, our lack of land access also serves as a natural market filter for the entry of only the high-end foreign tourists.
“Still, it is imperative for our country as an archipelago to beef up its airports and seaports to remain a truly active part of the global supply chain. Now, for the entire northern half of the Philippines, that role is being served by Clark and Subic through an effective process of infrastructure complementation that contributes to total national employment and generation of GIR (gross international reserves),” Pamintuan added.
Unfortunately, the ideal budget for infrastructure development at 10 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), as cited by vice president Dr. Ronilo Balbieran of the Research, Education and Institutional Development (REID) Foundation, is reportedly far beyond what the government can actually raise.
Balbieran said infra spending at 10 percent of GDP could push the national economy to the speed of China’s phenomenal growth.
“That implies, though, that the other half of the ideal 10-percent infra spending may come from the private sector, which is how the Subic port and other PPP (public-private partnership) projects are best carried out,” said Pamintuan.
Pamintuan said no other port at the western flank of Luzon could take the place of Subic in its strategic location and security attributes, “unless we develop an entirely new Freeport zone at the Lingayen Gulf because the San Fernando Port in La Union is just too small” for the desired scale.
He said the port development in Subic, especially by the private sector such as Harbour Centre, would benefit and strengthen, not only this industrial and logistical hub, but also the rest of Central and Northern Luzon, whose combined hectarage could easily exceed those of Singapore (73,430 hectares) and Hong Kong (275,500 hectares) put together (348,930 hectares).
In comparison, Central Luzon alone has a land area of 2.147 million hectares, the Ilocos Region of North Luzon 1.3 million hectares, and the Cagayan Valley over 2.6 million hectares.
Singapore’s total land area of only 73,430 hectares is just 1,578 hectares more than the combined hectarage of Clark and Subic. Still, Singapore’s GDP amounted to US$466.79 billion in 2022, even bigger than that of the whole Philippines at US$404.28 billion in the same year.
“The irony here is that Singapore relies mostly, if not solely, on manufacturing, services and trade because of its lack of natural resources, it being an island city state. In fact, Singapore has been the Philippines’s top source of FDIs (foreign direct investments) for quite a long while now,” Pamintuan stressed.
“On the other hand, Central and Northern Luzon from both sides of the West Philippine Sea and the West Pacific, is a vast confluence or amalgamation of diverse resources, thus making Subic a very strategic sea-based regional gateway for the flow of goods and services that power up national economic expansion.
This logistical gateway can thus help turn the entire northern half of mainland Luzon into another Singapore. Therefore, to view the port of Subic as simply a facility for the freeport’s locators is utterly misplaced; thus there is a need for Harbour Centre to come in to Subic to help spur economic growth,” said Pamintuan.