‘Pampanga Megalopolis Plan’ set into motion

The four-pronged ‘Pampanga Megalopolis Plan’ will make Pampanga province the business and financial center of Northern Luzon.
The much anticipated development plan that envisions to position Pampanga as the strongest counter-magnet to Metro Manila has been formally turned over on Thursdayto Pampanga Governor Lilia Pineda and former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
The comprehensive development plan seeks to address major issues and optimize the potentials of the province as an urban growth center.
Atty. Peter Suchianco, representing Mr. Ramon S. Ang, President and Chief Executive Officer of San Miguel Corporation, turned over the development plan in simple rites in the City of San Fernando.
SMC has provided the financial grant to formulate the development plan which was prepared by Architect Felino “Jun” Palafox, Jr., principal architect-urban planner of the Palafox Associates.
Composed of various metropolitan areas, the Pampanga Megalopolis is clustered into four building blocks, namely: Aerotropolis (airport-driven cluster: Angeles City, San Fernando City, Mabalacat, and Mexico), Agropolis (agriculture-driven cluster: Lubao, Guagua, Sta Rita, Bacolor, San Luis, San Simon, Apalit, Santo Tomas, Sta Ana and Magalang), Aquapolis (water-driven cluster: Sasmuan, Macabebe, Minalin, Masantol, and Lubao), and Ecopolis (ecology-driven cluster: Arayat, Candaba, Floridablanca, and Porac). Each possesses its own strengths to persuade both local and foreign investors, as well as citizens to move there.
Development needs for each of these metropolitan clusters have been identified and would be addressed through implementation of proposed projects as follows:
Transportation and Road Infrastructure. A circumferential road and growth corridor is proposed to interconnect all the cities and municipalities in the province. As a result of consultations conducted with key stakeholders, such as members of the Pampanga Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PamCham), officials of provincial and municipal governments, experts from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), and a technical working group guided by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), priority and supplementary road projects to complete the circumferential road have been identified. These include, among others, Sasmuan-Masantol Road (Viaduct),Arayat-Magalang Road,  Angeles-Porac-Floridablanca Road,  Lubao Bypass , Road Extension, Masantol-Macabebe-Apalit-San Simon-San Luis-Arayat Road, Angeles Bypass Road, and SCETEX-Porac Quarry Road.
Alternative Corridor and Transportation Improvement Measures for MacArthur Highway (mass transport). To reduce traffic congestion along the busy MacArthur Highway, a sustainable mass transport system that makes use of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)is recommended, including feeder system loops and identified intermodal stations.
Tourism Projects at Uplands and Wetlands. The development framework strategy for Pampanga follows the clustering for the Pampanga Megalopolis, packaging the province’s immense diversity to advance tourism growth. Tourism circuits are proposed to help the province establish a unique brand for itself and hence better its market potentials in attracting tourists and visitors. Tourism projects would be community-driven, anchored on the credence that by building up the capabilities of local community as tourist magnet and hiring themin the process,would enable the province to reduce itspoverty incidence, and consequently further improve its local economy. Community-based eco-tourism balances and distributes growth and development to the local community.
Some of the priority projects for tourism, integrated in the Pampanga Megalopolis Plan, include creation of tourism circuits, setting up of tourism information kiosks and information centers, as well as redevelopment of the Candaba Wetland and Nature Park, FloridablancaAstroscience Center, and Mt. Arayat Eco-Adventure Park.
The proposed priority roads would be incorporated to provide better roadway connectivity between tourist destinations in the province. Water transport would also be utilized as well, starting with the Lubao Bamboo hub in Lubao town to BangkungMapaladin Sasmuan, as the kick start for the water transportation.
Integrated Water Resources and Water Supply Planning. Pampanga has significant surface water supplies, which are currently not maximized. Based on the geographical and topographical features of the province and the high annualrainfall amount, there is also a large volume of surface runoff water that can be contained and impounded.
Developing a series of water retaining ponds and series of water reservoirs would help to significantly mitigate flooding during rainy seasons and become a source of water during dry season. After constructing the water retention reservoirs, the cities and municipalities could practically invest in developing water treatment plants and distribution systems to provide clean water for domestic and industrial use. Investing in water treatment plants also helps solve the issue of waste-water pollution.
Disaster Resilience and Flood Protection. Building resilient communities is one of the most critical aspects of economic development, sustainability, and livability. Pampanga, being exposed to numerous natural hazards, should always have the propensity to address these potential risks, especially flooding, for it to better protect its industries and economic interests, as well as the health, well-being and quality of life of Kapampangans.
Both structural and non-structural recommendations were given to effectively address some of the pressing issues of natural hazards which have the potential to cause serious disruption in the province’s growth and development. Moreover, recommendations and potential projects on solid waste management were also identified to address flooding caused by improper disposal of wastes that clog up Pampanga’s waterways.
Agro-Industrial Development Zones. To further enhance the province’s agro-industrial sector, the Pampanga Megalopolis plan also proposes areas of agro-industrial estates, complemented with operational farm-to-market roads and sound and efficient post-harvest facilities.
Pampanga Golden Triangle
Another important component of the Pampanga Megalopolis is the Pampanga Golden Triangle, an imperative channel to jumpstartthe proposed projects and developments under the plan.
Bounded by major thoroughfares (i.e SCTEX, NLEX, MacArthur Highway, and JASA), the Pampanga Golden Triangle is a composite convergence of three cities -Angeles, San Fernando, and Mabalacat, and six municipalities -Porac, Floridablanca, Lubao, Guagua, Santa Rita, and Bacolor. These cities and municipalities represent fast-growing, as well as, high-density settlements within Pampanga.
With Angeles and San Fernando cities being Pampanga’s main urban centers and with their relatively lower susceptibility to natural hazards, the Pampanga Golden Triangle signifies high development potential and could very well be the jump-off point for the larger context of the province.
The proposed conceptual land use for the Pampanga Golden Triangle takes advantage of corridors as drivers of development. It also identifies priority areas as districts or nodes in order to ensure that the proposed land use will be orderly and can accommodate future growth expansion.
In the Pampanga Golden Triangle, Priority Investment Areas (PIAs) were identified. The PIAs identified are mostly “poblacions,” characterized by the presence of government centers, plazas, churches, residential, and commercial areas, among others.
With the main goal of revitalizing urbanized areas, the objectives of the Pampanga Megalopolis Plan also include organizing the current land uses, identifying new road connections and road improvement, and creating buffer zones along hazard-prone areas. These, in turn, could serve as guidelines for future developments within the Pampanga Golden Triangle.
Way Forward
In her acceptance speech, Governor Pineda emphasized that she is accepting the responsibility of seeing to it the Plan is implemented to benefit present and future generations of Kapampangans.
Pineda committed to create a Project Management and Investment Promotions Unit, under the Office of the Governor, to implement the Plan.
Meanwhile, former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who closely guided the formulation of the Pampanga Megalopolis Plan, called on all Pampanga-loving Kabalens to support the Plan. She committed to be the foremost advocate of the Pampanga Megalopolis Plan both locally and internationally.