Pampanga Megalopolis plan to ease congestion in Manila

The plan for Pampanga Megalopolis will ease the congestion in Metro Manila and unlock the growth potential of the province and the rest of Central Luzon in the next two decades, according to former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Arroyo, who served as president from 2001 to 2010 and representative of Pampanga’s Second District from 2010 to 2019, said the Pampanga Megalopolis plan is a countermeasure to decongest Metro Manila by developing Pampanga province as the next growth center.

The plan aims to develop the 19 municipalities and three cities comprising Pampanga into a megalopolis or a growth cluster that is well connected by transport infrastructures such as airports, expressways and mass transit systems.

“More than being the counter-magnet to the development of Metro Manila, Pampanga will become the business and financial center of Northern Luzon and a jewel in Southeast Asia,” said Arroyo, who currently serves as presidential adviser on Clark’s flagship projects.

In August 2016, Arroyo in conceptualizing a footprint for the massive development of Central Luzon, tapped urban planner and architecture expert Felino Palafox Jr. to undertake a study focusing on the Pampanga province as the epicenter of progress and development.  Palafox submitted the Pampanga Megalopolis 2017-2040 report which contains plans and projects in making the Pampanga Megalopolis a reality.

The projects include the development of a new circumferential transport corridor interconnecting all cities and municipalities in the province; the development of a world-class mass transportation system along MacArthur Highway in the form of bus rapid transit that will integrate and synergize with Clark International Airport; the development of new tourism clusters and destinations that will draw more businesses and arrivals; and flood protection projects, areas for bulk water supply; and development of agri-industrial zones.

Arroyo said Pampanga, which is at the center of SCAD Corridor interconnecting Subic, Clark and Tarlac, is in the prime position to become the Gateway of East Asia.

She said Clark International Airport will not only become a substitute to Manila International Airport, but also a major development itself that can accommodate the logistics and airport industry of both Central and Northern Luzon.

Arroyo said with Pampanga’s rapidly growing economy, its population is expected to also rise exponentially because of migration from other parts of the country.  A study shows that Pampanga’s working population may jump to 5 to 6 million in the next 10 to 15 years.

The study predicts that Pampanga will be the emerging national and economic center of the country, becoming the direct counter-magnet to Metro Manila, given its fertile agricultural lands, the strategic location of Pampanga River Delta, a world-class international airport in Clark, and direct access to the North Luzon Expressway and Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway.

Arroyo, however, said that it is important that Pampanga avoid the mistakes of Metro Manila where commuters spend several hours in traffic each day.  She said the Pampanga Megalopolis plan will ensure that this will not happen in the province.

“It is important that an integrated intermodal mass transportation system be developed.  We also have to develop walkable and bikeable areas,” she said.

The plan involves a holistic transportation and mobility plan for Pampanga, including the development of circumferential growth corridors and mass-transit lines with strong land use regulations that will prevent the repeat of the urban ills of Metro Manila.  It also looks at the potential of Pampanga River as a water transportation hub and eventually an urban growth area with a strong tourism industry like Venice, Italy.

Arroyo said to jumpstart the plan, she will push for the development of the Pampanga Golden Triangle starting with Angeles City, San Fernando City, Mabalacat City, Porac, Lubao, Floridablanca and Guagua.

These cities and municipalities represent fast-growing and high-density settlements in the province.  The triangle also covers Clark Freeport Zone and Clark International Airport. 

Arroyo intends to return to Congress representing the Second District of Pampanga province to make sure that the Pampanga Megalopolis plan will take off and support the rise of the province as the new economic center.

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