Philippines plans development of SEZ, with Singapore-inspired housing and aviation hub

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan (centre) speaks to the Philippines’ Bases Conversion and Development Authority chairman Delfin Lorenzana (left) and Clark Development Corporation president and CEO Agnes Devanadera (right) at the Clark Freeport and SEZ in Pampanga, Philippines on April 17. - ST PHOTO: MARA CEPEDA

CLARK, Pampanga: Plans are afoot to further develop a special economic zone (SEZ) north of Philippine capital Manila by introducing affordable housing inspired by Singapore’s HDB flats and developing an existing civil aviation complex into a global hub a la Changi Airport.

Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, who wraps up a four-day visit to the Philippines on Thursday (April 18), said the Republic looks forward to exchanging ideas with the Philippines as the latter seeks to bring them to fruition.

Filipino officials gave the minister a tour around New Clark City, a 9,450ha community currently being developed inside the Clark Freeport and Special Economic Zone, which was formerly a US military base.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said in February that he wants New Clark City to become the country’s first smart city, inspired by Singapore’s infrastructure and development model.

Sixteen Singapore firms are currently operating in Clark, employing over 1,600 people and generating investments worth US$139.92 million (S$190 million) as at 2023. There are over 1,000 local and foreign businesses in the SEZ.

Joshua Bingcang, head of the agency tasked to convert former US military bases in the Philippines into modern mixed-use communities, said the Philippines wants to build an affordable housing complex in Clark, with architecture modelled after Singapore’s Housing Board designs.

He added that a Singapore firm, which he did not name, is one of two contractors that have put in bids to set up New Clark City’s information and communications technology network.

Plans are also under way to develop the 2,300ha civil aviation complex around Clark International Airport into a global hub inspired by Changi Airport, said Clark International Airport Corporation (CIAC) president and chief executive Arrey Perez.

These include building sports and entertainment facilities that can host large-scale international events, and an agricultural trade hub that would support Marcos’ food security agenda.

“With the airport city, CIAC seeks to contribute to the economic windfall of a region empowered by inclusive growth and sustainable development. We know we need not look farther than Singapore to understand how this vision becomes reality,” Perez said.

The airport itself is being operated by a consortium of Changi Airports International and its partners, which won a 25-year concession to operate and maintain Clark’s airport in 2018.

Dr Balakrishnan also visited SIA Engineering, which has been running a maintenance, repair and overhaul facility for planes at Clark International Airport since 2008.

He expressed confidence in the Philippines’ vision for Clark, praising the Marcos government for having the sense of urgency to introduce innovations at the Freeport zone.

“I just want to congratulate you and to say that we look forward to whatever ideas we can share and exchange,” Dr Balakrishnan said in his meeting with local executives.

While the Philippines may be inspired by Singapore in developing Clark, he told the officials that “this is a Filipino project led by Filipinos, and it will benefit the Philippine citizens”.

“It is that extra pride of ownership that makes all the difference between just being good enough versus being great. I wish you all great success.” - The Straits Times/ANN

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Philippines , Singapore , Vivian , housing , SEZ


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