PHOTOGRAPHY BY ROMEO PERALTA, JR.

Everything is on the move, and the air is rife with excitement at New Clark City, located within the Clark Special Economic Zone in Pampanga. Cranes, bulldozers, and other heavy equipment hum gently under the glistening sun. Mounds of earth and pebbles dot the landscape, silent witnesses to a future worth waiting for.

Vivencio Dizon, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), surveys the landscape like a captain pleased at his seaworthy ship. His eyes, squinting against the sizzling sun, twinkle with the excitement of someone on the brink of a great adventure.

“This is BCDA’s number one project,” he says with a smile. “It’s the first phase of New Clark City, which spans 32,000 hectares, or half of Metro Manila. It’s not just a city. It’s a metropolis with a full master plan.”

That master plan is huge to the point of mind-boggling, especially to people from a developing country, where constant traffic, pollution, and flooding are a given. New Clark City has most everything you can ask for in a place you dream of calling your own. Dizon tells us why.

GETTING READY FOR THE BIG LEAGUE
The proposed new airport (BCDA’s second biggest project) will sit on a 110,000 sq. meter area, with far more flights than the current 720-plus domestic and international ones. Dizon and his staff have set a June 2020 deadline for this project, which will surely bring in more tourists, and even more prosperity to the city. As of press time, Dizon says the new airport is already 60 percent done.

The BCDA chief points to a multi-layered, avant-garde structure whose gigantic V-shaped posts hold up a wave- shaped roof. This is the future Aquatic Center, where lovers of water sports like swimming, diving, and water polo can go. It is the proud holder of a certification from FINA (Fédération Internationale de Natation), which the International Olympic Committee has tasked to oversee international water sports competitions. This means that the Aquatic Center can host international competitions in swimming and other water sports—another big boost to the country’s tourism efforts.

Unlike other athletic stadiums in the country, The New Clark City Stadium has a Class 1A certification from the International Association of Athletics Federations, the 214-member international governing body for athletics. This, Dizon explains, means that with a little expansion in seating capacity, the stadium can hold world athletic championships like the Olympics no less.

“It will have three pools—for diving, training, and competition. It can sit 2,000 people, and is PWD (persons with disability)- friendly. That’s one of the requirements for (FINA) certification,” he points out.

The Aquatic Center is so PWD-friendly, it will host the Southeast Asian Paralympic Games on January 18 to 25, 2020. Athletes from 11 Southeast Asian countries are expected to compete.

But before that—from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11—the 30th Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) will be held at the soon-to-rise athletic stadium beside the Aquatic Center. Also adjacent to the athletic stadium is a warm-up track facility where athletes can train.

The New Clark City Aquatic Center

“We will have an athlete’s village which houses dorms with simple, beautiful rooms,” adds Dizon.

The imposing stadium will buzz with activities, not only during the SEA Games and other events. It will come alive the rest of the year, when it serves as a much-needed national training center for Filipino athletes.

Too long have we suffered from the lack of good facilities that will allow our athletes to bring home more golds for the country, observes Dizon. Too long have our outstanding athletes spent their own money to train abroad or buy equipment to further hone their skills and talents. The soon-to-rise stadium will put those sorry days behind us.

“We always talk about winning gold medals, but the problem is, we don’t support our athletes,” rues Dizon. “It’s sad that we don’t have world-class facilities. How can we demand good performance from our athletes when we can’t even provide facilities they need to train? Most of them use personal money. They get their own sponsors. Sometimes, they go abroad to train because we don’t have facilities here.” It goes without saying that training abroad is expensive.

The New Clark City stadium will solve all these. Dizon states that besides its own world-class gym fully equipped with the latest machines, the stadium will have its own medical facility.

And, unlike other athletic stadiums in the country, The New Clark City Stadium has a Class 1A certification from the International Association of Athletics Federations, the 214-member international governing body for athletics. This, Dizon explains, means that with a little expansion in seating capacity, the stadium can hold world athletic championships like the Olympics no less.

The stadium, he goes on, will have 20,000 seats. Yes, it’s less than the 50,000 seating capacity of The Philippine Arena. But Dizon points out that unfortunately, the latter doesn’t have an international certification. Neither does the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila, which the Philippine government built in 1934. The sports complex is but a shadow of its old self, its dilapidated structure a source of concern for many.

New Clark City’s sports facilities, on the other hand, offer a ray of hope for athletes and the Philippines’ tourism industry. These facilities, which sit on 60 hectares of land, are expected to attract wave upon wave of tourists who will traverse New Clark City’s expanded national highways.

TAKING THE HIGH ROAD
“We’re building two major highways which will connect Clark International Airport to New Clark City,” reveals Dizon. According to him, the 20-kilometer, eight-lane highway is even wider than SCTEx (Subic–Clark–Tarlac Expressway), the major artery connecting Clark to the rest of Luzon. Since SCTEx only has four lanes, the proposed national highways will be able to serve double the volume of vehicles that go to and from Clark and ease traffic woes, especially during peak seasons like Holy Week, the Christmas holidays, and long weekends.

The New Clark City Airport set to be finished by June 2020

Dizon adds that the new highways will span about 50 kilometers of roads. The first highway connecting SCTEx will be done by September, a few months before the SEA Games. It will make travel from SCTEx to New Clark City as fast as 10 minutes, or 30 minutes less than what it usually takes.

The BCDA chief explains that this is possible since the new exit to be built in SCTEx will drastically reduce travel time.

Meanwhile, the other new highway that will connect New Clark City, this time to the new airport, will save travelers as much as 30 to 35 minutes travel time. Henceforth, states Dizon, travel to and from the airport to New Clark City will only take 15 minutes.

Since time is money, that will translate to lots of savings in pesos, which can be spent in other more productive means than wasting time and effort on the road.

EDUCATION AND GOVERNMENT OFFICE HUB
The building boom is attracting state universities like the University of the Philippines (UP), Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), and Philippine Science High School to New Clark City. Dizon adds that the Technological University of the Philippines (TUP) is also opening a new campus there. A National Sports High School for athletes will soon rise in the area as well.

Dizon is just as happy to report that the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) and The Medical City are opening their doors in Clark.

“President Duterte has mandated that the national government initially build satellite offices here,” says Dizon. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) will have offices there. Other agencies will follow.

Employees of these and other offices will breathe life-giving fresh air since Dizon vowed to make New Clark City as green as can be. He puts the ratio of green to buildable space at 60-40.

We want New Clark City to be powered significantly by renewable energy, specifically solar energy. Streetlights will all be solar powered. We will mandate all buildings to have solar panels on the roofs.

“A river park will stretch all the way to the end of Phase One,” states Dizon. “The initial phase will cover 4.5 hectares. There’s probably going to be some kayaking or paddleboarding in some parts of the park.” That’s good news for families who want to take it easy during weekends and holidays.

The proposed river park followed recommendations of an Asian Development Bank (ADB) study for New Clark City that makes 50 to 100-meters from the river a no-build zone. This means that no houses, condominiums, and similar structures will be built on this zone. According to Dizon, the area will only have a pathway, an amphitheater, and some toilets.

Reduced carbon footprint is another goal. Dizon promises residents and visitors that they won’t need a car to get around the city. A fully operational bus rapid transit system like those found abroad will answer people’s transportation needs. Designated bus stops will make travel easier and more convenient. The buses will either be hybrid or fully electric to reduce carbon emissions. Wide pedestrian lanes will ensure everyone’s safety. Dedicated bike lanes and a bike-sharing program will not only help the environment but will also encourage people to exercise more.

Too long have we suffered from the lack of good facilities that will allow our athletes to bring home more golds for the country, observes Dizon. Too long have our outstanding athletes spent their own money to train abroad or buy equipment to further hone their skills and talents. The soon-to-rise stadium will put those sorry days behind us.

“We want New Clark City to be powered significantly by renewable energy, specifically solar energy. Streetlights will all be solar powered. We will mandate all buildings to have solar panels on the roofs,” reveals Dizon.

As for building strength, Dizon says the new structures can withstand a magnitude 8.9 earthquake. In fact, the magnitude 6.1 earthquake that shook Zambales last April, reveals Dizon, hardly had an effect on the structures under construction.

A VISION COMING TRUE
“In Japan, some areas bear the prefix ‘shin,’ or new. This is the new frontier. This is Shin Clark City,” Dizon says, smiling broadly.

CEO Dizon looks over the new Athletic Stadium in Capas, Tarlac.

Dizon is only too glad that the vision of a second metropolis in Luzon after Metro Manila is finally coming true. He reveals that this vision has been the topic of discussion since the Americans left the country in the ‘90s. And now, it’s slowly coming true, right before his very eyes.

To him, as it is to those who will someday reap the project’s rewards, nothing can be more magical. — MARIDOL RAÑOA-BISMARK

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