HOME to many of the country’s biggest businesses and multinational companies, Clark continues to be one of the most preferred investments and tourist destinations in the Philippines today.
Like the mythical phoenix rising from the ashes, so is Central Luzon’s tourism industry, as world-class facilities are now being built and operated within the Clark Special Economic Zone (CSEZ).
Also, the government’s vision to have a sustainable tourism industry is now being realized by facilitating integrated multi-industry growth areas in Clark, as emphasized by Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat.
“The national government is aiming for a more resilient economy by building regional growth centers across the country, and part and parcel of this outlook is ensuring the availability of public infrastructure and facilities to enable and support the economic progress,” the DOT chief said.
With its growing number of locators and attractions, the Freeport has proved its potential to be the nucleus of economic development in the region.
It is currently host to 1,123 locator companies with actual investments of $4.85 billion. Among the industry leaders currently in Clark are Texas Instruments, Samsung, Posco E&C, Mercedes-Benz, SM Prime Holdings and Yokohama Tires. These companies also provided job opportunities for 135,114 workers in the Freeport.
All these were achieved in the 26-year existence of Clark Development Corp. (CDC), the managing arm of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority for the former Clark Air Base (CAB).
CAB, during the heyday of American soldiers inside the former military airbase, had only about 30,000 direct and indirect jobs that peaked in their 50-year stay.
Evangeline Tejada, CDC vice president for business development, underscored that Clark is a multi-faceted area where one can do both business and leisure travel.
“Clark is not just a Freeport. It has an international airport, which serves as a plus factor. It caters to both business people and tourists,” Tejada said in a recent interview.
Added to the Freeport’s advantage is the Clark International Airport, which makes it not only an ideal business hub but also a favorite tourist destination. The number of domestic, regional and international flights in the airport have continuously increased and there are now 246 international flights per week to 12 destinations, and a total 488 domestic flights to 28 destinations.
The construction of a new airport terminal, which will accommodate an additional 8 million passengers yearly, will also usher in more improved passenger experience. And because of the expected influx of tourists in the coming years, leading companies in tourism-related industries have turned to Clark to accommodate local and international visitors. The construction of the new terminal building is in full swing and will be finished by June next year.
The Freeport is also being poised as a Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibits (MICE) destination with its growing number of hotel rooms, conference sites and exhibition centers. Globally acknowledged brands like Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton are only a few of the many hotels with a presence in Clark.
The ongoing construction of additional facilities by multinational companies here, such as Widus International Leisure Inc., Donggwang Properties, Mirej Hotel and Royce Hotel, is also expected to boost tourism growth in the area. Aside from this, boutique hotels such as On Hotel, Sophia Hotel and W Hotel, among others, are also ready to accommodate guests for a budget-friendly travel.
The current room inventory stands at 2,900—a level somewhat manageable but the target is to have 5,000 in a year or so.
Complementing an economical staycation are the 111 dining facilities available in the area. From local to international cuisines, guests and tourists have a variety of meals to choose from to tickle their taste buds.
For leisure and entertainment, gaming facilities are also in the Freeport. These include casinos at Widus Hotel, Mimosa Plus, Royce Hotel, Fortune Gate Casino, Donggwang and D’ Heights, among others. Aside from these, guests can also enjoy attractions such as the Aqua Planet, a 10-hectare water theme park with 38 slides and attractions, and other leisure sites that have encouraged tourist arrivals.
Sports Tourism Destination
As a Sports Tourism awardee and a suitable venue for various sports-related activities, Clark has seen its readiness to conquer the international stage with its hosting of the recently concluded 30th Southeast Asian Games in the country. The aquatics and athletics games took place at the newly constructed world-class 20,000-seater athletics stadium and aquatics center at the New Clark City (NCC).
Aside from proving the readiness and value of NCC facilities, the Freeport (or the former 4,400-hectare CAB proper) has been frequented by a lot of sports buffs and aficionados, averaging about 200 sports events in a year.
With the green lush spaces in Clark, the existing golf courses in the area are also being frequented by foreign guests. These golf courses are those of Mimosa, Sun Valley, Korea CC and others.
Accordingly, annual running events such as Clark Animo and Color Manila Run have also grown with the Freeport as they have been utilizing the Clark Parade Grounds as their venue for their activities. Aside from this, the wide area of the parade grounds is also being used as training facility for both local and international players. It also serves as a site for football games like Pinas Cup and baseball games such as Little League.
To upgrade the traveling experience in the Freeport, various infrastructure projects were also made by CDC. The ongoing road-widening and asphalt overlaying on major highways in Clark are meant to ensure the smooth flow of traffic, especially at the main entry and exit points of the Freeport. Along with these improvements, CDC is also strictly implementing the 60-kilometer-per-hour speed limit in the entire Freeport to avoid untoward incidents, especially for motorists.
In Clark, one can be assured of a maximum 10-minute travel time, say, from hotel to airport, hotel to shopping areas, hotel to golf courses—wherever inside the Freeport, one luxury that will never be had especially in Metro Manila.
Aside from the road improvement projects, the state-owned firm also upgraded existing parks such as the Children’s Playground and Clark Parade Grounds. A new attraction that showcases local cuisines and delicacies was also recently opened called the “Mangan Tamu” Pampanga Food Street. The food street features more than 50 concessionaires, which are also merchants from Comercio Central.
These facilities were not only developed and opened in time for the SEA Games but they have also been a part of the state-owned firm’s plans to boost and encourage more tourists to explore the Freeport.
To assure safety and security of business operations and other events in Clark, the CDC has also installed several CCTV cameras inside the Freeport to create a central monitoring system that will help strengthen the operations of security officers. Cutting-edge technology and equipment are also being utilized in the Freeport, which are all operational 24 hours a day.
Complementing the Public Safety Division security force of CDC are the Philippine Air Force, the Philippine Army and the Philippine National Police who are also present in Clark.
These and all the other upcoming developments in the Freeport will surely make Clark an area of choice whether for business or leisure by people from here and across the globe.
This article originally appeared in the BusinessMirror: HERE