North of Manila

“Going around these areas, we realize that Filipinos will flock to where development is being made.

Metro Manila is the center of all things in the Philippines, may it be for business, politics, and entertainment. In the US, major cities cater to these, i.e. New York for business, Washington DC for politics, and Los Angeles for entertainment. Efforts have been undertaken to de-clog Metro Manila, but these require more than capitalization — these require strong and continuous political will.

In the previous administration, there was a proposal to move the government center to New Clark City, a vast tract of land that traverses both Pampanga and Tarlac. What was realized was that it takes more than six years to uproot government offices (and employees) who have been used to working in Metro Manila for decades. There must be a larger rationale to move these offices, such as what Indonesia did by declaring Jakarta, its capital, to be sinking, thus making a planned move to Borneo a necessity.

Or perhaps, the leadership can do it by example, say by moving the seat of power elsewhere, everything else should follow. When our President hailed from Davao City and declared that he preferred to stay in Davao City for weekly or extended periods, it felt like the entire government flocked to Mindanao. If it was decided that the seat of power be moved to Mindanao, it could have been done. President Bongbong Marcos Jr. is from Northern Luzon, an area that has enjoyed the benefits of having a local as Head of State for numerous years. We see how this has benefitted the provinces and their local leaders, some of whom have become known political kingmakers.

Last weekend, I happened to be in provinces in the Central Luzon area, particularly Bataan, Subic (Zambales), and Clark (Pampanga). Our company outing was held in Morong, Bataan, an area that has several small resorts that were beaming with local tourists. Previous to this trip, my family had been to Anvaya Resort, owned by Ayala Corporation, several times, and it boasted world-class beach facilities and a golf course. The following day, my family and I went to Ocean Adventure in Subic, another world-class facility that was full of people. Then on Sunday, we headed to Aqua Planet in Clark, Pampanga, one of the best waterparks I have ever set foot on, it was also filled to the brim with people.

Going around these areas, we realize that Filipinos will flock to where development is being made. Private corporations, with the support of the local governments, or in the case of Subic and Clark, the GOCCs/PEZA zones, set up these facilities that produce jobs and spur up the economies. It was likewise good to see transportation be so seamless heading up this area, since all are connected by integrated tollways, even if you are coming from South of Manila, via the Skyway Connector Road, and soon, the NLEX Connector Road.

What makes this area more exciting is the developments in store. The Manila International Airport located in Bulacan, is undergoing reclamation. The Skyway is also being extended towards the airport. The North Commuter Railway, connecting Clark to Malolos, Bulacan, and thereafter to Manila, is evidently being constructed with the erection of concrete posts visible from SCTEX. This railway will be connected to the South Commuter Railway, which, once completed, would allow rail commute travel from Calamba to Clark, for reportedly less than three hours.

At this pace, the government may no longer need to “force” to move the city center elsewhere. Private corporations are already dictating it. What is needed is a more thorough strategy to bring development where it is needed. As they say, “If you build it, they will come.”


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