Angeles City wants part of Clark

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ANGELES CITY—Due to lack of space for social and economic uses, the city government has asked Vice President Jejomar Binay to endorse to the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) its claim over 1,000 hectares of land that forms part of the Clark free port.

Mayor Edgardo Pamintuan said the US Air Force, former tenant of the then Clark Air Base, used the land as a “buffer against criminality.”

Some parcels are in the upland villages of Margot and Sapang Bato.

Vast

Before the closure of Clark when the Senate on Sept. 16, 1991, rejected the continued stay of US bases in the Philippines, the base proper consisted of 49,000 hectares enclosed in a 35.4-kilometer perimeter, said Roland Simbulan, a University of the Philippines professor.

“We are getting hold of the property,” Pamintuan said.

Lawyer Arnel Paciano Casanova, BCDA president, did not reply to a request for a telephone interview.

Pamintuan said newly elected Pampanga Rep. Joseller Guiao would file a bill to rationalize the use of the former base lands.

US territory

Clark began as a grazing range for horses of the US Cavalry in 1902, and was turned into Fort Stotsenburg and used for military aviation in 1917. It became the largest US military installation in Asia.

Pamintuan said that even without the full development of the Clark International Airport as a premiere gateway or alternative to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Metro Manila, prices of private land in Angeles City have gone up to what he described as “prohibitive level.”

“We don’t anymore have public lands to spare to support the airport’s development,” Pamintuan said, adding that Mabalacat City, north of Clark, is more in the position to fill the need for lands.

Clark Freeport spans 4,500 ha, 2,300 ha of which belong to the Clark airport.

No need for bases

The nearby Clark Special Economic Zone covers Sacobia Hills that extend to Tarlac, or a total of less than 30,000 ha.

Lawyer Arthur Tugade, president and chief executive officer of Clark Development Corp., which manages the development of Clark, committed to set up a training center at the City College of Angeles (CCA) to match jobs and skills needed in Clark.

“We can exist without the US military bases,” Pamintuan said.

“What the bases gave was artificial progress, like menial jobs. Now we have real investments and quality jobs,” he said.—Tonette Orejas

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