HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to the Philippines this week reaffirms the country’s importance in America’s military strategy in the Pacific ― just like Hawaii.
That military legacy is also a vehicle for economic growth.
Across the Philippines, former U.S. military bases are being converted into modern cities through public-private partnerships. Clark Air Base, about a two hour drive north of Manila, is a perfect example.
New Clark City is part of the Clark development and is being touted as the country’s first smart, sustainable city.
Nikko Huelgas, New Clark City ambassador and the first Filipino triathlete to win a gold medal, took HNN on a tour. “You’re seeing the Athletes Village, the warm-up track where you we can actually convert this into a football event,” Huelgas said. “And then of course, the Athletic Stadium. You can also see the hive, which is a weekend food market where a lot of locals will visit, you know, to enjoy the weekends with family.”
Unlike the historic capital, New Clark City is just 5 years old, with disaster resilient government offices, housing for all income ranges, a river park and world-class sports venues.
Huelgas says the complex doesn’t just support homegrown athletes like him.
It also serves as a crisis command center to help during catastrophes like typhoons, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and most recently, the coronavirus pandemic.
“It was one of the COVID facilities during the pandemic so it’s really meant for to help people during these times of struggles,” Huelgas said.
While touring the public park, Huelgas says “lots of the public would visit here just to relax, destress and just enjoy the nature.”
Amid the tranquility, there’s also opportunity.
“It’s the next best thing in probably 10 years,” said Jomar Sadie, vice consul for the Philippine Consulate General in Honolulu. “If we have Filipino businessmen who are looking to expand or dream of an expansion, it’s a place to look for partners or even it’s a place to start a venture.”
It’s why Clark was one stop on the Filipino Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii’s 30th annual trade and goodwill mission.
“We have a lot of people from the banking industry, and we also have from the tourist industry, as well as private investors,” said Chamber President Rocky Anguay.
But the connection between Clark and Hawaii is more than just business.
Clark is named after the first aviator to fly in the Hawaiian islands in 1918: U.S. Major Harold Clark.
“His family lived in Manila for a couple of decades. So when he died, the airbase was named after him for all his achievements,” Sadie said.
After American forces left in 1991, Philippine officials built an airport and free economic zone to encourage trade and commerce.
International businesses include call centers, furniture exporters and an aviation school.
To attract more foreign investment, the government is easing legal restrictions.
“We have the Create Act that actually provides up to 17 years of fiscal incentives to qualified projects,” said Lanie Dormiendo, Director for the Philippine Board of Investment.
“We also have the amended Public Services Act, which would allow up to 100 foreign equity ownership for important infrastructure projects.”
The goal? Create jobs to quicken post-pandemic recovery, develop rural lands for the benefit of the Filipino people and help modernize the Philippines for future generations.
A future that’s being built with the help of investors from Hawaii.
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