28 May 2011

SCTEX helps boost economic dev't in Central & North Luzon

MANILA — With much-improved road networks and other strategic infrastructure projects in place, Central Luzon is now fast turning into a destination of choice for tourists and investors, domestic and foreign alike.

A regional official of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) made this observation, citing the entry into the Clark Special Economic Zone (CSEZ) of large business conglomerates, notably the Filipino-owned Ayala Group and the San Miguel food and beverage giant.

NEDA assistant director in Central Luzon Lynette Y. Bautista said some corporations engaged in business process outsourcing (BPO) were also coming in, further boosting the economic activities building up in the region.

Bautista was quick to point out however, that the heartening developments unfolding in Central Luzon were due in large part to the completion of the multibillion-peso Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) built by the state-run Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA).

The 93.7-kilometer SCTEX traverses the great Central Luzon plains, interconnecting the three key growth areas of the region namely the Subic Freeport Zone, the CSEZ and the Central Techno Park in Tarlac.

A linkup between the SCTEX and the 84-kilometer North Luzon Expressway spanning Balintawak in Caloocan City and Sta. Ines in Mabalacat, Pampanga provides seamless travel between Central Luzon and Metro Manila and has remarkably reduced travel time to Zambales, Subic, Bataan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija and towards the north such as Pangasinan, Baguio, La Union and Ilocos.

“SCTEX enhanced the complementary roles of Subic and Clark. Tourism drastically increased in the region due to significantly reduced travel time,” Bautista said.

The BCDA built the SCTEX as part of a larger picture being envisioned by the government to transform Central Luzon as a logistics and aviation hub in the Asia-Pacific region.

From Subic to Clark for instance, travel time is only 40 minutes, while those coming from Manila would take an hour to reach Mabalacat, using Balintawak as the starting point.

NEDA supervising economic development specialist Greg Pineda indicated that judging from the heightened business activities now taking place in Central Luzon, it won’t be long for the government vision of dramatic social and economic growth to become a reality.

“Among the country’s regions, Central Luzon is now the third biggest contributor to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP),” Pineda said.

He added that Clark and Subic registered hefty increases in visitor arrivals in over the past years following the SCTEX’s full commercial operations in mid-2008.

As a result, tourism-related business concerns in the region, including the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Clark were compelled to undertake expansion programs to cope with the growing demands of increasing tourist traffic.

The DMIA itself is expanding existing facilities to accommodate larger aircraft and unprecedented growths in tourist arrivals.

With all these developments, Pineda underscored the need for local and national government leaders to “respond positively” to preserve and enhance the gains being achieved.

Pineda also disclosed that the NEDA has its own multi-sectoral Regional Development Council (RDC) tasked to formulate the Regional Development Plan, 2011-2016 to attain the “Central Luzon 20/20 Vision for 2025”.

Chaired by San Fernando Mayor Oscar Rodriguez, the RDC charts the development and identification of priority programs for the region.

One of the hallmarks of the development agenda for Central Luzon, according to Pineda, is embodied in the plan’s vision statement entitled “Central Luzon: A Sustainable and Caring Global Gateway through Public-Private-Partnerships and Growth for All,” predicated on the principle that improving the lives of the people requires concerted efforts among all stakeholders—the government, business sector, and civil society to harness the region’s potentials for economic growth.

Pineda explained that in line with the President’s “Social Contract with the People,” a “Caring and Global Gateway and Growth for All” means that the marginalized and vulnerable sector of society would be given wider access to adequate protection in an environment of borderless commerce arising from the world-class airport and seaport facilities in Clark and Subic, and the region’s greatly enhanced mobility of people and goods-owing largely to the advent of the SCTEX. (Manila Bulletin)