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In the Philippines, former US military bases are being converted into modern cities

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) — Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to the Philippines this week reaffirms the country’s importance to American military strategy in the Pacific — as does Hawaii.

This military legacy is also a vehicle for economic growth.

Across the Philippines, former US military bases are being transformed 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, Ambassador for New Clark City and the first Filipino triathlete to win a gold medal, took HNN on a tour. “You see the Athletes Village, the warm-up track where we can actually turn this into a football event,” Huelgas said. “And then, of course, Athletic Stadium. You can also see the Beehive, a weekend food market that a lot of locals go to, you know, to enjoy the family weekends.”

Unlike the historic capital, New Clark City is only 5 years old and features disaster-proof government offices, housing for all income brackets, a river park and world-class sports venues.

Huelgas says the complex doesn’t just support local athletes like him.

It also serves as a crisis command center to help with disasters such as 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 to help people in these times of struggle,” Huelgas said.

Touring the public park, Huelgas says that “many visitors would come here to relax, de-stress, and just enjoy the great outdoors.”

Amid the tranquility there is also opportunity.

“This is the next best thing in probably 10 years,” said Jomar Sadie, vice consul at the Philippine consulate general in Honolulu. “If we have Filipino business people who want to expand or dream of expanding, this is a place to look for partners or even start a business.”

For this reason, Clark was a station at the 30th Annual Commerce and Goodwill Mission of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii.

“We have a lot of people from the banking industry and also from the tourism 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 for the first aviator to fly the Hawaiian Islands in 1918: US Major Harold Clark.

“His family lived in Manila for a few decades. When he died, the air force base was named after him for all his accomplishments,” Sadie said.

After US forces withdrew in 1991, Filipino officials built an airport and a free trade zone to encourage trade and commerce.

International companies include call centers, furniture exporters and a flight school.

To attract more foreign investment, the government is relaxing legal restrictions.

“We have the Create Act, which actually provides up to 17 years of tax incentives for qualifying projects,” said Lanie Dormiendo, director of the Philippines Board of Investment.

“We also have the amended Public Services Act, which would allow up to 100 foreign participations in major infrastructure projects.”

The goal? Create jobs to accelerate post-pandemic recovery, develop rural areas for the benefit of Filipino people, and help modernize the Philippines for future generations.

A future that is being built with the help of investors from Hawaii.

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