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EXCLUSIVE - Building the first sustainable smart city in Philippines in collaboration with private sector and international agencies

OpenGov had the opportunity to speak to Vivencio B. Dizon (above), President and CEO of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) about the development of the 9,450 hectare Clark Green City. Pres. Dizon talked about working with private sector technology firms, multilateral agencies and foreign institutions to provide best-in-class ICT infrastructure and build a new smart and sustainable city, at par with the best in the world. The new city is expected to provide a new benchmark and set standards for urban developments elsewhere in the country and the region.

What are the areas of focus for BCDA for the next 2-5 years? Can you tell us about ongoing projects at BCDA?

BCDA is a state-owned enterprise that is focused on developing former military assets, land assets in particular, into new centers for growth.

Our focus for the next 6 years is twofold. The first is to assist in the government’s massive infrastructure programme. We call it the ‘Build, build, build’ program. This will entail massive public investment in transportation infrastructure over the next 6 years. BCDA will play a major role in this, within areas that we own, specifically, Clark located in the Central Luzon area and in the northern part of Luzon where we also have assets like Camp John Hay in Baguio and Poro Point in La Union. We are talking about transport infrastructure in the form of railways, airports and seaports in those areas.

The second important area of focus is the role of BCDA in building new cities to decongest our capital metropolis, Metro Manila. For this again we look towards our vast landholdings in Clark, where we are in the process of building a new city, called Clark Green City (CGC), spread over almost 10,000 hectares of land, which we are developing over the next five years.                              

What is the current status of CGC?

We are on the verge of completing our detailed master plan for the new city. We are doing this with our partners from Japan, the Japan Overseas Infrastructure Investment Corporation for Transport and Urban Development (JOIN). It’s a state-owned enterprise in Japan. Our main master-planners are AECOM, based out of Singapore and Nippon Koei, one of the top Japanese engineering firms. We will have our final detailed master plan by mid-year 2017.

We are also in the process of building the connectivity infrastructure for CGC. We are building three access roads. One road, which is about 20 kms long, connects the Clark Airport to the city. Then two more roads, connecting the two main highways leading towards the city, the Subic-Clark-Tarlac expressway and the MacArthur highway. We hope that these three access roads will be completed within the next year and a half, by the middle of 2018.

Image credit: BCDA

By when will the Clark Airport construction be completed?

The Clark International Airport is another project, separate from CGC, but vitally linked to it. By the third quarter of this year, we would have awarded the contract for the new terminal of the Clark International Airport.

It’s a critical component not just for CGC, but also for the overall airport strategy of the country. Second to Manila, it will be the next biggest regional and international hub for the Philippines.

We received a grant from the French government for the master plan, developed by Aeorport de Paris Inc. which operates the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. We will be implementing the first phase of that masterplan this year, building the new terminal and developing a new set of roadways to the new terminal in the airport.

What is the role played by ICT in a project like CGC?

ICT plays a tremendous role. CGCis going to be the first smart city in the country. We are working hard with our international partners to design and plan a truly SMART and green city, comparable to Singapore, Incheon, Songdo and other modern cities in the world.

We are choosing the best partners to provide the best-in-class ICT infrastructure for the new city.

For example, we signed an agreement with Huawei last year to help design the necessary smart ICT infrastructure. Among the components, there will be world-class broadband and security technology and connecting all of that into the mass transportation technology. It will also include the latest IoT technologies.

For mass transportation, we are looking to the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to link us up with the best providers of smart transportation technology, so that we don’t commit the mistakes of cities like Metro Manila.

We are looking to Hitachi to provide us with a Smart Grid solution. We want efficient clean power and to avoid heavy reliance on non-renewable sources of energy.

Image credit: BCDA

Other than the smart grid, what are the steps being taken to ensure sustainability?

         Firstly, the planning itself already speaks to the sustainability that we want to achieve in the new city. We are committed to developing only a third of the land area, preserving two-thirds for agriculture and forest cover.                              

We also want to ensure that the power, water, waste management facilities can ensure the sustainability of the entire area. In terms of power, as I mentioned, we are pushing a lot of renewable sources of energy. We have already signed up with two major solar power providers. A total of about 200 MW will be obtained from solar energy.

We want to look at other sources of energy, such as hydro and LNG, to have a more sustainable energy mix. 

You already mentioned that you are working with JOIN and some leading global tech firms. Do you have any other international collaborations?

Tremendous interest has been expressed for this project from all over the world. China has expressed great interest. In fact, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with a private Chinese developer to develop an agro-industrial development estate, China Fortune Land Development.

There has been interest, particularly from France. The Rungis International Market (Marché International de Rungis) in Paris has expressed interest in building an ASEAN food hub, a food terminal similar to the 200 hectare Rungis International Market. We are visit them again in late March or April to hopefully finalise the establishment of the food terminal.

International institutions such as the ADB and the IFC have also expressed their interest. In Singapore, we are pursuing a partnership with the Urban Re-development Authority (URA) to extend our partnership with them, to help us in the design of this new city.

What would you say is the role of government in a complex, multi-faceted structure like this?

I think the government’s role is two-pronged. Firstly, the government agencies, such as BCDA are enablers. We provide the opportunity and mechanisms for the private sector enterprises and international agencies to participate in this really groundbreaking project, developing this new global city that is at par with the best cities in the world.

The infrastructure agencies of the government also play a critical role by providing the connectivity infrastructure for the city to really grow rapidly. There is very little or no incentive for the private sector to build the necessary infrastructure, such as roads, railways and airports and the connectivity to the airports.

Like Singapore, Japan, South Korea, the current administration is investing heavily in public infrastructure. Just this year, we are investing close to USD 20 billion for infrastructure. We want to ramp this up to more than USD 100 billion in the next 3-5 years.             

What are the primary challenges (technological, regulatory or otherwise) in the planning and implementation of massive projects like CGC?

CGC is a fifth the size of the entire metropolitan Manila. That’s how big a project this is.

The main challenge is finance. How do we fund a project like this. It can be funded in multiple ways. Obviously, government has to infuse a lot of investment especially in infrastructure. But the private sector is more than willing to participate. As I said earlier, foreign governments from China, Japan, Malaysia, Europe, are all coming in because they know the viability and the importance of such a project.

         The second challenge is the planning. We have to plan this well and plan this right. I think the solution to planning it right is not reinventing the wheel and not trying to do this on our own. Because we have cities where we can learn from. The challenge for us is to choose the right partners and the right groups to help us.                              

Can you tell us about operating and maintaining the cities after a project is completed?

I think this is where public private partnerships come into play. Because to be honest, government might not really the best institution to maintain and ensure efficient running of a development like this. The private sector can step in as a major partner in making sure that after this city is built, it is run and maintained well. Foreign companies can help us operate and run this new city as well.

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