Today's Punto
Today's Punto
Opinion
Uncovering CDC honchos
By Bong Lacson

May 03, 2018

IT WAS a triumvirate of Antonios that ruled and reigned over the then-rising-fromvolcanic- ashes former US airbase at the inception of the Clark Development Corp.

Antonio Henson was president of CDC. Antonio Fernando was executive director of the Mount Pinatubo Commission. Jose Antonio Gonzales was lord of Mimosa Leisure Estate – promised to be the single entity that could propel the just declared special economic zone to the very ozone layer of prosperity.

That was 25 years ago. And every CDC honcho since had not, has not escaped scrutiny from media, particularly from this corner – the notable ones, that is. Top-of-mind recall now --

Henson, it was that brought in those dutyfree shops (DFS) instantly seen as an anomaly absent an operating airport at Clark. But as quickly becoming the top income-generators at the fledgling ecozone, drawing hordes of shoppers from as far as Metro Manila and Southern Tagalog, Central and Northern Luzon.

At Mimosa, no less that 300 mature hardwood trees, from acacia to narra and apitong were felled to give way to the worldclass golf course that hosted for a day then Number 1 Tiger Woods.

The DFS issue and Mimosa’s “wholesale massacre of trees” sparked the biggest protest demonstrations at the Clark main gate since the time of the Americans, spearheaded by the multi-sectoral Pinoy Gumising Ka Movement.

To Henson’s credit – moreso to Tourism Secretary Mina Gabor and Director Ronnie Tiotuico, South Korean balloonist Sung Kee Paik, British Airways GM John Emery, and German Max Motschmann – the hot air balloon festival soared from Clark in 1994.

Retired Gen. Romeo S. David initiated the edifice complex at Clark – Mitchell Highway expanded to six lanes, Expo Filipino constructed, being the biggest projects.

Why, even the then-derided “bridge to nowhere” RSD had built connecting Clark’s main zone to its sub-zone in Sacobia is now an all-too-important infra asset to Clark. It was actually in preparation for the development of the sub-zone as a Las Vegas-type entertainment mecca.

Worthy of his air force wings, RSD presided over the first commercial flight out of the Clark airport – to Hong Kong in 1997.

Capampangan Pamu

The controversy arising from the award of a bus franchise inside the ecozone to a Tagalog firm, to the loss of a local consortium, raised the cry “Capampangan Pamu” – that the locals who suffered most from the Pinatubo eruptions and the US withdrawal from the base be given priority in Clark.

So, RSD heard the cry. So, the Metro Clark Advisory Council comprising the local executives of the contiguous communities to Clark was birthed. Modesty be damned, I did the concept paper of that one.

The fund manager Rufo Colayco’s CDC watch was even shorter than his patron’s – President Joseph Estrada – stay at Malacanang. Bedeviled as he was by a sexual harassment complaint, he nonetheless brought in foreign investments to Clark. Why, he was in one mission in Hong Kong when he was unceremoniously booted out of Clark by Erap.

The high point of Don Rufo’s accomplishment was his eviction of the non-paying Jose Antonio Gonzales from the Mimosa Leisure Estate and CDC taking over its operations. Aye, the mestizo met more than his match in the chinito.

One project most identified with Don Rufo is the Metro Clark Waste Management Sanitary Landfill in Kalangitan, Capas, Tarlac.

Sergio Naguiat’s CDC presidency was essential “endo,” lasting less than six months, if fading memory still serves right. Its high mark – actually abysmal – was the first, and so far, only protest rally ever staged by local media before the CDC corporate offices over coverage restrictions and the badmouthing by a CDC board member.

The first project Atty. Emanuel Y. Angeles announced to media upon his assumption of the CDC presidency was a “giant sundial that can be seen from aerospace.”

Asked by the now lamented Ody Fabian how the sundial could be seen, much less show the hour, at nighttime, EYA nonchalantly responded: “We will surround it with giant lamps.” Ody brought his incredulous laughter to the grave.

SM

EYA proffered the first “aerotropolis” masterplan for Clark, and opened the gates of the ecozone to SM. The latter drawing yet another protest action from PGKM, insisting an “equal playing field” whereby the giant mall be restricted from duty-free import privileges of Clark locators and be subjected to all taxes just like any business venture in the city.

The SM mall by the Clark main gate has since prospered – with even Bayanihan Park thrown into the deal – paying all local taxes and duties. Who was it who said the AUF Professional Building simultaneously rose with SM Clark?

EYA himself was not spared from scandals – of the sexual but not predatory kind, and some Lamborghini affair – scooped by Fabian’s The Voice which copies routinely disappeared from newsstands soon as they were delivered.

It was also under EYA that the exclusivity of Mimosa Golf to its members was lifted, with the hordes upon hordes of Korean golfers turning the very name of the course to Kimosa.

The shrill cry of Capampangan Pamu reverberated anew at the coming of Cebuano Antonio Ng to the CDC. Quickly dissipated by his vigorous investment missions that snagged Texas Instruments and Daesik Han of the now titanic Widus Hotel and Casino complex that include the soon to open Marriott Hotel, Tower Four, among billion-peso developments.

Ng’s initiatives came to fruition with Levy P. Laus as CDC head. Two unforgettable distinctions, if ever they be called that, impacted LPL’s presidency.

One. The slogan he crafted – “The future of Clark is so bright that you have to wear sunglasses” memorialized in a photograph of the whole CDC Board, vice presidents and managers wearing dark glasses inside the cavernous OTS briefing room.

Two. The masterplan he advocated: Central Business District (CBD) – a Makati-type development of skycrapers abutting on the Clark aviation complex.

The first laughed at for its “blinded effect” on the CDC management. The second ridiculed with a new meaning for CBD – Car Bonanza Display, playing on LPL’s main line of business that is car dealership; and also denounced for “killing all potentials for the Clark airport.” So, what airline – in its right mind – would ever hub in an airport surrounded by skycrapers?

“GMA thumbs down Clark CBD plan.” So, screamed a Pampanga News headline. So, the paper was unceremoniously closed down, its editor Ashley Manabat forgetting it was owned by LPL himself.

Unequal JMA

A legacy of controversy LPL left at the Clark Freeport is the joint management agreement (JMA) cobbled with Aeta leaders on the use of their ancestral land within the freeport.

The sharing of the spoils, so to speak, at 80-20 in favor of CDC was quickly denounced, notably by then 1st District Rep. Carmelo “Tarzan” Lazatin who famously asked: “Where in the world would you see the landowner getting the crumbs while the administrator gets the lion’s share of the fruits of the land?”

To this day, the JMA stands as a bone of contention between the indigenous folk and the CDC.

Much expectations were raised when longtime CDC director Benny Ricafort had his turn at the state-run firm’s presidency. For all that he may have accomplished, what can be remembered were his “New Frontier” naming of the Clark sub-zone, and the moving of the main gate farther inside the freeport.

Ah yes, that birdbrained proposal – actually started – by the Tourism Infrastructure Enterprise Zone Authority under Mark Lapid of a wakeboarding facility up the mountains of Sacobia, well within the ancestral domain. A disaster in-the-making of the Ormoc landslide proportions verily it was. And was shut down.

Capampangan Pamu yet again sounded at the turn of Felipe Antonio “Ping” Remollo at the CDC helm. Yet again dissipated too when Ping started getting in the investors coming. His impact signature at Clark though was turning the freeport into a sports destination.

Ping endeared himself to the Capampangan with his warm embrace of local culture – he delights in adobong camaru, exhibited the giant lanterns at Clark, befriended the local executives, and recited – with the perfect mekeni diction – the dedication to the Virgen de los Remedios at the time the annual canonical coronation was held in Clark.

To this day, Ping, who has won back his mayoral chair in Dumaguete City, has remained close to the local media.

And then there was Arthur P. Tugade.

His very first day as CDC president was a showcase of curses, publicly shaming employees, and arrogance – all in what he could have considered a mission to shape up the CDC into the image of his “performing, accomplishing, profi ting” logistics company.

On hindsight now, Tugade at CDC was a precursor of things to come to the whole country – with his frat brod Rody Duterte.

Irony of ironies, while no other CDC president was ever criticized and lambasted as much as our Tatalonian Toughie, only Tugade was awarded Punto Man of the Year honors!




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