U.S. BACKER. Mayor Morales presents to members of the Capampangan in Media Inc. gains of Mabalacat City from the Clark Freeport. PHOTO BY BONG LACSON
CLARK FREEPORT – The return of American troops to this freeport, which was once home to the US 13th Air Force under its former name Clark Air Base, would be economically good for its host community of 250,000 in Mabalacat City.
This was the assessment made by Mabalacat City Mayor Marino “Boking” Morales who said he is convinced it would likewise bolster the entire nation’s security, the positive impact of which would immediately be felt in his city and all the other cities and towns around the former American military base, as well as in other provinces in Central and Northern Luzon.
Morales is among the first local chief executives to openly support the newly-signed Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippine and American governments.
“Personally, I fully welcome and support the Philippine- US defense arrangement,” the mayor said when asked for his reaction to the accord in last Friday’s weekly media forum “Balitaan” at the Bale-Balita here jointly hosted by the Capampangan in Media, Inc, (CAMI), Clark Development Corp. (CDC) and the Social Security System (SSS).
He said he shares the general expectation that EDCA could pave the way for the “re-occupation” of Clark by a large number of US troops, a development that could yield positive economic dividends for Mabalacat City.
“With the American troops back in Clark, albeit on a rotational basis, business activities, as well as job opportunities, will definitely rev up in Mabalacat and nearby cities and towns in Pampanga,” Morales pointed out, adding that this “development jives well with Mabalacat’s 20-year plan to develop its own commercial business district (CBD) that will be comparable if not better than Makati’s central business district.”
Instead of a deterrent, the American military presence might just serve as a magnet for more investors and entrepreneurs to come to Clark, a big part of which or roughly 93 percent is within Mabalacat City, Morales said.
Official data show that a big slice or roughly P200 million of Mabalacat’s annual income of more than P700 million is already contributed by over 700 business locators, as well as a good number of entertainment service entities catering to the needs of the locals and foreign tourists here.
The rest of Mabalacat’s income is sourced from the Internal Revenue Allocation (IRA) at P200 million and business permits at P300 million. Morales is optimistic that Mabalacat’s revenues from this freeport’s locators would experience an exponential growth during, and even after, the period of strong military presence here, including the Subic Naval Base in Olongapo City, because of the EDCA, and from off-freeport businesses.
This should fast-track Mabalacat’s evolution from a “PX town” (referring to the once active trading place for commissary products of US servicemen) into a prosperous city in Pampanga.