Old Ecija Capitol eyed as IT hub

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    PALAYAN CITY – The provincial government expects a breakthrough that will create significant development in its bid to transform the 15-hectare public property at the heart of Cabanatuan City into an information technology hub before the year end, Gov. Aurelio Umali said over the weekend.

    “Very hopeful because I think it’s already 90 percent,” Umali said of processing legal requirements, including the passage of the provincial board of an authority for him to enter into contract with private proponents. “Tapos na ito at sa sanggunian nasa last stage na,” he said.

    Umali said that the venture will create job opportunities and generate taxes for the local government. Investors, he said are set to inject billions in the project. This, he added, is set to be duplicated in another government property in Palayan City.

    Some quarters have expressed concern over the transfer of all government offices in the area, including branches of the Regional Trial Court, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Department of Education (DepEd), Commission on Elections (Comelec), among others, saying this will burden people who are supposed to transact with such offices.

    This city that was created in 1965, with the official political capital of Nueva Ecija in accordance with Republic Act 4475 situated over 15 kilometers east of Cabanatuan City.

    The new multi-million peso Capitol was erected at an identified government center here in 2002 under then Gov. Tomas Joson III. But Umali allayed fears on the effect of the project on two huge government learning institutions: the Nueva Ecija University of Science and Technology (NEUST) and Nueva Ecija High School (NEHS), which campuses encompass the Capitol property.

    “Walang problema ang NEHS at NEUST. Yung madi- displace ay papalitan ng building,” Umali said, saying the project, being an IT hub, will even realize his dream of “transforming NEHS into a premiere high school not only in Nueva Ecija but in the country.”

    The main building of the old Capitol, Umali added, will be preserved due to its historical significance as well as the Sen. Benigno Aquino, Jr. Freedom Park, acknowledged as the greenest portion of the city with huge acacia trees before Typhoon Santo wrought havoc in October.

    “It means jobs and opportunities,” he said. “We need to pave the way for investors, we should generate income by establishing businesses para magkaroon ng kapasidad ‘yung LGU (local; government unit) to provide opportunities to our people,” he added.

    The project, to be occupied mainly by business process outsourcing industries, has been implemented at the University of the Philippines (UP) and Southern Luzon areas. “UP has it.

    Ginagawa rin naman ito sa iba pang mga pamantasan. Tayo naman, gagawin din natin ‘yun,” he said, saying that clogging of similar establishments in Southern Luzon areas calls for its expansion in Central Luzon.

    The provincial board approved in June a resolution authorizing Umali to negotiate and sign with Antheros Corporation, a consortium, reportedly one of the biggest proponents, based in Muntinlupa City for the development of the IT hub.

    Eng. Jose Balite III, officer-in-charge of the Provincial Trade and Industry Office, has said the consortium will initially develop a 6.8-hectare portion of the old Capitol compound under a 25-year contract, renewable for another 25 years.

    The provincial government will receive P5.37 million a year on building rentals. The provincial government eyes at least 5,000 jobs for the local workforce from this venture. Reports said that the Antheros will infuse an initial capital of P206.4 million representing 75 percent of the total capitalization required for the site development of phase 1 and construction of strategic facilities.

    The remaining 25 percent will be the share of the provincial government, amounting to P68.6 million.

    Antheros is eyeing to construct modern office buildings, BPOs, call centers, a conference center and exhibition hall, business hotel, upscale residential facilities, medium-rise condominiums and shopping, entertainment, tourist and restaurant facilities.

    Umali said he hopes to have all these things done before his term ends.

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