MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino is still cool to proposals to make Clark International Airport in Pampanga as the country’s international gateway and to build a railway connecting it to Manila.
Pampanga media sought Aquino for comment on the government’s Northrail project, for which shanties where cleared along the old Philippine National Railways alignment from Caloocan to Clark.
Aquino, however, said that project is still mired in controversy.
"Iyong binigyan tayo ng concessional loan e. So may grace period, may long term payment etcetera. Tapos ang problema imbes na naibigay sa atin iyong buong period na iyon naging due and demandable at ang mapapakita lang natin diyan is --- roughly, physically, mga one kilometer of columns in Malolos, Bulacan. That’s it. That’s what we got for the hundreds of millions and I repeat dollars not pesos, okay... We’re gonna go in arbitration against the construction company and we are undergoing that process currently," he said.
However, the railway is still a plan especially since this will make Clark airport viable.
“Iyong tren, it’s still a goal. We are still trying to realize it but it has to become feasible. Iyong tren kasi cannot just reach Caloocan, for instance, or even Bulacan. It has to reach, what they call the central Business districts at minimum iyong Ortigas na area or even iyong Makati na area. Without that, hindi nagiging practical for our foreign tourist especially the business sector, the investors to go to Clark then take a two hour trip to the Central Business Districts as a minimum. Parang they’d rather prefer a premium price to be paid landing in Metro Manila rather than Clark," Aquino said.
Aquino noted the country has a pocket open skies policy. "Open skies practically for everything except NAIA. And this is being utilized, may mga gagamit na ito ang primary hub nila for the Philippines," he said.
The President reminded the public that Clark has other accomplishments, such as the expansion of the passenger terminal building.
"Iyong development of a passenger terminal building for low-cost carriers or budget airlines, the study is being done. It is scheduled to be submitted to the ICC of the NEDA by August of this year. Iyong feasibility study and business case to determine viability, undertaking operations, maintenance, expansion of the airport, being a public-private partnership, there is a study also being done. Fortunately, it will commence July 2014," he said.
The government also recently approved the Clark Green City project, which is expected to become the next business district similar to Fort Bonifacio.
"Ngayon iyong biggest development dito is ‘yung proposal ng BCDA for the so-called Clark Green City. Iyong part of the plan also is the possible relocation of the Air Force contingent here to probably Subic to make room for iyong more locators in in Clark," he said.
The proposal to build Northrail to Clark was among those planned by the Arroyo administration. Aquino, however, said his predecessor entered into many questionable contacts.
"Gusto lang ipagdiinan lalo na sa mga kababayan natin dito sa Central Luzon at lalo na sa Pampanga, maraming mga pinasukang kontrata both here and Clark and Subic na hindi ganun kaganda. May malawak na lupain dito in particular sa Clark na halos nakatiwangwang hanggang ngayon," he said.
"Iyong inabutan na natin itong kontratang ito, nasa Constitution iyong inviolability of contracts. So binubuno ng mga kaukulang mga opisyal kung paano natin mapapakinabangan itong lupain na parehong nasa Clark at nasa Subic. Pero mahabang paglilitis pa rin ang kailangang daanan dahil nga dito sa mga kontratang pinasukan na hindi kaaya-aya sa sambayanan."