TO PAY or not to pay? This is the question foremost in the minds of many business locators inside Clark Freeport. For three straight months, the freeport was locked tightly. It was more difficult to enter the Freeport than gaining access to Malacanang in those three months because the sentries on control points were manned by security people which included police and soldiers. It was zero business for many. The employees of the enterprises and customers in some cases were denied entry. No condonation of rent for those three months declared Clark Development Corporation officials. A pakunswelo de bobo CDC said they can pay the rentals in 12 installments.
There’s a saying that "to guide a land of thousand chariots, honor business and be true." To continue: "Be not ashamed to mend mistakes." It is so cruel on the part of the CDC to collect rentals when there was a stoppage of business. Now they are saying that it will depend on the ruling of the Department of Trade and Industry if they can condone the rentals or not. Bakit biglang pumasok ang DTI sa eksena? You know their answer when we asked. It is because of the One Heal Act, according to one official. What happened to the Republic Act 7227, the Bases Conversion Law and the Corporation Code of the Philippines? Were they repealed by that special law? Educate me, please. May we know what the CDC board members have to say in this issue? Or maybe they haven’t tackled it yet?
In my time with the CDC board, I always insisted that success depends upon the reliability and responsiveness of the people who were given the task. Consistency and meaningful response to presented challenges will lead to success. I am talking here about the success of Clark Development Corporation, an agency of government created by law as an answer to the destruction brought about by the eruption of the nearby Mt. Pinatubo. (Double whammy. The former US military installation was blanketed in ash and was in disarray when the American troops who were settled in the area since 1900 hurriedly left. It succeeded because the early officials who took the rein were investor-friendly). The law that created the zone said that its fundamental function is to help the nearby communities. And that displaced businessmen and workers should be helped. That’s the plain and simple direction.
To recall, in 1993, Antonio "Tito" Henson was appointed the first president of the CDC and did the cleaning of the 4,400 hectares installation. And after him, some officials alternately took the rein. Because of the time and time dedicated by these men and women, Clark Freeport now earns billions annually and employs more than 100,000 workers. But that's going ahead of a story. How it achieved such status is by no means simple.
It was a herculean task on the shoulders of retired Air Force General Romeo David when then-president Fidel Ramos gave him the marching order to transform the former airbase into a vibrant economic zone. The area was a buyers' market, so locators were only paying ten cents per square meter. It was deliberately done just to attract investors. David stayed as president for three years. Then he was succeeded by honchos who didn't stay long like Serg Naguiat for four months and replaced by Rufo Colayco who made good in allowing more duty-free stores.
It was in 2001 when things started to look bright. Manny Angeles was appointed president and chief operating officer by then-president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. More success came with the late Levi Laus at the helm. The industries started pouring in. Development was at its peak. From a mere 22 thousand workers employed in several business activities inside the economic zone, it steadily grew to 70 thousand in nine years. Hotels and casinos, restaurants and theme parks, golf courses and other recreational activities were established, thus, making the economic zone a tourist destination.
In all these developments, I remember the young Noel Manankil, a native of Angeles City, who now and then made presentations to the members of the board of directors. (I was a member from January 2001 till 2009, till I was promoted to be a member of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority). He was impressive. Very diligent. Very precise on his figures. Very graphic on his presentations.
So it came not much a surprise that he was appointed by President Duterte to get appointed as head of Clark Freeport. Manankil was a commerce graduate of De La Salle University. Passed the board in 1991. For a time, worked at SGV. Joined CDC in 1996 and climbed the ladder of leadership steadily. At this time it is expected of him that he will take sides with his Cabalen and fight what’s just and not take the side of caution.