Madame Agnes Devanadera, the newly minted president of Clark Development Corporation had all the right stuff of a brilliant career in government. She started as a mayor of a small town and held several positions in the judiciary and maybe her family was thinking, or wishing she will retire after her stint at Energy Regulatory Commission and just hear the whistling winds coming to her town which is being intermittently pushed by the Sierra Madre. But the protege of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo can’t rest just like that. She has to move in a different workplace. Her wide range of experience was demonstrated recently when she met for the first time media persons and some investors in the freeport. She is in her element, engaging and convincing. Anyway there are still challenges left.
There was a front page story from national newspapers that a United States based company is eyeing to build a $2.5 billion (Wow!) entertainment city within Clark Freeport. The would be investors are the Jacksons, the family of the late Michael Jackson. (Ganiyan pala sila kayaman). It is still an intention. Nonetheless if this will happen that would be really interesting. The plan is to establish a ‘Jackson City’ featuring among other things are malls, five star hotels and casino. Surely it will create thousands of jobs for the locals.
>>>>> Now here is the challenge for President Devanadera. She had a long experience in the judiciary. Maybe, just maybe she can get the case folder of the Fontana casino issue. To recall without benefit of an investigation that should have been made public, the government through Clark Development Corporation (CDC) revoked Fontana Leisure Park's certificate of registration, thus stopped the latter's business. The thousands of workers were part of the collateral damage. And of course the millions of pesos in lease payments Fontana was paying yearly CDC.
>>>>> I was once upon a time a member of the CDC board. I am not trying to question the wisdom of the government's action for I really don't know what happened in the backroom? Methinks there are options available other than the immediate closure which ,by the way, included the swimming resort, restaurants and other amenities.
>>>>> Looking back, in 1993, that was the year when a law was enacted converting the former Clark Air Force Base into an economic zone a cabalen, Antonio 'Tito' Henson was tapped to head the Clark Development Corporation as the corporate vehicle with board members who were leading citizens of the province. Their group did the spade work. Suffered the birth pains and painstakingly struggled to look for investors. It was then what they call the buyers market. Just to create employment and generate business activities, any willing locator can have wide spaces for a song, so to speak.
>>>>> Then came another Capampangan retired Air Force General Romeo David, and like a jet plane, he maneuvered the Clark economic zone into full throttle, and investors came and ranks of those employed were growing in numbers.
>>>>> When I was appointed in January 2001 as a member of the board and stayed there for almost ten years before I was appointed director of the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA). I had the opportunity working with the likes of Roy Navarro, General Narciso Abaya, Benny Ricafort, Levi Laus, Rufo Colayco, Budge Madamba, Emmanuel Angeles and Chichos Luciano and many others who collectively drew a road map for Clark to grow more. The thinking was to have more workers and business activities inside the freeport that will cascade down to the off-zone communities. That's where the former officials can really be proud of.
>>>>> In those years I spent with the board, I consistently fought for the freeport to be investor friendly and I was sustained. And for the record, when Navarro's group took the saddle, there were only more than 200 locators and little more than 22,000 workers. And further for the record still, when I left CDC for BCDA the number of workers swelled to almost 100, 000 and the locators to almost 600.
>>>>> There's no finger pointing a blame here, though there's unjustified tendency for present and future locators to think that their business doors can be arbitrarily be closed without due process. The Jacksons should learn a lesson on the Fontana case.