CLARK FREEPORT - Following the award of excellence bestowed to Metro Clark area, officials are expecting the influx of business firms inside the Freeport.

The Business Process Association of the Philippines (BPAP), Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT), and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) conferred the award to Clark Development Corporation (CDC) President Benigno Ricafort during the 2010 Recognition Night of the Top Ten Next Wave Cities held June 22 at the Cebu Sports Club Ballroom.

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With the award, the Metro Clark area has been categorized as a prime investment destination for ICT and BPO investments. All the essential components for sustainable BPO and ICT operations are present in this zone/vicinity.

With this, CDC officials are expecting more Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) and Information and Communications Technology (ICT)-related investments inside the Freeport.

Ricafort said the awards night is the culmination of a year-long process of screening and research spearheaded by BPAP, the country's leading association of ICT contemporaries led by its president, Oscar Sanez, CICT, the cyber services group of the DTI, represented by Commissioner Monchito Ibrahim and Secretary Ray Anthony Roxas-Chua, respectively.

"We owe this Center of Excellence Award to the unwavering support of our Metro Clark stakeholders and to the men and women who have worked hard to promote and develop Clark towards attaining its vision of becoming the preferred investment destination for IT and IT-enabled industries in the Asean region" Ricafort said.

This is the second time that the Clark Freeport and its peripheral communities were cited by the three award-giving agencies.

In December 2008, the Clark Freeport, along with Angeles City, the Municipality of Mabalacat and its barangay, Dau, were cited as one of the country's top 10 hosts for Information Technology (IT) and BPO industries.

The following year, Cyber City Teleservices, Inc. Senior Executive Vice President George D. Sorio, Sr. formed the Metro Clark ICT Council (MCICTC) and soon after chaired the newly established National ICT Confederation of the Philippines (NICP) composed of some 33 ICT Councils nationwide.

The MCICTC is composed of key stakeholders from various industries: BPO firms, software, telecom, real estate, business chambers, the academe, and government sectors like the CDC, DTI, and National Economic and Development Authority.

In its ICT sector alone, Ricafort said the Clark Freeport boasts of 11,172 employees with 43 investor firms. He also noted that the Clark Freeport as a whole has over 400 locators employing close to 60,000 workers in various industries. The ICT sector accounts for an equivalent of US$113 million in value of BPO exported services originating from Metro Clark in 2009.

Aside from the Metro Clark area, Metro Cebu was likewise cited with the Center of Excellence award.

Ricafort said Metro Clark and Metro Cebu are now considered at par with Metro Manila as the leading ICT investment centers in the country.

For 2010, the Top 10 Next Wave Cities are Davao, Sta. Rosa, Bacolod, Iloilo, Metro Cavite, Lipa, Cagayan de Oro, Malolos, Baguio and Dumaguete. (Reynaldo G. Navales)