CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- International master urban planner Architect Felino Palafox, Jr. on Wednesday disclosed that Clark International Airport in Pampanga has the best runway among all airports in the Philippines.

During the Pampanga Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc.'s infrastructure preparedness forum attended by multi-sectoral groups at the LausGroup Event Centre here, Palafox said Clark airport remains on top of the hierarchy of airports in the country, with its huge runway, vast track of land and facilities, as well as its logistics.

"In the hierarchy of airports, Clark airport remains on top because it has the best runway among all other airports in the country. Before, we had over 200 airports but now only eight are lighted and used, and Clark is the best among these, aside from the airport having 2,400 hectares of land that can be utilized to improve it," he said.

Fully utilizing Clark in drawing in investments, tourism and developing Pampanga into the next "megalopolis" outside Metro Manila, Palafox stressed that local officials should start "picking the pockets" of travelers and converting them to tourists.

"In Pampanga and the City of San Fernando, what you have are travelers going to Clark just passing through and not really tourists. What we can do is create a 'mousetrap' and make them stay for at least one day and two nights. Pardon my word for it but you should start picking their pockets and let them spend their money here. This will help Pampanga in terms of business and economic growth," he said.

Palafox added that other agencies working with local governments, like the Manila North Tollways Corporation (MNTC), could initiate moves that will not only decongest the National Capital Region, but would draw developments to Pampanga.

"Since the MNTC is here, we could probably propose that toll fees going to Metro Manila be increased and that going to Pampanga and Central Luzon would be for free. It will again help Pampanga become a megalopolis. In terms of the expected growth in traffic, we could regulate the use of automobiles during peak hours. It does not have to affect the industry because car ownership is now an expectation of the middle class. It should go well in urbanizing Pampanga," he said. (JTD)