Builders Join Black Eyed Peas Rapper in Airbase: Southeast Asia

The plan by the Philippines to develop the former Clark Air Base has drawn interest from Asian developers, who may join a Black Eyed Peas rapper in promoting an alternative urban center to the country’s congested capital.

Taiwan’s Farglory Land Development Co. and the property arm of Japan’s Sumitomo Corp. are among foreign companies that may be keen on the project, joining local developers such as Ayala Land Inc., said Arnel Casanova, president and chief executive of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority or BCDA, the state manager of former military properties.

Earlier this year, Casanova recruited Allan Pineda, a member of hip hop group the Black Eyed Peas, to promote the site to relieve congestion in Manila, one of the world’s most overcrowded cities. Pineda, whose American father was an airman at the former Clark Air Base, is a citizen of both the U.S. and the Philippines,

“We need to ease the pressure of migration into Manila by creating another metropolis,” Casanova said in an interview in Manila on Dec. 18.

The BCDA plans to sell joint development rights to local and foreign companies interested in developing a 9,450-hectare (95 square kilometer) area of land at the former Clark base, which was used by U.S. forces during World War II and the Vietnam War, and was handed back to the Philippine government in 1991.

It wants to develop a mix of housing, shops and manufacturing facilities on part of the 35,000 hectare site, which is about half the size of Singapore. That will relieve some of the pressure on the overcrowded capital, which lies about 70 kilometers to the south.

Philippine Developers

Ayala Land, Robinsons Land Corp. and Century Properties Group Inc. are among half a dozen local companies talking to BCDA about developing the so-called Clark city, Casanova said.

Manila is home to 22 million people who share only 620 square kilometers of space, already one of the highest population densities in the world. The population will rise to 30 million by 2025, making it the world’s third-largest urban area after Tokyo and Jakarta, according to forecasts by Belleville, Illinois-based Demographia.

President Benigno Aquino has promoted the Clark city project as part of plans to spread wealth outside the capital, which accounts for more than a third of the country’s gross domestic product of $272 billion. The BCDA is hoping to sign the first development contract during the first quarter of 2015, Casanova said.

‘Technology Hub’

Pineda, popularly known as Apl.de.Ap, has been meeting companies interested in Clark city, and helped organize a forum in Singapore on the project last month. He said in a Twitter post he will promote the area as “a technology hub for Southeast Asia.” He couldn’t be reached for comment.

When the U.S. military left, parts of Clark Air Base were used as an economic zone, which included an international airport, though most of the area remains undeveloped.

The new Clark city will eventually create about 1 million jobs, mostly in outsourcing and manufacturing, and generate about $36 billion worth in economic activity from industrial parks, education and recreation centers which are planned over the next 30 years, Casanova said. The BCDA has approached colleges, such as the University of the Philippines, to set up campuses.

Developers are being offered similar terms to those used at Fort Bonifacio, a former army base which is now one of the fastest-growing districts in the capital, Casanova said. A group led by Metro Pacific Investments Corp. partnered with BCDA to develop Bonifacio city, though it subsequently sold its development rights to Ayala Land and Evergreen Holdings Inc.

Fort Bonifacio

The terms for developing Fort Bonifacio will probably work for Clark city as well, said Astro del Castillo, managing director of First Grade Finance Inc. in Manila, an investment company. “Any government project or any project of such magnitude tends to attract a lot of interest from investors,” he said.

Farglory said in an e-mail that it’s assessing the Clark city project without giving further details, while Sumitomo’s spokeswoman Miyuki Egusa said talks are still at an early stages with “no concrete move” having taken place.

Ayala Land “would be interested” in the development, said Bobby Dy, president of the Philippine builder, while Robinsons Land President Frederick Go is “waiting for terms of reference to come out.” For Century Properties, Clark city is “one of the many new opportunities” the group is looking at, it said.

Development work at Clark city will take several years, meaning much of the work will be left to subsequent governments, said Casanova, whose term at BCDA ends at the same time that President Aquino leaves office in June 2016.

“We plant the seed, we break the ground then let the succeeding leader implement the vision,” he said.

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