The BCDA Story: From Baselands to Promiselands
Posted: April 12, 2012 | Category: General News
THE MOST DRAMATIC transformation of the Philippine landscape in the last twenty years occurred in the former sites of military bases. What used to be vast tracks of land where tanks freely rolled and roared; home to the defenders of our land, now stands towering buildings with state-of-the-art facilities: home to giant and small business ventures, entertainment and personal- development enclaves.
That virtually military-purpose driven land only two decades ago—then known as Fort Bonifacio—is now Bonifacio Global City and is a showcase of a bustling metropolis. What it is and what it stands for today is about forging partnerships, changing landscapes and transforming lives—all undertaken by the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), a government-owned and controlled corporation.
The present picture is far removed from the backdrop of devastation unto the milieu which BCDA was born. Less than two years before it came into being, or in July 1990, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake toppled buildings and killed thousands in the North.
Less than a year later, in June 1991, Mt. Pinatubo in Pampanga, dormant for 500 years, erupted with great fury—burying communities in mudflow and debris, killing hundreds, destroying crops and livelihood, spewing ashes that reached as far as other countries, and affecting global temperatures. Even the mighty US military forces, entrenched in these parts for nearly a hundred years, were forced to pull out months before the US-RP Military Bases Agreement would expire in September 1992.
It was in that period of misery and uncertainty that BCDA was tasked to transform and develop into productive centers the former US military bases and facilities in Clark Air Base in Pampanga, Camp John Hay in Baguio, Wallace Air Station in La Union, and the former Philippine Refugee Processing Center (PRPC) in Morong, Bataan. BCDA was also expected to create opportunities for investment and employment in Central Luzon.
On March 12, 1992, President Corazon C. Aquino signed into law R.A. 7227 or the Bases Conversion Development Act of 1992.
Despite the herculean task, the BCDA was expected to generated revenues internally. It was given other assets, such as the various former military camps in Metro Manila—including Fort Bonifacio and Villamor Air Base—for sale and disposition. Proceeds from the disposition of these assets will also finance the modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and provide funds to 14 other government agencies.
BCDA immediately buckled down to work, developing assets, entering into partnerships with private contractors and real estate developers, and breaking ground for major projects to convert the abandoned lands into efficient world-class communities and in building sustainable cities and centers of economic growth.
Where the money went
The emergence of BCDA as a preferred investment partner can be seen from the funds it has raised.
From May 1993 to February 2012, BCDA generated P52.977 billion from the sale of military facilities within Metro Manila. Of this amount, P33.630 billion remitted to the National Treasury, some P21.788 billion went to the AFP, where P12.292 billion was alloted for its Modernization Program and P9.496 billion was allotted for the replication of military facilities. Similarly, P1.880 billion was remitted to the National Treasury for the country’s National Shelter Program (NSP) that financed mass housing projects for the underprivileged and homeless citizens.
Linking people and business
BCDA’s achievements, however, cannot be measured alone in monetary terms. It has likewise triumphed in building communities and ushering in development for all.
The former Clark Air Base has been transformed into what is now known as the Clark Freeport and Special Economic Zone (CFSEZ), housing some 540 locators. Total investments had reached P110 billion and total exports hit $3.91 billion by end of 2011. From 20,000 people employed at the former US Clark Base, the CFSEZ has given new jobs to 64,055 Filipinos.
Up north, the Poro Point Freeport Zone (PPFZ) in La Union is now home to Thunderbird Resorts—a five-star Mediterranean inspired hotel complemented by including an entertainment area and a nine-hole golf course. Thunderbird Pilipinas Hotels and Resorts, Inc. (TPHRI) has poured P1.2 billion into this venture, a major chunk of the P1.37 billion investments in the PPFZ in 2011.
The San Fernando Airport, also located in the PPFZ, has been improved and plans are underway to upgrade it further in the near future. With the seaport and airport within just kilometers from each other, the BCDA envisions PPFZ to be the global gateway in the north.
Over in Baguio, the John Hay Special Economic Zone (JHSEZ) continues to be a premier tourist destination. The Panagbenga Festival, a tourist drawer in Baguio, was spearheaded by the BCDA and its subsidiary John Hay Management Corporation (JHMC) in 1995.
Meanwhile, the former Philippine Refugee Processing Center (PRPC) in Morong Bataan, a 10-minute drive from the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, is now the Bataan Technology Park.
A most notable accomplishment is the four-lane, 94-kilometer—Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) running from Subic Bay in Zambales all the way to Tarlac. It was completed in record time of less than three years and started full operations on July 25, 2008. This expressway represents BCDA’s policy shift from merely creating special economic zones within Clark and Subic to expanding their influence to the rest of the country. The SCTEX has become an efficient access to the Subic Bay Seaport and the Clark International Airport (CIA), reducing travel time from Clark to Subic to a mere 40 minutes and 25 minutes from Clark to Tarlac.
The airport in Clark, the seaport in Subic Bay and the SCTEX have created a portal by which Central Luzon can now trade directly with international markets without having to contend with the choking bottlenecks of Metro Manila. SCTEX made the construction of similar expressways viable. The 88-kilometer Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX), a project of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), will connect the SCTEX all the way to La Union, providing seamless and speedy travel to motorists.
Who would ever think that the vast tract of land called Fort Bonifacio would someday transform into an upscale commercial-residential community? BCDA’s partnership with the Fort Bonifacio Development Corporation (FBDC)—a consortium of top real estate developer Ayala Land, Inc. and the Campos-led Evergreen Holdings, Inc.—has made it possible to convert this area into the Bonifacio Global City, arguably the fastest growing and probably the most modern Central Business and Residential District in the country today.
Similarly, BCDA through a joint-venture partnership with Megaworld Corporation, one of the fastest growing real estate development companies today, has completely changed the landscape of the once worn-out barracks of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) in the former Villamor Air Base into a high-end leisure and entertainment city called Newport City that houses the world-class Resorts World Manila, Maxims Hotel and Marriott Hotel.
Collectively, the Bonifacio Global City and Newport City have already generated over 60,000 jobs and provided the local government units or LGUs with tax revenues that can help improve services for their respective constituents.
Twenty years later, the BCDA’s development projects continue. Led by Chairman of the Board Felicito C. Payumo , President and CEO Arnel Paciano D. Casanova, and the members of the Board of Directors, the agency has set its sights on more innovative big-ticket projects to vigorously push the government’s national development thrusts.
The key is to create different economic hubs in all BCDA areas that work in synergy through carefully master-planned communities in Central and Northern Luzon such as Poro Point in La Union, John Hay in Baguio, Morong in Bataan, and Clark in Pampanga and Tarlac. These economic hubs will complement and strengthen each other and increase business, tourism, trade and investments.
Its centerpiece infrastructures consisting of the Clark International Airport, San Fernando Seaport and Airport in La Union, and the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) shall be further developed and harnessed to bring the greatest impact to the national economy. Likewise, the development of several railway systems, such as the monorail loop system in South Metro Manila , and the high-speed rail system connecting Metro Manila and Clark Special Economic Zone in Angeles, Pampanga shall be fast-tracked for the convenience of the public.
Ultimately, the BCDA areas are to become beacons of globally competitive and sustainable centers of economic activities that shall ripple and spread throughout their respective regions. Consequently, these economic hubs, taken together would serve as a tipping point for national economic development which is sustainable and inclusive.
At 20, BCDA is more determined and confident to build the country with projects expected to change landscapes and transform lives of Filipinos for the better.