CLARK FREEPORT, Pampanga, Philippines – Clark, two hours from the Philippine capital Manila, is expected to entice more investors as it builds on its qualifications as Asia’s next aerotropolis.
An aerotropolis is an urban plan in which the layout, infrastructure, and economy is centered around an airport.
At the recently concluded Clark Aviation Conference, Jeff Pradhan, vice president for sales and marketing of Global Gateway Logistics City (GGLC) and former President of the Clark Investors and Locators Association, noted Clark has all the components necessary to becoming an aerotropolis, including vast real estate, connectivity via a number of airlines, an active manufacturing industry, numerous logistics service providers, maintenance repair and operation firms, aviation training schools, as well as travel and tour companies.
The conference was organized by Clark International Aviation Corp and co-organized by GGLC and was a private sector call for government to fully develop an airport that is growing faster than expected. Last year, air traffic at Clark airport was up 70% over 2011. Temporary tents have recently been erected to accommodate the growing passenger traffic.
Conference keynote speaker US journalist Greg Lindsay who co-wrote with John Kasarda the bestselling book, Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next, said “many companies are looking into relocating their factories in the Philippines and that the opportunity is there for Clark, thanks to this huge airport.
“Some investors are disenchanted with China since manufacturing has become very expensive,” he said, “adding that Japanese manufacturing companies in China have expressed interest in relocating to the Philippines while Korean firms are also keen on moving to the Philippines.”
Rising imports of electronic products at the same time exports of semiconductor components also bring brighter prospects for Clark, with the airfreight business seen to be one of the beneficiaries, he said.
“(Manufacturers) can produce more goods and fly by air. Texas Instruments or Samsung located in Clark are flying out of Manila, but they could be flying out of Clark. If you put that capacity in cargo planes and wide- bodied aircraft, you can have much more cargo growth,” he added.
For now, Clark is serviced by UPS which offers 13 times weekly flights to Taipei and Shenzhen. FedEx plans to increase flights to 13 times a week to Taipei and Guangzhou.
There are also talks that FedEx may soon establish a hub in Clark as well as speculation that multinational logistics firm DB Schenker may move to Clark, but president and CEO of CIAC Victor Jose Luciano said there’s “nothing final yet” on this front.
There are currently eight low-cost airlines operating out of Clark. Air Asia’s robust expansion and the entry of Emirates in October to offer direct flights to Dubai, solidify Clark’s potential as an aerotropolis, said GGLC’s Pradhan.
Emirates Airline president Tim Clark said with the start of daily flights to Clark International Airport, Emirates SkyCargo will be able to provide more than 160 tonnes of additional cargo hold capacity each way per week. This will support the Philippines’ exports of perishables, such as dairy products, fruit and vegetables, meat, seafood and electrical and electronic equipment, and its imports of textiles, apparel, plants, flowers and chemical products. The service will be operated using two-class Boeing 777-300ERs.
Pradhan noted more investments will be coming Clark’s way, such as a second hangar for wide-bodied aircraft and a third hangar for the Airbus A380 for construction within the year.
GGLC on its own has been sinking in billions of dollars into a master-planned, mixed-use logistics and business center in Clark Freeport Zone. Recently, Medical City, a 150-bed world-class tertiary hospital complex located at GGLC, broke ground.