Philippines plans backup capital in case of disaster

December 16, 2015 09:09
Clark has an international airport and is near a seaport, making it ideal as an alternate capital. Photo:

The Philippines plans to build an alternate capital in a former US military facility some 64 kilometers northwest of Manila as an insurance against natural disasters.

The chosen site, Clark City, was itself damaged 24 years ago when Mount Pinatubo in Pampanga province erupted, covering the air base in ash and destroying buildings.

The Southeast Asian country is one of the worst affected by storms, volcanoes and other natural disasters. 

“Can we allow the government to be paralyzed in case a disaster strikes Manila?” Arnel Casanova, president of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) told Bloomberg in an interview.

“We must have a facility that will allow the government to function with communications, databases, logistics.”

The government of outgoing President Benigno Aquino wants to build facilities in the area to host government agencies, the central bank and financial exchanges, the news agency said.

BCDA, the state manager of former military properties, has discussed the plan with the government agency tasked to manage disaster risk, Casanova said.

The master plan for the Clark development has been approved by the president, including those for the alternate capital, he said.

Government agencies and the central bank were asked in September to put up business continuity centers in Clark and the BCDA is allotting about 100 hectares (247 acres) to 200 hectares for these, he said.

The stock and fixed-income exchanges and the Treasury will also be invited, he said.

Aquino has made disaster resiliency a priority, particularly after Super Typhoon Haiyan killed more than 6,000 people and destroyed an entire city in 2013.

BCDA is planning to build a 170 billion peso (US$3.6 billion), 85 kilometer railway to help connect Clark to Manila, Casanova said.

The agency could implement that via a public-private partnership deal or through a negotiated contract.

When the US military left the air base in 1991, parts of Clark Air Base were used as an economic zone, where the airport is, though most of the area remains undeveloped.

Clark has an international airport and is near Subic seaport, making it ideal as an alternate capital, Casanova said.

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