The newly built Clark International Airport (CIA) will back up the development of the Pampanga Golden Triangle into the next megalopolis in Luzon, according to former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Arroyo, who also served as Pampanga Second District congresswoman and speaker of the House of Representatives, said the rise of the new aviation facility as a global gateway to Central and North Luzon will underpin Pampanga’s shift into a megalopolis, which refers to a cluster of municipalities and cities linked by transport infrastructures such as airports, expressways and railways.

“When completed it will become a jewel in Southeast Asia as it is dubbed the gateway to Northern Philippines,” she said, referring to Pampanga Megalopolis.

With her vision for growth to transform Central Luzon into an icon of development, the former chief executive asked renowned urban planner Felino Palafox Jr. in 2016 to draft a development plan for the province as the epicenter of progress and development. “As a countermeasure to decongest Metro Manila, Pampanga would be one of the most viable alternatives to develop the northern part of mainland Luzon,” she said, adding that the government’s “Build, Build, Build” program will help spark economic activities in the region.

Under the Pampanga Megalopolis 2017-2040 plan approved by the provincial government, the Pampanga Megalopolis will have pockets of development including an aerotropolis, an agropolis, an aquapolis and an ecopolis.

The CIA will become the core of Pampanga’s aerotropolis comprised of Angeles City, San Fernando City, Mabalacat City and Mexico.

It will have spatial elements, such as aviation-oriented businesses, hotels, convention centers, service industries and others. Residential areas will be developed within the outer ring of the aerotropolis and grow outwards.

Also, it will have functional elements which involve businesses relying on the airport for access, while the connectivity elements will have air routes and surface linkages like highways and railways to give internal and external accessibility to the airport.

Arroyo noted that the construction of Manila North Railway between Clark and Manila is now in full swing while the Clark to Subic railway will also be developed.

Other infrastructure projects that will support Pampanga’s aerotropolis are a new circumferential transport corridor, interconnecting all cities and municipalities in the province; the development of a world-class mass transportation system along MacArthur Highway in the form of bus rapid transit that will integrate and synergize with CIA.

Pampanga’s Agropolis clusters the different agriculture communities of the province and provides needed urban amenities towards overall improvement of quality of life.

The agropolitan development will depend on policy and technology interventions like incentives to farmers and application of hydroponic farming techniques, farm-to-market roads and post-harvest and other support facilities. It will, likewise, involve the development of agri-tourism zones. Among the municipalities covered by the proposed agropolis are Lubao, Guagua, Santa Rita, Bacolor, San Luis, San Simon, Apalit, Santo Tomas, Santa Ana and Magalang. Major products include rice, corn and sugar cane as well as livestock and poultry products. This will be complemented by pottery and casket-making (Santo Tomas), woodcarving and furniture making (Guagua), metal manufacture, guitar-making and garments and textiles, among others.

Pampanga’s aquapolis, meanwhile, will bring together the province’s geographical, historical and cultural affinity to the river as well as its vast marine resources. The proposed metropolitan area that thrives on water will consider the strengths and potentials of Sasmuan, Macabebe, Minalin, Lubao and Masantol, with some of their aquatic products like tilapia, bangus, sugpo, alimango, ulang wild hito and dalang.

Finally, Pampanga’s ecopolis will push the province’s rich natural attractions and eco-tourism activities such as bird watching in the wetlands of Candaba, trekking in Mt. Dorst and Mt. Arayat and community-based eco-tourism in Porac and Floridablanca.

“Having clusters dedicated to eco-tourism would help in conserving the natural environment, and at the same time generate funds for the municipalities. It helps the locals, especially the indigenous people to earn their livelihood, while giving the opportunity for the guests to learn and experience.”