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Redux ‘holiday saving’ | Philstar.com

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COMMON SENSE – Marichu A. Villanueva – The Filipino Star

August 31, 2022 | 00:00

It was another long weekend we just had across the country which ended last Monday on National Heroes Day as one of our country’s official holidays. During former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s tenure, in 2001 she began implementing rolling holidays (except religious events) which were adjusted to the nearest Monday or Friday to form weekends longer.

Dubbed the “holiday economy, it aimed to boost domestic tourism and allow Filipinos to spend more time with their families. In fact, it later became law in 2007 under Republic Act 9492. However, “holiday economics” was scrapped a few months after Ms Arroyo left Malacanang Palace in June 2010.

Mrs. Arroyo’s “Holiday Economics” came to mind when we were invited last weekend on a tour of Clark Freeport in Angeles City, Pampanga. Organized by Clark Development Corp. (CDC), we went around the Clark Freeport. This was my first time returning to Clark after the lockdown over two years ago following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in our country.

Along with Metro Manila and many other parts of the country, Clark and the entire province of Pampanga have been under Alert Level 1 since March this year. Our road trip from Paranaque City took us less than two hours to reach Clark, with traffic and brief layovers included, thanks to Skyway and NLEX.

CDC Chairman Manny Gaerlan and his CDC Assistant Vice Chairman Dennis Legaspi invited selected editors for a quick preview of Clark Freeport’s “Smart City” transformation soon. It was a sort of reunion with the two top CDC leaders who once worked at Malacanang Palace when we guest editors were still young journalists at the time. Gaerlan and Legaspi worked respectively as aide-de-camp to the police of the late President Fidel V. Ramos (FVR) and at the presidential staff. Thus, both were trained in FVR’s vaunted “Full Staff Work” (TSC).

So, there will be a lot of expectation for the planned “smart city” for Clark that has been in the pipeline for so long.

After several administrations, it is finally ready to take off from the lands under the stewardship of these guys from CSW in charge of the CDC. Government-owned CDC and Korea Land & Housing Corporation (LH) signed the “Smart City” memorandum of understanding on April 15. A “Smart City” is characterized by the predominant use of information and communication technologies.

Under this memorandum of understanding, LH will build a “smart city” that will be connected to Clark International Airport, which will also become a logistics hub with infrastructure for tourism, recreation and airport maintenance. ‘aviation. Through this memorandum of understanding, technology sharing with the Korean communication network will be used for the “smart city”.

We took a walking tour of the new Clark International Airport which had a ‘soft opening’ last April of this year. It is now known as “CRK” as its international call sign. The Luzon International Premier Airport Development (LIPAD) Corp. – a Tagalog word which roughly means “flight”, is a consortium created to manage the operations and maintenance of the CRK.

Upon entering inside the terminal, the first thing that will catch your eye is the high curved ceilings that looked like Cebu International Airport. Indeed, it was built by Megawide Construction Corp. and GMR Infrastructure Ltd., the same contractors for the Cebu International Airport terminal. Now under the management of LIPAD, the CRK has all the modern equipment allowing a “contactless” departure/arrival for all passengers.

Baggage check-in, boarding passes and even passport departure and arrival control can be done online via computer stations strategically placed around the CRK terminal. But there are still options for those who choose to follow the usual manual procedures performed at airline counters.

While we were visiting the CRK we saw the big planes from Qatar Airlines and Emirates for direct flights from Clark to Dubai. We saw a sprinkling of foreign nationals with presumably Filipino Overseas Workers (OFW) and local travelers heading to Dubai. The guide informed us that Cebu Pacific will be moving to CRK soon.

The CRK is promoted as the “silent airport” because the paging system is installed and targeted to specific areas where passengers are. So you won’t hear the usual sounds and paging announcements in airport terminals.

A special lounge for OFWs and an interfaith “prayer” room are provided at the terminal for passengers awaiting their flight.

The entire CRK facility is split for now into international and domestic flights as Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (named after the late president and Mrs. Arroyo’s father) has already been closed. As planned, the CRK terminal can accommodate up to eight million passengers per year, almost double the 4.2 million capacity of the existing terminal.

There are several top-notch hotels and other lodging establishments in the Freeport that offer “staycation” packages to keep expenses within the family budget. Attractions for family “getaways” include the newly opened Clark Safari and Adventure Park and the renovated AquaPlanet. There are a number of casinos and a golf course that also host adult entertainment in the Freeport area.

The main attraction of our tour around Clark however was the taste tests we did for the “Steak Crawl” around hotels and restaurants. Promoting Pampanga as the ‘culinary capital of the country’, we were treated to four of the 21 steak restaurants inside the bustling Clark Freeport. From Angus steak to wagyu, the side dishes created a fusion with the local Pampanga menu. The Steak Crawl will officially launch in October this year.

As the incumbent MP for Pampanga and currently the ‘first vice president’ of the 19th Congress, Ms Arroyo may be able to rally the revival of the ‘holiday economy’. Negatively affected by the pandemic, this may help revive the country’s tourism out of the doldrums.