Poro Point to become north’s gateway

Ramon Calzado
Former US military base Poro Point Freeport Zone (PPFZ) is on its way to becoming the gateway in the north for trade, commerce and tourism, officials say

GATEWAY IN THE NORTH. Poro Point Freeport Zone reveals development plan that promises tourism for North Luzon. Graphics by Teddy Pavon

LA UNION, Philippines – Former US military base Poro Point Freeport Zone (PPFZ) is on its way to becoming the gateway in the north for trade, commerce and tourism, officials said. 

Bases Coversion and Development Authority (BCDA), which is tasked to oversee the development of former US military bases in the Philippines, and Poro Point Management Corporation (PPMC), the managing entity of the freeport recently unveiled plans for its development.

“It (Poro Point) has the necessary infrastructure. It’s a freeport and a special economic zone that would drive economic activity in the region,” Bases Coversion and Development Authority (BCDA) president and CEO Arnel Paciano D. Casanova told Rappler in an interview in March.

He added that Poro Point has an international airport and a seaport and could serve as a regional gateway to the Ilocandia and Cordilleras, both located north of capital Manila.

With commercial flights expected to resume at the recently upgraded airport in the freeport’s host city, San Fernando, Poro Point is just an hour away from Hong Kong and Taiwan, 3 hours from Singapore and 3.5 hours away from Korea, said PPMC president Florante S. Gerdan during a press conference.

GATEWAY. The San Fernando International Airport is operational and will start to take flight to and from Cheongju Airport in South Korea. Photo from PPMC

OPERATIONAL. Ships dock at Poro Point's international seaport to load and unload cargo. Photo by Ramon Calzado

With private partners having leased out the area’s seaport and tourism complex, Poro Point’s management is putting its airport, and soon the lighthouse, IT Park and industrial area, up for auction. 

The PPMC also presented its future development plan for PPFZ:

  • Construction of road to Poro Point lighthouse area
  • Master planning of the undeveloped areas
  • Bid out the lighthouse area
  • Bid out the Information Technology Park and industrial area

The development of PPFZ would spur tourist traffic and economic activity not only in La Union province but complement another economic zone in the north – Baguio’s John Hay Special Economic Zone (JHSEZ).

The Northern alliance

BCDA-PPMC stressed the connectivity of La Union and Baguio to improve synergy and maximize economic activity in Region 1 and the Cordilleras.

The state-run BCDA is the parent institution of management of economic zones: PPFZ in La Union and JHSEZ in Baguio.

PPMC chairman Ives Q. Nisce, in an interview with Rappler, weighed on the booming BPO industry in Baguio, underscoring the existence of San Fernando airport only 45 minutes away.

“It (San Fernando Airport) would allow multinational companies to easily access their businesses in the Cordilleras, rather than driving 6 hours from Manila”, Mr. Nisce said.

The chairman also cited that graduates of capable colleges of La Union and Baguio could find job opportunities in the BPO industry of the latter.  

Thunderbird Resorts and Hotels, a private firm leasing under PPFZ’s tourism complex, offers free shuttle services to passengers flying in San Fernando airport and heading to Baguio.

BCDA subsidiary John Hay Management Corporation recently revealed plans of beefing up their shuttle services that runs from Baguio City to Poro Point.

Connectivity

BCDA said that PPMC will serve as an economic catalyst in North Luzon that is key to integrate existing economic zones in Metro Manila, Central Luzon and North Luzon.

To further boost economic activity, BCDA plans to open up North Luzon by connecting La Union to Metro Manila-Clark Freeport Zone via expressways.

“Now we have the expressways connected — NLEX, SCTEX and TPLEX going to Baguio and La Union (from Manila-Clark). So it would open up the entire region, both Central Luzon and the Northern Luzon areas” said Atty. Casanova.

La Union, at the edge of TPLEX, and its connectivity to Baguio may help the Cordilleras region become more accessible to Manila-Clark.  

“If you’re coming from Manila, there are no more traffic lights when you get to Balintawak. Everything is tollway (expressway). So it will cut the travel time from Manila to Baguio by one-half. You can be in Baguio in 3 hours”, he reiterated.   

The BCDA said that the connectivity of their economic zones, being the economic drivers in their respective regions, would further economic activity in Luzon.

“BCDA recognizes its roles in expanding economic opportunity to a vast number of the population stretching from Metro Manila-Central Luzon to northern Luzon; that is about one-third of the country’s population.”

“If BCDA with its subsidiaries accomplish creating economic catalysts out of these former military bases, and then it could serve as a tipping point to the Philippine economic development.”

Here are connected economic zones of BCDA:

  • Poro Point Freeport Zone (North Luzon)
  • John Hay Special Economic Zone (North Luzon)
  • Clark Special Economic Zone (Central Luzon)
  • Subic Freeport Zone (Central Luzon)
  • Bataan Business and Leisure Park (Central Luzon)
  • Fort Bonifacio-Global City and Villamor Airbase-Newport City (NCR-Metro Manila)
“We are not simply a real estate developer. We are not simply an economic zone developer. We are not simply a tollway builder or operator. We are a development authority,” Atty. Casanova said. – Rappler.com

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