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How we built a small city in 18 months

Updated

NIGHT OWL

By ANNA MAE LAMENTILLO

Anna Mae Yu Lamentillo

Anna Mae Yu Lamentillo

A sports stadium alone can take about four years to build, but infrastructure developer MTD Philippines, together with the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), was able to build a small city in just 18 months.

“What we’ve done here is unprecedented,” says MTD President Engr. Patrick Nicholas David. The “small city” refers to Phase 1A of the National Government Administrative Center (NGAC), a component of the New Clark City project. The NGAC includes the Athletics Stadium, Aquatics Center, Athletes’ Village, The Residences, government buildings and the River Park.

The main structures

As of this third week of August 2019, the Athletics Stadium, Aquatics Center, and the Athletes’ Village are almost finished, just in time for the 30th Southeast Asian Games in November 2019. The Athletics Stadium is a 20,000-seater, world-class Olympics stadium with a 9-lane 400-meter track and field oval and a 6-lane warm up track.

The Aquatics Center is a 2,000-seater, world-class arena built with a 10-lane Olympic size swimming pool, a diving pool with inland diving training facility, and a warm up training pool. The Athletes’ Village, on the other hand, is made of 525 furnished units that can accommodate up to 1,000 occupants. Complete with training and fitness facilities, this is meant to house our national athletes, coaches, and visitors.

Perfect Public-Private Partnership

Engr. David proudly declares that the team was able to finish the negotiation and proposal presentation in the shortest time possible. These steps are usually tedious and take a long time to finish. With the help of BCDA, it was done from August 2017 (submission of proposal) until January 23, 2018 (groundbreaking). In that short period of time, the team was able to go through the evaluation, negotiation, and Swiss challenge processes without a major hitch.

“It wouldn’t have been possible without the help of BCDA,” Engr. David says. “There were no shortcuts, no red tape–BCDA just stayed with us from 9:00 a.m. to 12 midnight every day, 5 days a week, until we finished the negotiations.” MTD Philippines, with the help of BCDA, filled out the necessary forms and the required permits were obtained right on schedule, sometimes even ahead of time.

It certainly helped that BCDA has a one-stop shop for processing all the documents. BCDA also facilitated conversations with other government agencies to expedite certain processes. Because of this careful attention to detail and diligence in doing the work, there was very little back-and-forth movement as far as papers were concerned.

The BCDA work culture

“BCDA doesn’t sleep, so we don’t as well.” Engr. David was, of course, half joking when he said this. But it pretty much sums up the kind of conscientiousness and hard work that BCDA officials and employees put in every project.

When there is an early morning meeting, for example, one can expect everyone concerned to come prepared and be at the venue ahead of time. “When you say Build, Build, Build, it’s really Work, Work, Work–it’s not just presentations going around but on-the-ground building and doing things that they (BCDA) say they will do,” Engr. David shares.

It doesn’t matter that New Clark City is happening at the same time as the new Clark airport terminal and the roads to NCC, among many other things. For BCDA, having too much on their plate is no excuse to deliver sloppy work.

BCDA President and CEO Vince Dizon leads the organization by setting a good example for all the members of the organization. According to Engr. David, “He (President Vince) is here every Sunday at 8:00 a.m., after his morning exercise, to walk the entire facility, even when it’s raining. He would wear boots and carry a walking stick, no golf carts or cars.”

Presence means quick decision making

“If the decision makers are not around, a mere tiling work could take forever to do,” Engr. David explains. But since BCDA is so hands-on during the whole process, decision making is quick. Once a decision is made on even the smallest things, execution comes after and completion can be achieved quickly.

“BCDA is always here,” he says, “there are no weekends, no holidays. The executives are here to make decisions right away, and so we are happy with the pace of development.” Aside from making quick decisions, problems or challenges that arise are immediately resolved because the heads can easily come together and come up with solutions.

Ease of doing business in Clark

Apart from MTD Philippines, many other global organizations are quite happy about the ease with which they can do business in Pampanga’s economic center. Clark’s business environment is thriving as foreign companies like Texas Instruments, Samsung, UPS International, Inc., Yokohama Tire Philippines, Inc., SIA Engineering, and Sumidenso Automotive Technologies have decided to move their operations here. President Duterte’s signing of the EODB and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018, which allows businesses to enjoy streamlined processes and reduced processing times, will further improve things even as investors are already happy with the way BCDA and its subsidiary, the Clark Development Corporation, are managing the business processes in the area.

For infrastructure developers like MTD Philippines, speed is an important consideration. Engr. David explains that they always want to finish ahead of schedule because “once the facility is turned over, then one starts generating revenue; if you delay it or prolong the process, construction costs build up, and depreciation, interests, and inflation will inevitably pose consequences.” If the project is finished fast enough, then one is able to deliver the service and get returns earlier and faster.

The New Clark City project is a great case study as the speed of development of an “infrastructure of this magnitude” was unheard of in the Philippines until now. “This is the fastest work I’ve ever done and I’ve been doing work for toll roads, bridges, roads, and other huge infrastructure projects so I know that this is very, very fast,” Engr. David says.

The achievement is made possible because the systems and processes in BCDA are working well. Every person concerned–from the officials and executives to the engineers, employees, and workers–is ready to make sacrifices and put in the time, dedication, and hard work necessary to deliver good work at the shortest possible time.

 

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