Our Own Aerotropolis

In pre-globalization times, people were attracted to cities for the wealth of connections they offered in terms of social, cultural, intellectual, financial and other services.

An aerotropolis is a city built around the airport as its center. John Kasarda and Greg Lindsey popularized this idea is their book, Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next, published in 2011. As his co-author described him, Kasarda is an American professor “who has made a name for himself with his radical vision that instead of banishing airports to the edge of town and then doing our best to avoid them, we should build this century’s cities around them.”

Southeast Asian aerotropolises already exist: Changi in Singapore and Suvarnabhumi in Bangkok. The trio of Middle Eastern aerotropolises are in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Doha. The rationale for an aerotropolis is not difficult to appreciate. In pre-globalization times, people were attracted to cities for the wealth of connections they offered in terms of social, cultural, intellectual, financial and other services. In the era of globalization, fiber optics cables and jet aircraft have made communication and travel easier, and so the highly mobile citizens of the world (including Filipinos) now choose those cities that draw them closer together with other similar cities, thus the need for an aerotropolis.

The government, through the Bases Conversion Development Authority, is pitching Clark to be our own aerotropolis. Clark fits the bill to a T: the aerotropolis is planned to have a capacity for 80 million passengers a year and will be a major gateway to major capitals and emerging cities in east Asia. Clark has enough space to turn into an aerotropolis where scale matters a lot.

How about sustainability? As Kasarda and Lindsey ask in their book, Are airports the ghost towns of tomorrow? Their answer is no. Air travel and trade will continue to increase because “We don’t send an array of goods by air because it’s cheap; we do it because these goods have become lighter and more valuable.” Clark airport managers are also quick to say that it will be the first smart, green, and resilient New Clark City. All said, Clark should make the Philippines regain its advantage as a strategic hub which it somehow had in the 1960s.

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About the Author
Mr. Oscar F. Picazo is a retired specialist in health systems, health economics, and social policy. He has worked in 24 countries for the World Bank, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and as an independent consultant. He returned to the Philippines in 2009 and became a senior research consultant for the Philippine Institute of Development Studies.
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