Smart and Sustainable City—sugarcoats Development Aggression in New Clark City, Tarlac

by Kamandag

January 3, 2022

Smart and sustainable, resilient and disaster-free—that—is the state trappings of New Clark City or NCC, an urban development project that will convert 9,450 hectares of rich agricultural and ancestral lands in the municipalities of Capas, Bamban, and Mabalacat of the provinces of Tarlac and Pampanga in Central Luzon.

Displacement and Dislocation

New Clark City stands over communities already populated of peasant and Aeta national minorities since time immemorial. In the latest countermapping research by the University of the Philippines and United Kingdom’s University of Glasgow, at least 40,000 individuals are residing inside the New Clark City project. 

Their fields and river streams are teeming with fertility that provides these communities of food, medicine, and basic needs. These ancestral lands are also home to several sacred mountains that belongs to the few remaining pristine forest lands in the Zambales mountain range. The biodiversity study conducted by the Asian Development Bank in 2019, takes note of the area’s richness in biodiversity, and listed species of plants, trees, animals on the ground, air, and living in the river that inhabits the vast expanse. 

To date, at least 1,500 of the 9,450 hectares are already converted into sports facilities, hotels, roads, and townhomes. At least 200 families are forced to leave their fields and vacate their homes. 

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs—worsens hunger and poverty not bearers of economic prosperity

The conversion of their rich agricultural lands eventually converted farmers to contractual laborers for various manual jobs. Some were employed in the on-going construction projects, or for planting flowery plants for the beautification of the road isles, or other were employed as housekeepers. Their new jobs earn them the minimum wage for some, but the majority is at below the minimum wage, and their contracts are not for long term. 

After the SEA Games in 2019, hundreds of them returned to their makeshift homes, jobless, and without lands to produce food.

For whom is New Clark City’s promises?

Intricately packaged as the symbol of modernity, of economic prosperity, of inclusivity, of equality, and in short—a city for the people. Sounds perfect? But which people? 

Definitely, there is no inclusivity, nor equality, nor economic prosperity for the peasant and Aeta national minorities affected by the New Clark City project. Only, perhaps that sense of modernity, but all is a deceit. The prosperity are saved only for the local compradors, the government players, the bureaucrat capitalists, the foreign capitalists from imperialist countries that have vested interests in the lands. 

New Clark City then and now comparison, year 2016 vs. year 2019
photo by

Hope blooms in the people’s struggle

A classic Goliath and David story unfolds in New Clark City. At one glance, fighting for livelihood, homes, environment, and security may seem close to impossible, but hope blooms in the continuing struggle of our peasant and Aeta national minorities as they continue to assert their right to work and till the lands.

Bungkalan or land tilling have prospered despite threats of displacement. The once economic activity becomes a political assertion as they secure their ancestral lands despite threat to lives, security, and liberty.

To our peasant and Aeta national minorities the true and genuine smart and sustainable city is a city that empowers the people, puts food in the table, provides them shelter, secures the bounty of the environment for future generations and protects a culture as old as time.

It should be a city that ensures food sovereignty, can achieve genuine responsible consumption and production, and promotes climate justice.#

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article is that of the author only and do not necessarily represent the views of their organization nor of the CPDG.