Clark Special Economic Zone

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Clark Air Base, 1975.

Clark Air Base is a former U.S. Air Force base on Luzon Island in the Philippines, now known as the Clark Special Economic Zone. It nestles against the northwest side of Angeles City in the province of Pampanga, and is about 40 miles (60 km) northwest of Manila. It was the site of the U.S. Army base Fort Stotsenburg.

Clark Air Base was arguably the most urbanized military facility in history, and was the largest American base overseas. The base was converted into a special economic zone after the American military left the Philippines in 1992.

The base was the location of the Far East Air Force's 4th Composite Group. Located at Template:Coor dm, altitude 478 ft (146 m), Clark Air Base was an American military facility from 1903 to 1991. The base covered 14.3 square miles (37 km²) with a military reservation extending north that covered another 230 square miles (596 km²).

A large flight operations area was just west of the airfield, comprising the core of the base. Housing and commercial areas were further west. At the foothills of Mount Pinatubo were two major housing areas bisected by a large golf course. The base was crisscrossed by about five major boulevards, one measuring six miles (10 km) long.

At its peak around 1990, it had a permanent population of 15,000. The base was a stronghold of American forces during the end of World War II, and until 1975, it was a backbone of logistical support during the Vietnam War.


For a detailed history, see History of Clark Air Base

Clark Air Base was originally established as Fort Stotsenburg in Sapang Bato, Angeles in 1903 and was under control of the U.S. Army. A flying school was created in 1912, with the runway designated Clark Field in 1919.

The base was overrun by Japanese forces during World War II in early 1942, but was recaptured by Americans in January 1945 after three months of fierce fighting.

On March 14, 1947, the U.S. and the Philippines signed the Military Bases Agreement which provided for use of Clark Air Base until the year 2046 (later amended by the 1966 Rusk-Ramos agreement to 1991). In 1949, the base was transferred from the Army to the U.S. Air Force, and was known as Clark Air Base (or Clark AB).

More than half of Clark Air Base area is part of Mabalacat, Pampanga.

Clark Air Base was completely evacuated beginning June 10, 1991, as Mount Pinatubo erupted.

The Philippine Senate rejected an extension of the Military Bases Agreement that September, and the base was transferred to the Philippine government on November 26, 1991.

Aircraft and military units

Major Air Force units included the Thirteenth Air Force, the 405th Tactical Fighter Wing, the 3d Tactical Fighter Wing with the 3d Combat Support Group, the 3d Security Police Group, the 31st Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron (ARRS), and the 353rd Special Operations Wing (AFSOC). Also included were units of 1st MOB, 5th TAC, 6200 ABW, and a FCS (Facility Checking Squadron)

Approximately 20 percent of the flying operations at Clark were produced by Military Airlift Command's 374th Tactical Airlift Wing, which was assigned to Clark on November 15, 1973.

The heart of Clark's aircraft force during the 1970s and 1980s was the F-4E and F-4G fighter jet. Other planes included the T-33 trainer, the C-130 transport, HH-3E rescue helicopters and a small number of F-5 fighters that were flown by the 26th Aggressor Squadron, 3rd TFW. During the 1950s F-86Ds, B-50s, and SA-16s also were stationed at Clark. In the late 1960s and early 1970s other aircraft assigned to the base included RB-57s, C-47s, C-54s, C-118s, C-124s, HC-130Hs, C-140s, C-9s, HH-43s, CH-3s, T-39s, and even PBYs. In 1968 there were still F-106s on the ramp. In 1968 and 1969 there were 2 C-97s assigned to Detachment 1, 13th AF.

Transient aircraft of many types, especially cargo jets, were very common. Fighter planes regularly visited to participate in aerial warfare exercises at Crow Valley about 30 miles (50 km) to the northwest.

Clark was served regularly by cargo and passenger flights to and from Andersen AFB, Guam; Kadena AB, Japan; Diego Garcia; Jakarta, Indonesia; and Saigon, Vietnam (until 1975). During the 1970s, passengers arrived via Trans International Douglas DC-8 flights from Travis AFB, California (via Honolulu and Guam).

By 1980, the base had grown to such an extent that weekly Flying Tigers Boeing 747 service to St. Louis (via Kadena AB Japan; Anchorage; and Los Angeles) had begun. The 747 service was taken over by Tower Air sometime in the late 1980s, and was augmented with a weekly Hawaiian Airlines L-1011 to Guam-Honolulu-Los Angeles.

Culture and recreation

Although the bars off-base in Angeles City were numerous and quite legendary, the servicemen's clubs on base provided strong alternatives. All three were large-scale operations: the Officer's Club (CABOOM) near the parade ground, the Top Hat Club for NCOs near Lily Hill (moved to near the Silver Wing around 1986), and the Coconut Grove Airmen's Club with indoor palm trees. The NCO Club was especially active and regularly brought major bands and artists from the United States to perform. Also at least a hundred sponsored clubs and organizations were active on the base, including Knights of Columbus, a Latino American club, martial arts dojos, and more. Two major movie theaters operated daily: the Bobbitt Theater which played first-run films, and the Kelly Theater which showed older releases. In the late 1960s and early 1970s movies were also shown at the Bamboo Bowl (the football stadium on base).

The Bamboo Bowl was used for the base's 11 man tackle football league which not only included teams from Clark but from Subic Naval Base as well.

To keep the residents entertained at home, Clark had a very active broadcast center called FEN, or Far East Network Philippines, a division of American Forces Network. The television station (Channel 8; moved to Channel 17 in 1981) showed about 20 hours per day of syndicated programs from the "big three" networks in the United States, with local news and talk programs. This content was locally syndicated until 1983 when programming from Los Angeles was put online. FEN also had two 24-hour radio stations: an AM station which broadcast news and popular music, and FM which was dedicated to easy-listening and classical music. However, with English common in Filipino broadcasting, off-base radio and TV tended to provide a lot of music and American TV fare that was not aired on FEN, such as Dukes of Hazzard and CHiPs.

Two popular events were the annual Chili Cookoff, held near the Silver Wing recreation center around September, and especially the Happening On the Green (referred to as "the HOG"). The HOG was a major carnival held on a designated weekend in February which attracted thousands of residents. Amusements and rides were built and operated not only by Filipino entertainment contractors but also by individual Air Force units seeking to boost unit morale, showcase their talents, and raise funds.

Clark's unique size and history allowed it to develop its own supernatural lore. By the 1970s, the Filipino "white lady" legend had established itself at Clark. Most variations of the story involved a young woman dressed in white who would hail a taxi late at night, and then would vanish from the vehicle enroute.


Clark Air Base experienced two distinct seasons: a dry season from November through April, with a wet season from May through October. From 1953 to 1991, the mean daily low was 73.6°F and the mean daily high was 88.1°F, with April being warmest and January coolest. The average annual rainfall was 78.39 inches. Typhoons tended to approach from the east during the summer and fall. Many damaging storms struck the base, including Typhoon Irma on November 28, 1974 (generally considered to be the strongest one); Typhoon Rita on October 27, 1978; Typhoon Irma on November 24, 1981; Typhoon Ruby on October 25, 1988; and Typhoon Yunya on June 15, 1991 which coincided with the Mount Pinatubo blast. In July, 1972, central Luzon experienced a month of nearly continuous rain, resulting in 96 inches falling on the plain around Clark.

Clark Air Base Today

A C-130 Hercules aircraft from the 36th Airlift Squadron at Yokota Air Base, Japan, arrives to participate in exercise Balikatan 2004.

In 1995, following years of neglect, cleanup and removal of volcanic ash deposits began. The former base re-emerged as Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (Clark International Airport) and Clark Special Economic Zone (CSEZ). The airfield infrastructure was improved to make it one of the most modern in Asia, and a second parallel runway was built. The former base is now home to a golf resort, a number of industrial buildings, landmarks, and retail establishments. It also hosts the annual Balikatan exercises between the United States and Philippines Armed Forces.

Though many events still occur at Clark, the American government left some residual toxic chemicals that now affect the groundwater near the base. Native Filipinos who live nearby are affected by these chemicals, such as mercury, resulting in leukemia, gangrene, and other severe diseases and health problems. The United States denies responsibility for these actions. Several organizations, such as FACES (Filipino American Coalition for Environmental Safeguards) and PTFBC (People Task Force for Bases Clean-up), are attempting to begin the detoxification process on the bases.

On March 20, 2007, Clark Air Base was renamed Clark Freeport Philippines, as mandated by Senate Bill 2260 and signed into law by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Turning Clark into a freeport entitles investors to the same tax-free and other duty-free privileges enjoyed by their counterparts at the Subic Bay Freeport.

Under the new law, Clark Development Corporation (CDC) will remain as administrator of the 4,500-hectare Clark freeport. A subsidiary, Clark International Airport Corporation, runs the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport.

Since the CDC was created in 1993 to administer Clark, some 389 foreign and domestic investors have moved into the zone, generating some PhP24.3 billion (about US$501.1 million) worth of investments. As of March 2007, over 47,000 people, mostly from Pampanga, Tarlac and Bulacan provinces, are currently employed at Clark.

See also

Other United States Air Force installations in the Philippines:

External links

Original Source

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