CAPAS - The Philippines broke ground on Tuesday (Jan 23) on a 200ha estate that will serve as the nation's second government centre.
Costing 121.8 billion pesos (S$3.14 billion), the National Government Administrative Centre, or NGAC, will serve as a back-up city for government operations.
Officials say the centre will also help to better serve residents in the northern half of the main Luzon island.
The project is unofficially dubbed "Putrajaya", after the name of Malaysia's administrative city that was built 25km south of capital Kuala Lumpur.
NGAC, 104km north of Manila, is being developed by Malaysia's infrastructure builder AlloyMtd.
"We understand the enormous impact Putrajaya has done for (Malaysia) is what the NGAC will do for the Philippines," said Kuala Lumpur's deputy chief of mission to the Philippines Rizani Irwan Mohd Mazlan, who spoke to reporters at the site on Tuesday.
Malaysia began construction of Putrajaya in 1995 as Kuala Lumpur was seen as being too congested, with government offices spread over many buildings in the sprawling city. The first phase of Putrajaya was completed four years later in June 1999.
AlloyMtd, part of investment firm MTD Capital, is building "back-up offices" of various government agencies to ensure continuity in the event of a natural disaster or a national calamity.
"With national line agencies sporadically located in Manila, the government faces the serious risk of government disruption and mob rule in the event that a major catastrophe hits Manila," said Mr Vivencio Dizon, president of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), which is overseeing development of the 9,450ha New Clark City in Capas town, Tarlac province.
He said the NGAC, which is a component of New Clark City, will serve as "an integrated disaster risk recovery centre".
"It shall ensure continuous government operations, even after a major disaster," he said.
As envisioned, the NGAC will house satellite offices and major administrative offices of various departments and agencies.
It will also provide an extension office for the Philippine president, as well as sites for embassies and international schools.
Singapore consulting firm Surbana Jurong was earlier tapped to help it prepare detailed design standards and guidelines for New Clark City.
AlloyMtd is also be constructing a 13-billion-peso sports complex and aquatic and athletics centre at New Clark City to host the water sports events during the 2019 South-east Asian Games.
Mr Tee Kim Siew, acting CEO of AlloyMtd, said the "vision" is for the Philippines to have its own Putrajaya.
"Manila is so congested, and there's also the potential earthquake and all these natural disasters. They have to start looking for an alternative, and Clark City is the place to be… Manila will still be the capital. But the idea is that if something happens, Clark City will take over while recovery is being sorted out," he said.
The BCDA is developing New Clark City into the Philippines' first "smart, green, disaster-resilient city".
New Clark City will be bigger than Manhattan when completed in 30 to 40 years, with a population of some two million. It is expected to contribute about 1.57 trillion pesos per year to the national economy.
It is among the biggest projects in President Rodrigo Duterte's ambitious eight-trillion-peso "Build, Build, Build" infrastructure programme.