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Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (MPD-SBMA)


17 January 2017

Subic Bay commemorates the 100th birth anniversary of Olongapo's first mayor

Olongapenos and Subic Bay volunteers gathered in this free port Tuesday (January 17) to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Mayor James Leonard (Jimmy) Gordon, Olongapo's first elected mayor.

Simultaneous wreath-laying activities led by the children of the late mayor were held in four significant areas in Subic Bay and Olongapo City: Marikit Park, led by the Balikatan Ladies; Kalalake Elementary School; Gordon Park/Kalaklan; and Tappan Park, site of the hospital where Mayor Jimmy Gordon was born.

A program followed shortly at the Riviera wharf where the M/V Susitna, the newly acquired ship of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) is docked.

Aside from the Gordon family led by PRC Governor and Senator Richard J Gordon, also attending the celebration were officials of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) led by Chairman Martin Diño and Administrator Amy Eisma, as well as free port investors.

Socio-civic groups such as the Jaycees of Olongapo City, Rotary Club of Olongapo City, James L. Gordon Council of the Olongapo City Boy Scout of the Philippines, BALIKATAN Ladies of Olongapo Movement, SUGPO, Businessmen/Civic groups participants; Philippine Red Cross Olongapo City Chapter Board, Staff and 143 volunteers; PRC Board of Governors; and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies; and officials and volunteers of the Bagumbayan Volunteers for a New Philippines Party also attended the celebration.

Mayor James Gordon was born on January 17, 1917 of an American father, John Jacob Gordon, and a Filipina mother, Veronica Tagle Gordon. He was Mayor of Olongapo City from December 30, 1963 to February 20, 1967.

Instead of electing American Citizenship and residing in the United States like his four brothers, he chose to stay in the Philippines as a Filipino Citizen. He raised his children as Filipino Citizens and brought them up according to Filipino values;

Mayor Jimmy Gordon, known as the Father of Olongapo, led the move to free Olongapo from the United States (US). When the rest of the Philippine had been declared independent of the US on July 4, 1946, Olongapo remained under US Government jurisdiction having been declared a US Naval Reservation in the early 1900s).

Gordon, though an American himself, having an American father, could not stomach the strict military regulations that limited the movements of the residents of Olongapo. He exposed and fought the abuses and harassments suffered by Olongapo residents under US military rule. He was also like David trying to defeat Goliath, which symbolized the rampant corruption and abuses in the governing authority. (SNL)


[1] The Gordons stand before a statue of their father, the late Mayor James Gordon, at the Tappan park inside the Subic Bay Freeport Zone. (AMD/MPD-SBMA)

[2] Philippine Red Cross Governor Senator Richard Gordon leading the tour of the bridge of the M/V Susitna as SBMA Chairman Martin Diño looks on.  (AMD/MPD-SBMA)

16 January 2017

SBMA’s first lady administrator and CEO assumes post

Lawyer Wilma “Amy” T. Eisma assumes her post as the seventh administrator and chief executive officer (CEO) of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).

A member of original volunteer corps who stepped up to protect the former naval base in Subic after the pull-out of the US bases in 1992, Atty. Eisma was warmly welcomed back to her “home” by SBMA officials and employees in a simple program held during the agency’s flag raising ceremony Monday (January 16).

The program highlights the passing of the SBMA flag symbolizing the turnover of the helm to Eisma, the agency’s first woman administrator and CEO, from her predecessor Roberto V. Garcia.

The ceremony was also witnessed by the members of the SBMA Board of Directors and local government officials from Olongapo City, and the contiguous provinces of Zambales and Bataan.

Eisma was appointed to the post by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on December 21, 2016, vice Garcia.

She formally took her oath of office as SBMA Administrator before President Duterte in Malacañang on January 9, 2017 along with the new members of the SBMA Board of Directors Benny Diaz Antiporda, Maria Cecilia Bobadilla Bitare, Tomas Lahom III and Stefani Creer Saño.

As administrator and CEO, Eisma shall also sit as vice chair to the SBMA Board of Directors.

Born and raised in Olongapo City, Eisma is a seasoned lawyer with over 23 years of experience in both government service and the private sector.

Prior to her appointment, she was the Sustainability and Contributions Manager of PMFTC Inc., the Philippine affiliate of Philip Morris International (PMI), with 16 years of service in various management capacities looking over corporate, government and regulatory affairs, community and farmer relations, sustainability, contributions, and diversity and inclusion initiatives of the company. She was instrumental in PMI’s decision to locate its regional tobacco warehouse for Asia Pacific in Subic Bay Freeport.

Her stint in the tobacco firm earned her various international awards in the field of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and her work ethic, agility and leadership skills has earned her coveted corporate awards among them the PMI President’s Award in 2005, and the PMI Excellence Award in 2003, 2007 and 2011. She was also an awardee of the PMI Best Contribution Program in 2009 and the PMI Above and Beyond the Call of Duty Award in 2010.

Atty. Eisma is very much at home in SBMA. As a young lawyer, she started her career as the Executive Assistant to the Chairman and member of the Legal Department at the time of the agency’s formation and foundation from 1993 to 1998. During this period, she was also qualified by the Civil Service Executive Board required to hold higher positions in government

She represented SBMA in local judicial courts and oversaw the Housing Department of SBMA in managing negotiation and collection.

She was also a member of the team that successfully negotiated assistance of the World Bank to SBMA including the entry/investment of Federal Express, and various international and local investors resulting to thousands of jobs.

Before joining the private sector, she continued life in the public service as head executive assistant and legal counsel to the majority floor of the House of Representatives, and as chief of staff of the secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry from 2000-2001.

A member of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, she holds a Doctor of Jurisprudence, Ateneo De Manila University, College of Law. She was also a member of the Philippine Delegation, 1989 UNIV Forum in Rome, Italy (RBB.RAV/MPD-SBMA)


[1] SBMA's new administrator Atty. Wilma T. Eisma holds the SBMA flag after it was passed on to her by her predecessor Roberto V. Garcia during the SBMA's flag ceremony Monday (January 16). (AMD/MPD-SBMA)

[2] Administrator Eisma answers questions from the media during her first press briefing. Also attending were the new members of the SBMA Board of Directors. (AMD/MPD-SBMA)

10 January 2017

Eisma, four others take oath as SBMA officials before President Duterte

Lawyer Wilma T. Eisma took her oath of office as administrator of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) before President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in a mass ceremony held in Malacañang Monday (January 9).

Benny Diaz Antiporda, Maria Cecilia Bobadilla Bitare, Tomas Lahom III and Stefani Creer Saño also took their oath as members of the SBMA board of directors.

The SBMA officials were among over 200 appointees who composed the second batch of new government officials sworn in by the president.

Eisma, was appointed by President Duterte as the new SBMA administrator in December 21 last year, replacing Roberto V. Garcia.

Garcia was SBMA administrator from 2011 until his resignation in October last year. He also served as chair of the SBMA board of directors before he was succeeded by Martin Diño.

Prior to her appointment, Eisma was an executive of Philip Morris Phils. Manufacturing, Inc. She was also one of the 8,000 volunteers who initially managed and protected the facilities of the Subic Bay Freeport after the US Navy pulled out of the former US Naval base in 1992. (SNL)


[1] SBMA Administrator Eisma chats with President Duterte as they prepare for a photo shoot along with other newly-sworn government officials. President Duterte administered the oath of office of over 200 appointees composing the second batch of new government officials Monday (January 9). 

[2] President Duterte poses with newly-sworn government officials for a souvenir group photo.

-- photos grabbed from RTVMalacanang on youtube

09 January 2017

LOOK: Subic Bay radio Epiphany Sunday community visit

Residents of Sitio Alibang, Barangay Naugsol in Subic, Zambales benefited from the annual gift giving project of Subic Bay Freeport's radio station DWSB 89.5 FM held over the weekend.

DJ MJ, DJ Jepsz and DJ Elton of 89.5 Subic Bay Radio led the giving of donations to around 100 households, including Aeta indigenous tribal members of Barangay Naugsol Sunday (January 08) morning. The activity was also participated in by donors and several radio communication volunteers.

DWSB 89.5 FM Subic Bay Radio is a public radio facility jointly established by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) and state-run Philippine Broadcasting Service.

Managed by the SBMA Media Production Department (SBMA-MPD), Subic Bay Radio is aimed to serve as a medium that will promote Subic Bay Freeport Zone as an investment and tourism haven, and at the same time provide radio services for the community of Subic Bay Freeport Zone and its contiguous areas (i.e. Olongapo City and the provinces of Bataan and Zambales).

89.5 Subic Bay Radio is heard locally on your FM radio dial, and via internet audio/video streaming at

05 January 2017

Olongapo bans plastic, styrofoam as packaging materials

OLONGAPO CITY - The use and sale of non-biodegradable plastic bags and styrofoam as packaging materials are now prohibited in Olongapo City as part of its efforts to protect the environment and mitigate flooding in the area.

“Plastic bags and styrofoam are among the top trash collected during our yearly citywide cleanup, and is also one of the main reasons why our drainage clogs up. That is why we opt to ban plastic in the city.” Olongapo City Mayor Rolen Paulino said.

He added that it is also the city’s way to help protect and care for the environment.

“Kailangan namin ng tulong na mga residents. Kapag nakita sana nila na gumagamit pa rin ng plastic bags or styro yung tindahan, sabihan na nila, o mag report sa aking opisina," Paulino said.

"Hindi lang naman ang local na pamahalaan ang makikinabang dito, buong Olongapo lalong lalo na ang mga maliiliit na bata na maiiwan natin sa syudad. Lahat tayo dapat maging miyembro ng task force.” He added.

Mayor Paulino also formed a task force composed of selected personnel from the local government to monitor and implement the said ban.

The ban on plastic bags and Styrofoam started January 1, 2017 after a gradual implementation last year.

Under City Ordinance No. 11 Series of 2015, any establishment violating the ban will be fined P1,000 for the first offense, P2,000 for the second offense and P5,000 plus cancellation of its business permit for the third offense.

The gradual prohibition of plastics started in the 3rd quarter of last year allocating every Wednesday as plastic-free day. It was followed by a two-day ban during the 4th quarter of 2016 with Wednesdays and Saturdays allocated as plastic-free days.

The ordinance encourages residents to use recyclable bags, bayongs, eco bags, biodegradable plastic, paper cups and paper food containers as replacement for the banned material.

Mayor Paulino explained that the gradual implementation of the ban last year was done upon the request of businesses as they have already stocked up on plastic bags for their use.

“But now the honeymoon is over, we need to adhere to the law and I am very positive that we can achieve this goal by helping each other.” Paulino said. (SNL)

04 January 2017

Japanese, American warships docked in Subic Bay

Two Japanese warships arrived in Subic Bay Wednesday (January 4) morning, joining five other U.S. navy ships docked in this Freeport since new year's day.

The Murasame-class destroyer JS Inazuma (DD-105) and Akizuki-class destroyer JS Suzutsuki (DD-117) of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) docked at the port of Subic for a three-day visit.

The ships are part of the Escort Division Four, commanded by Captain Atsushi Minami. JS Inazuma is commanded by Cdr. Soichiro Tashiro, while Cdr. Kentaro Nakayama commands the Suzutsuki.

This is the fourth port call of Japanese warships in Subic Bay. Japan's maritime force made its first goodwill visit to the Philippines after 15 years in early April last year with its submarine JS Oyashio (SS-511) and two destroyer ships, the JS Ariake (DD-109) and JS Setogiri (DD-156) docking in Subic Bay, followed by the visit of Hyūga-class helicopter destroyer, JS Ise in late April, 2016.

In the meantime, five U.S. ships docked and welcomed the new year here, to the delight of business establishments and residents in this former US Naval Base.

The USS Pecos, USNS Tippecanoe, USNS Cesar Chavez, USNS Impeccable and USNS Bowditch arrived without much fanfare nor announcement by the US Embassy in Manila.

In Manila, the Russian anti-submarine destroyer Admiral Tributs, along with the sea tanker Boris Butoma, anchored at South Harbor on Tuesday for a week long goodwill visit.

The Philippine Navy welcomed the two Russian warships, coinciding with Manila’s expressed readiness to shift from relying on the US as its sole and dominant partner in the Western Pacific.

The Russian marines are expected to discuss and share tactics to help combat terrorism and piracy in the region. Moscow is also eager to conduct joint military exercises with its Philippines counterparts in the future.

“There will be courtesy calls, tour of historical places within Manila and nearby Cavite province, capability demonstration, goodwill games, wreath laying, shipboard tour and send-off ceremony among others,” Capt. Lued Lincuna, a spokesman for the Philippine Navy, said.

Lincuna also noted that this is the third time a contingent of the Russian Navy has visited the Philippines. But it is the first visit by Russian navy ships since Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office last June. Russian ships docked in the Philippines in May 2016 and in January 2012. (SNL, with reports from Subic Bay News and

[1] The Murasame-class destroyer JS Inazuma approaches the Alava pier of the Subic Bay Freeport in Zambales for a routine port call Wednesday (January 04) morning. Another Japanese warship, the JS Suzutsuki, an Akizuki-class destroyer also docked in this premier industrial port facing the West Philippine Sea for a 3-day port visit. (AMD/MPD-SBMA)

[2] Sailors aboard the US Navy supply ship USNS Cesar Chavez hoist an American flag as the JS Inazuma approaches the Alava pier of Subic Bay Freeport zone in Zambales for a routine port call Wednesday (January 04) morning. (AMD/MPD-SBMA)

Subic Bay News: 5 US Ships Welcome New Year in Subic

29 December 2016

DOTr approves Subic-Manila railway project

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority said Wednesday it secured the green light from the Transportation Department to include a P100-billion elevated railway and expressway project from Subic Freeport to the port of Manila among priority projects.

SBMA chairman Martin Dino said the 100-kilometer multi-modal elevated railway and expressway project would greatly relieve port and traffic congestion in Metro Manila and increase cargo transit in Subic Port, which was currently operating at only a third of its rated capacity of 600,000 twenty-foot equivalent unit containers.

Dino said the construction of the project could be completed in 48 months. He said he would ask for Malacañang’s approval to have the project included for financing under the Philippine-China Framework of Cooperation.

Cargo unloading at the Port of Subic

Dino also said his team was already working on increasing Subic Bay Port’s capacity for new container terminals 3 and 4 by an additional 600,000 TEUs.

He also welcomed the appointment of lawyer Wilma Eisma as SBMA administrator, saying the Freeport now had “an excellent working team.”

“Now we can really move forward at Subic in our goal to raise investments and revenues, eliminate smuggling and stamp out corruption,” Dino said.

Eisma replaced former administrator Roberto Garcia and brought to Subic her wide management experience. She is expected to take over the post next week in what Dino described as “a great start to a new year in our effort to turn Subic into an anchor of national growth.”

This developed as the new win-win tandem vowed to promote Subic as a major alternative gateway for international cargos.

Dino, who was appointed by Malacañang in September, said there were “no more roadblocks to a wide-ranging reform in Subic, because now we can truly say we have an excellent working team.”

He said President Rodrigo Duterte was expected to name the remaining members of the SBMA board, the policy-making body, so the Freeport “can move rapidly and urgently in seeking new investments and building much-needed infrastructure.” (Darwin G. Amojelar, Manila Standard)

LOOK: Eisma named new SBMA administrator

LAWYER Wilma T. Eisma, a former executive of Philip Morris Phils. Manufacturing, Inc., has been appointed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte as the new administrator of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), replacing Roberto V. Garcia, who resigned as both chairman and administrator in October.

In a letter dated Dec. 21, Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea transmitted Ms. Eisma’s appointment letter to SBMA Chairman Martin D. Diño.

The appointment letter read: “By virtue hereof, you may qualify and enter upon the performance of the duties of the office, furnishing this Office and the Civil Service Commission with copies of your oath of office.”

In a separate letter dated Nov. 28, Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra clarified that Mr. Diño is not the SBMA administrator, only chairman of the board of directors.

Mr. Guevarra’s letter was in response to Mr. Diño’s letter on Nov. 21 informing the Office of the President that he has “assumed the functions of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chairman/Administrator pursuant to Republic Act No. 7227.”

“Please be advised that the designation of Atty. Randy B. Escolango as Officer-in-Charge, Office of the Administrator, SBMA, has not been revoked by the Office of the President and thus remains in full force and effect,” Mr. Guevarra said in reply to Mr. Diño.

The SBMA is in charge of the Subic Bay Freeport and Special Economic Zone located inside a former US naval base. (Ian Nicolas P. Cigaral, BusinessWorld)

Atty. Wilma Eisma's official appointment signed by President Duterte (as shared on facebook).

PCGA Gift-Giving Benefits 1,155 SBMA Contractual Workers

SOME 1,155 contract of service (CS) workers of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) were this year’s beneficiary of the annual gift-giving of the Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary (PCGA) 111th Auxiliary Squadron.

SBMA’s CS workers do not receive bonuses, allowances and other benefits, which is why we want to cheer them up a little bit in the spirit of the holiday season,” said PCGA Captain Randy Escolango, Director of the 111th Auxiliary Squadron and OIC SBMA Administrator.

PCGA officers and members attended to the CS employees who trooped to the Subic Gym on Thursday (December 15)  between 4PM to 8PM.

“We started the PCGA 111th Auxiliary Squadron gift-giving last year and we decided to make it an annual event,” Escolango said. “This year, we have more than doubled the number of beneficiaries and with God’s grace, we hope to keep on doing this in the many more years to come, he added. (subicbaynews)

Members of the PCGA 111the Auxiliary Squadron based in Subic Bay distributes 10 kilos of rice each to the more than 1,000 contract of service employees of the SBMA.

23 December 2016

SBMA signs in new investments worth $14.4 million

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) on Wednesday has approved 43 contracts of new investment commitments, as well as renewal of leases for investor-companies, worth some $14.4 million (P720 M).

“SBMA is on its way to another record-breaking year in terms of investment generation,” SBMA OIC Administrator Randy Escolango said during a mass contract-signing ceremony held at the Subic Bay Exhibition and Convention Center.

Escolango added that since the year 2012, SBMA has also sustained record revenue collections that saw the agency rise from a bleeding agency to become a top contributor to the national coffers among Government Owned & Controlled Corporations (OGCC), with accumulated funds of some P4B in the bank.

The new contracts and renewals involved 12 projects under the general business and investment department; two for information and communications technology; 18 for leisure; seven for logistics; and another two for manufacturing and maritime.

The new investments, Escolango said, manifest the continuing confidence of the investor community in the Subic Bay Freeport, pointing out that the SBMA has already approved a total of P111.5-billion worth of investments since January until September this year.

“With a 7% growth in the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) forecast for next year, and with Central Luzon contributing about 10-12% of the GDP, it cannot be denied that the Subic Bay Freeport Zone contributes significantly to national economic growth,” Escolango also said.

According to Ronnie Yambao, OIC Deputy Administrator for the SBMA Business Group, the projected investments to be generated under the 43 new contracts totaled $14,409,443. This is on top of the $728.6 million total that the said firms have initially committed to invest in this free port.

Leading the list of new companies with significant committed investments are Broadband Broadcast Services, Pte. Ltd., with P220 million for a cable and pay television services venture that would employ 88 personnel; and Autokid Subic Trading Corp., which has set aside P25 million for a project that would employ 25 workers.

Meanwhile, companies with substantial commitments for expansion projects include Subic Horizon Hotel, which has set aside P60 million for additional hotel facilities; Royal Duty Free Shops, which allotted P50 million for the renovation of its main store in this free port; and GigaMare Inc., with $204,500 worth of additional investments for its maritime training facility here.

It was the first time in almost six years that the SBMA again conducted a mass contract-signing ceremony for Subic-registered companies.

Rose Baldeo, president of Global Terminals & Development Inc. and chairperson of the Subic Bay Freeport Chamber of Commerce, said the occasion “is a sign that the SBMA is moving forward” despite a recent leadership row in the agency that has reportedly stalled some investor-related business operations.

In response, Yambao assured the business locators here that the SBMA is ready to provide them with “fast, flexible and friendly” service.

SBMA Sr. Deputy Administrator for Support Services Ramon Agregado also assured the agency's unwavering support to locators and its commitment to transparency, citing the recent launch of the one-stop shop and SBMA's continuous ISO and management reforms. (HEE/NBM/MPD-SBMA)

[1] SBMA OIC Administrator Randy Escolango (left) congratulates GigaMare President & CEO Jari Ullakonoja after signing a contract for business expansion during a mass contract-signing ceremony for Subic Freeport investors on Wednesday. (AMD/MPD-SBMA)

[2] SBMA OIC Administrator Randy Escolango (left) signs the contract with an official of Triboa Medtech, Inc., which renewed its lease contract with the SBMA during a mass contract-signing ceremony for Subic Freeport investors on Wednesday. (AMD/MPD-SBMA)

20 December 2016

Subic expects increased port operations with Taiwan-based shipping lines

Port operations in the country’s premier Freeport is expected to experience increased activities as the Government of Taiwan expressed keen interest in forging a partnership with the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).

In a recent visit to the free port, executive officials from Taiwan Maritime and Port Bureau led by Deputy Director General Lee Yuan-Wan manifested to SBMA OIC-Administrator Atty. Randy Escolango the possibility of building a transshipment partnership between Taiwan and Subic Bay.

The partnership aims to increase the volume of container traffic between the Port of Subic Bay and Taiwan Ports, thru Yang Ming Shipping Lines.

In response, Escolango urged the Taiwanese officials to encourage industries in Taichung to use the Port of Subic as their gateway in the region.

The visit of the Taiwanese delegation to the Port of Subic is a result of SBMA’s participation in the 22nd Philippines-Taiwan Joint Economic Conference held on October 27-28 in Taipei, Taiwan.

The "Southbound Policy" of the Government of Taiwan has initiated concrete measures in prioritizing countries south of Taiwan, including the Philippines, in the area of trade and investments.

Due to this paradigm shift, the Philippines is taking advantage of this opportunity to capture the matured growth of industries in Taiwan in the fields of high-value manufacturing, innovation, logistics and transshipment, renewable energy, e-commerce and financing.

Escolango noted that Taiwan is the Philippines' 6th trading partner with US$7.85 billion worth of bilateral trade in 2015.

At present, there are 52 Taiwanese companies in Subic Freeport, mostly inside the Taiwanese-run Subic Bay Gateway Park, with over US$500 million worth of investments generating 12,500 jobs. (RAV/MPD-SBMA)

SBMA Office of the Administrator OIC Atty. Randy Escolango (left) explains the developments at the Port of Subic to visiting Taiwanese maritime officials.

(From left) Escolango, Taiwan Port and Maritime Bureau Deputy Director General Lee Yuan-Wan, Hsu Chia-Chu of International Affairs Planning Division and Maritime Affairs Administration Division Technical Specialist Tu Wen-Yun.

19 December 2016

SBMA proposes 100-km coastal road

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority asked the government to build a multi-modal 100-kilometer coastal highway from Subic Bay to the Port of Manila to help decongest traffic in the metropolis at a cost of P100 billion.

The “most viable and doable solution to the traffic congestion lies outside the metropolis,” Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority chairman Martin Dino said.

He said the project’s indicative cost “is the equivalent of only 34 days of cumulative business losses resulting from Manila’s traffic congestion.” The country is losing an estimated P3 billion a day from the traffic mess.

Construction could be completed in 48 months, he said.

Dino said he would ask for Malacañang’s approval to have it included for financing under the Philippine-China Framework of Cooperation.

“Many economic and social forces are now at play and our rapid and efficient response is critical to creating the environment conducive to promoting further growth and development,” Dino said.

“The economic benefits from the project would be immediate and enormous,” he said. (Darwin G. Amojelar, Manila Standard)

China seizes US naval probe off Subic Bay, vows to return the device

WASHINGTON - China "unlawfully" seized an unmanned US naval probe in international waters in the South China Sea, the Pentagon said Friday, a move sure to heighten tensions around Beijing's military presence in the disputed area.

The underwater vehicle was taken around 50 nautical miles (90 kilometers) northwest off Subic Bay in the Philippines late Thursday in a non-violent incident, said Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman.

The research and survey vessel USNS Bowditch

The event unfolded as the civilian-crewed USNS Bowditch was retrieving a pair of "naval gliders" that routinely collect information on water temperatures, salinity and sea clarity.

A Chinese Dalang-III class submarine rescue ship then stopped within 500 yards (meters) of the Bowditch and snatched one of the probes. The Americans safely hoisted the other one back onto their ship.

Davis said he could not recall another time when something like this has happened, and the Pentagon issued a statement calling on Beijing to "immediately" return the probe that it had "unlawfully seized."

The US personnel "were asking over bridge-to-bridge radio to please leave it there," Davis said.

Other than a brief acknowledgment that it had received the message, the Chinese ship did not respond.

"The only thing they said after they were sailing off into the distance was: 'We are returning to normal operations,'" Davis said.

Washington has issued a formal request through diplomatic channels to ask for the probe back.

"It is ours. It is clearly marked as ours. We would like it back, and we would like this not to happen again," Davis said.

Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said China had acted unlawfully.

"The UUV (unmanned underwater vehicle) is a sovereign immune vessel of the United States. We call upon China to return our UUV immediately, and to comply with all of its obligations under international law," Cook said in a statement.


Davis said the seized vessel is off-the-shelf technology that is commercially available for about $150,000. Data it gathers are unclassified and can be used to help submarines navigate and determine sonar ranges in murky waters.

The incident comes as President-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly infuriated Beijing, by questioning longstanding US policy on Taiwan, calling Beijing a currency manipulator and threatening Chinese imports with punitive tariffs.

"This was very likely a highly planned and escalatory move to show China will not take matters lightly when it comes to" Trump, said Harry Kazianis, the director of defense studies at the conservative Center for the National Interest.

"Beijing is showing it has the capability to respond in a time and place of its choosing."

Unless it is prepared to ramp up regional tensions, Washington has few options except to ask for the underwater vehicle back.

Senior Republican Senator John McCain said the United States should not tolerate "such outrageous conduct."

"This brazen provocation fits a pattern of increasingly destabilizing Chinese behavior, including bullying its neighbors and militarizing the South China Sea," McCain said.

"This behavior will continue until it is met with a strong and determined US response, which until now the Obama administration has failed to provide."

The incident comes amid broader tensions in the South China Sea, where China has moved to fortify its claims to the region by building out tiny reefs and islets into much larger artificial islands.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam have competing claims in the South China Sea, which is laced with the world's most heavily traveled international trade routes.

While the United States takes no position on sovereignty claims in the South China Sea, it has repeatedly stressed all maritime claims must comply with international law.

The US military has conducted several "freedom of navigation" operations in which ships and planes have passed close to the sites Beijing claims.

Such missions have provoked angry rebukes from China, which accuses Washington of provocation and increasing the risk of a military mishap.

The USNS Bowditch is a research and survey vessel, and does not look like a warship.


Meantime, Beijing on Saturday slammed the US for "hyping" up its seizure of a naval probe in the South China Sea, amid escalating tensions between the two countries.

China's defence ministry said it would give back the device "in an appropriate manner", without giving details of the handover.

"The hyping up from the American side is inappropriate and unhelpful to the swift resolution of the problem," the ministry said.

China said it "strongly opposed" US reconnaissance activities and had asked Washington to stop them.

"The Chinese side will take the necessary steps in response," the statement added. (Thomas Watkins, Agence France-Presse)

17 December 2016

SBMA Board of Directors first meeting under Duterte Administration set

The Board of Directors of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) is set to convene ahead of the holidays to take action on the growing number of business transactions that needed to be reviewed by the body.

The board meeting, the first since the start of the administration of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, will be led by Chairman Martin Diño, with OIC, Office of the Administrator Randy Escolango as vice-chair.

Expected to attend the meeting are the new appointees to the SBMA Board, Benny Antiporda and Stefani Saño, as well as directors who are on a holdover capacity: Joven Reyes, Alfonso SP Siapno, Benjamin Antonio III, Cynthia Paulino, Ramon Diez Sesdoryo, Gerald Sam Del Rosario, Raul Marcelo and Philip Camara.

Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra has also been invited to the meeting as an observer from the Office of the President to the SBMA Board of Directors.

The SBMA Board of Directors has not met since outgoing SBMA Chairman and Administrator Roberto Garcia turned over the helm of the agency to now SBMA Chairman Diño on October 3.

Escolango said that he sees the urgency to convene the SBMA Board due to numerous pending matters that require immediate attention and action of the Board.

Escolango said the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC), in response to his letter seeking clarification over the status of the agency's Board, clarified that SBMA can convene its Board of Directors, whose members with terms that have expired may continue to perform in hold-over capacity.

“SBMA directors whose term expired and/or resignations are not yet acted upon or their successors have yet to be appointed, may continue in office in hold-over capacity,” Deputy Government Corporate Counsel Elpidio Vega said in Opinion 193 Series of 2016 released by the OGCC recently.

In the said opinion, the OGCC also clarified that while Diño is chairman of the SBMA Board, Escolango as OIC administrator is also the OIC vice-chair of the SBMA Board.

"Atty. Escolango’s designation as OIC Administrator automatically carries with it his assumption as OIC Vice Chairman of the SBMA Board under EO 340 series of 2004,” Vega said.

Vega, also noted that the OIC administrator by virtue of his office shall be the OIC Vice Chairman of the SBMA Board of Directors and he is expected to discharge and to function as SBMA’s OIC Administrator and Vice Chairman.

Earlier, the Office of the President reaffirmed the designation of Atty. Escolango as OIC-Administrator of SBMA last October 19, while Diño as Chairman of the SBMA Board of Directors. (RAV/MPD-SBMA)

13 December 2016

LOOK: New bale of baby turtles released

Children watched with thrill as they released the first bale of Olive Ridley baby turtles, which is part of around 200 hatchlings at All Hands Beach Resort in Subic Bay Freeport Saturday (Dec. 10).

The releasing of hatchlings has been attracting tourists to Subic Bay as visitors are given the opportunity to participate in preserving this highly endangered turtle species.

The All Hands Beach regularly hosts turtles on its shores and the owner of the beach has ensured that they return to their nesting ground without being “disoriented” and the eggs laid will be protected until they hatch and are ready to make their trip to the open sea. (AMD/MPD-SBMA)