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27 December 2008

SBMA approves new investments worth $87.6-M

While financial slowdown has affected the global economy, this free port continues to welcome into its fold both foreign and local investors bullish about business potentials in this premier commercial, industrial and tourism center.

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) signed contracts with 34 locator companies that committed a total of US$87.63 million in fresh investments.

SBMA Chairman Feliciano Salonga and Administrator Armand Arreza, who signed the new business contracts at the Subic Bay Gateway Park here, said the fresh capital infusions were for 28 new projects and four expansion programs.

The newly-approved investments will generate about 1,000 new jobs once operational.

"This is a very challenging time that we face, but despite negative news in the financial market, the SBMA continues to be optimistic as it continues to make the entire Subic Freeport more competitive," Arreza said.

"By continuously upgrading our facilities and infrastructure, which are very critical in the growth of every business, we make Subic a better and more effective investment haven," he added.

Leading the new batch of investors in terms of committed investments is Puregold Duty Free, which will start a $50-million expansion program for its duty-free retailing business in Subic.

Next are Sultan Ahmed Lootah Enterprise Corp., which is infusing $6.72 million for its corrugated cartons and duplex boards manufacturing plant; Pacific Ocean Underwater Solutions, Corp. ($5 million), which will provide various underwater services like repair and construction, salvaging and photography, as well as purifying and maintaining fishing fields; and Samahophir Corp. (also $5 million) for the manufacture, fabrication, installation, and repair of big doors for Hanjin projects.

Other new players in the manufacturing area are: Cheongwa Subic, Corp., which is investing $4.312 million in the manufacturing, import/export, assembly and fabrication of steel frames related to shipbuilding; Australasia Marine Alliance Corp. ($2.32 million), manufacturing of boats and other marine–related products and components; TECO Phils 3C and Appliances, Inc. ($1 million), for the importation and exportation of home appliances; and Ixion Corp., $800,000, for the importation and distribution of petroleum products.

In the tourism-related sector, several companies have signed in to engage in the operation and construction of leisure and recreational establishments: Magspeak, Inc., $1.1 million; World HDGD, $1.1 million; Janburlai Corp., $800,000; Freeport Skyworld, Inc., $640,000; and Molawinville Corp., $500,000.

In the warehousing and storage sector, the MSK Group Work Inc. will infuse $2.85 million, while Ocean Coast Shipping, Inc, will bring in $350,000 for a business in bunkering, brokerage, and other port services.

Arreza said the Subic Bay Freeport is now home to about 1,200 companies employing more than 85,000 workers. Total committed investments by these businesses have reached $6 billion.

"We are hoping to further increase these figures by the end of this year. With these new investments, we are very confident that Subic will reach new record levels," he said.

Meanwhile, Lawrence Lusung of the Bank of Commerce, which has also signed in as a new locator, said Subic is "one of the most dynamic places for business in the country."

"Bank of Commerce believes that for a bank to become one of the top financial institutions in the country, it must have a place here in Subic where great opportunities await every investor," Lusung said.

Pateek Tiwari of ED & F Commodities Phils., Inc., which will engage in the warehousing and storage of bio-fuels and other liquid products, meanwhile said the investor-friendly policies of the SBMA remains to be the main attraction of Subic. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

21 December 2008

Environmentalism in action, not words: Subic locator turns over 'Adopt-a-Forest' project

A Japanese business locator in this free port has turned over to the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) another reforestation project planted mostly with mahogany and narra trees, proving again the continuing commitment to the environment of members of the Subic community.

NIdec Subic Phils., a manufacturer of micro-motors and computer peripherals, "adopted" the 1,000-square meter grassland in 2005, planted it with various trees, and maintained the forest for the past three years under the SBMA's "Adopt-a-Forest" program.

The turnover last Thursday marked the end of Nidec's "adoption" contract, when the trees planted by company employees are deemed to be old enough to be able to survive.

"Three years ago, I was here with my co-workers to plant these trees," recalled Renz Victoria, Nidec plant section manager.

"The time had passed so quickly and now you can see that the seedlings we planted have grown healthy and strong," he proudly noted.

"You can be assured that Nidec will always support and participate in this kind of program that guarantees a better future for our children," Victoria told SBMA Chairman Feliciano Salonga and SBMA Ecology Center manager Amethy dela Llana-Koval during the turnover.

Nidec, which is among the most environment-conscious companies in the Subic Bay Freeport, was among the first investor-companies that joined the "Adopt-a-Forest" program in 2005.

Its adopted forest lies about a kilometer's walk away from the road going to the Aeta village of Pastolan, which is located on the slopes of Mt. Sta.. Rita.

Scattered in nearby slopes are the reforestation areas being maintained by other Subic locators like Subic Power, Subic Bay Press Corp, Wimpy's, Morong Jeepney, and Vision Air.

Community groups and civic organizations like the Rotary club of Olongapo City and the Subic Bay Press Corps also have adopted reforestation projects, which are to be turned over soon to the SBMA.

Like the other adoptive groups, Nidec planted and maintained the area using its own manpower and resources, assisted only by the Pastolan Forest Conservation Group. The Pastolan group is composed of Aeta workers from the SBMA Ecology Center, who help out with reforestation projects near their upland community.

Some members of the Pastolan group had intercropped papaya and banana with trees like mango, thus also providing income to the Subic natives.

Chairman Salonga said during the turnover that the participation of various locators and community groups in the SBMA reforestation program is a concrete example of the environmental commitment of various stakeholders in the Subic Bay Freeport.

"You probably have heard recent accusations that the SBMA and the Subic community in general don't care much about trees," Salonga told Nidec employees and Aeta tribesmen present in the simple turnover rites.

"Well, here is our response. Here is our concrete response to all the criticisms — that Subic's brand of environmentalism consists of actions, and not words alone," Salonga added.

Ecology Center's Koval, meanwhile, said that some 20,000 seedlings are planted each year in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone through the "Adopt-a-Forest" program and the agency's annual tree-planting projects.

Moreover, Koval said, the SBMA is "exporting" tree seedlings to various groups in the nearby communities who undertake reforestation projects. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

Photo Caption: BOUNTY FROM THE LAND: NIdec plant manager Renz Victoria (left) presents fruits harvested from the company's reforestation site to (left-right): SBMA Chairman Feliciano Salonga, Pastolan Aeta leader Florentino Bonifacio, and SBMA Ecology Center manager Amethya dela Llana-Koval.

19 December 2008

NGO says reforestation a better option for Subic trees

An environmental group said it would be "wiser" to opt for reforestation and other environmental protection activities instead of spending too much for the relocation of the "mostly diseased trees" that will be affected by the US$120-million hotel-casino project here of Korean firm Grand Utopia, Inc.

Kanlungan Development Association of Innovators, Inc., a non-government organization composed mostly of professors from the University of the Philippines in Los Baños (UPLB), stressed during a media tour of the project site that reforestation would be the better option.

This conclusion was reached, said professor Pastor Malabrigo who is Kanlungan team leader, after a three-week study of the project site for the proposed Ocean 9 Casino and Hotel Resort in this free port's central business district.

"Kanlungan's Initial Environmental Examination Report (IEER) for the hotel-casino project recommended the replacement of 161 diseased trees, the relocation of 70 healthy ones, and the retention of 51 others, which will not be affected by the development," said Malabrigo.

"Using a replacement ratio of 50 seedlings for every tree to be replaced, Grand Utopia should produce a total of 8,050 seedlings, which is enough to reforest an eight-hectare area with the recommended spacing of 3 meters x 3 meters," he added.

The SBMA Ecology Center has already identified the Pastolan area at the east side of the Subic Bay Freeport as a viable reforestation area, it was learned.

Malabrigo said people should look at the prospects of an eight-hectare reforested land "versus the pitiful condition of the mostly defective trees in the project site."

He added that the area, which served as a mini-golf course during the US Navy days, has become unsuitable for tree growth, with the concreted gold links causing the development of "very disturbed root systems."

The trees, as a result, eventually developed various diseases such as rotting. He added, however, that "these are very common species" like atis, langka, and guava, among others, which can be easily replaced with prime, even endangered, ones.

"Our company policy is to protect the environment, but we should also balance this with development and economic gains," Malabrigo said.

He also explained that the cost of tree-balling ranges from P100,000 to P200,000 per tree, depending on its size, while reforestation costs about P70,000 per hectare per year.

"Considering the very tedious process of balling and transplanting, the relocation will subject the trees to a lot of stress that unhealthy trees won't be able to withstand," Malabrigo said.

"Rather than spending too much for relocation of trees whose survival is really uncertain, the SBMA Ecology Center might as well ask the proponent to allocate resources for other environmental restoration and restoration activities," he said.

Kanlungan has identified 235 trees and 47 palms in the project site, as opposed to 336 trees (including palm species) as inventoried by the SBMA Ecology Center.

The discrepancy in the figures, Malabrigo explained, was due to the fact that each sprouting pole of the palm specie Palmera was counted as an individual tree, when they should have been counted as individual clusters.

"Palms are not trees, and should be differentiated in reports," Malabrigo pointed out.

He said that of the 48 tree species found in the area, only two are classified as "endangered" — ipil and narra, and one palm specie is "endangered" — the Manila palm..

Malabrigo, however, clarified that the term "endangered" means the population is threatened "in the wilds only."

"This does not necessarily mean that they are in the brink of extinction," he said.

Malabrigo said the two ipil trees will not be affected by the development and will be retained, along with five of the 18 Manila palms, while only one of the 13 narra trees is set to be transplanted. The rest will find their way into urban landscaping for the hotel-casino project.

Malabrigo also corrected the notion that the project site is densely stocked with trees, as previously described in previous media reports.


He said the project site has a tree density of less than three trees per 200 sq. meters, and thus "cannot be considered as dense since it falls short of the standard of one tree per 2 sq. meters."

Kanlungan, which has been tapped by Grand Utopia to undertake an environmental assessment of the project site, is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and holds office inside the UP Los Baños campus. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

Photo Caption: Prof. Pastor Malabrigo (center), of the University of the Philippines in Los Baños (UPLB), explains to the media that replacement is the better option for trees affected by a proposed hotel-casino project in the Subic Bay Freeport. The conclusion is based on findings of a tree-week study by the non-government organization.

ICTSI Subic terminal rolls out new gate system

International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI), subsidiary Subic Bay International Terminal Corp. (SBITC) rolled out recently a new software that would boost operational efficiency at the gates of the Subic Bay Freeport’s new container terminal.

ICTSI developed in-house the GTSGates gate module, which is part of the terminal’s existing Graphical Tracking System (GTS) for SBITC.

It automatically generates container yard locations for trucks entering the terminal and can process multiple movements of containers, both import and export, during any truck visit and is linked to GTS’ yard allocation module.

The gate module also allows SBITC to utilize multiple lanes of the terminal gate, which can be switched functionally at anytime according to the flow of traffic.

A truck instruction document (TID), which has the container yard location, may be printed and issued to a truck driver as well as an equipment interchange receipt (EIR), a document containing the transfer of container from one carrier to another, upon gate out.

GTS is an application suite for container terminals. GTS planning uses high resolution color graphic workstations with Windows interface to support interactive, real-time modules for planning and monitoring of container terminal movements.

All planning and control functions for the yard or vessel operations are carried out on the GTS graphical planning screen. Ancillary support programs are used for gate processing, movement updates and master data updates.

These modules, when used together, facilitate management of vessel and yard planning and controller functions in the terminalAside from procuring the best terminal operations systems and software available in the market, ICTSI develops in-house software and systems tailor-fit to the specifications and requirements of its Philippine and international terminals.

ICTSI is a leading developer of international ports and terminals with a global port network spanning 13 countries. It is on its 20th year of operation and continues to pursue container terminal opportunities around the world. (scs/PFN - PNA)

NGO backs $120-million hotel-casino in Subic

Out of 282 trees at the site where the $120-million casino-hotel will be located there is one Narra tree, said Kanlungan, a nongovernment organization based in Los Baños.

Kanlungan composed of professors from University of the Philippines- Los Baños (UPLB) was tapped by Grand Utopia to conduct an initial environmental examination report for the casino hotel project in Subic.

“In our report we only found 282 trees most of them fruit bearing trees which are common,” Professor Pastor Malabrigo told The Manila Times in an interview during the site visit with media.

Contrary to the claims of Urban Planner Felino Palafox that century old trees would be cut to make way for casino-hotel project, Malabrigo said that “mahirap masabi na century old tree dahil wala tayo basihan [it would be difficult to say century old trees since there is no basis for the statement].”

He added that in their recommendation to the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA)ecology center, 51 trees would be retained, 70 trees would be bowled and 161 would be replaced or cut.He said that their decision to cut the trees is based on their health.

“Eight hectares of reforestation against the area is definitely much better,” Malabrigo said.“Only one Narra would be bowled and the rest are mostly common trees, it would cost around P100, 000.00 to P200, 000.00 depending on the size of the tree,” he added.

He explained that they have identified an area in Pastolan for the location of the reforestation; the ratio according to Malabrigo is 50 seedlings for each tree that would be cut. “We have already submitted the report to the ecology center for their review,” Malabrigo said.

Grand Utopia Inc., Executive Managing Director Louis Jong-Moon Choi in an interview with The Manila Times said that they are still waiting for the recommendation from the ecology center of SBMA before they can move and start operation on the site.

We will follow the decision of the Ecology Center, we don’t want to destroy the environment and we will follow Philippine laws,” Choi said.“I consider Palafox as one of the best architects in the Philippines and that is why we are surprise and curious why he is making such statements,” he added. (Anthony Bayarong, Manila Times)

18 December 2008

Construction of $1.1-B Power plant to start

Aboitiz Power Corp. and Taiwan Cogeneration Corp. (TCC) will start construction of their $1.1-billion power plant in Subic, Zambales, by the middle of next year as the proponents believe the global crisis has actually made the project more viable.

Brian Hsu, president of TCC, said the economic slowdown has started to pull down both the financing rates and the cost of raw materials like coal, thus creating more opportunities for projects like this if the proponents could raise the capital.

"The costs are now going down, whereas a few years ago they were so high. So we are thinking of starting construction by the second half of next year," Hsu told Manila-based reporters in TCC€'s office here.

Aboitiz and TCC are now working on the contract for a 50-50 partnership for the RP Energy Redondo Peninsula Energy Inc. project in Subic.

Hsu said commercial operation is expected to start by 2012. The plant's output will be sold to the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market.

The first phase of the project involves the investment of $550 million in the construction of a plant with a rated capacity of 300 megawatts. The second phase will also entail the same amount of investments and power output.

Hsu said the partners are now working on the government licenses required, as well as the financing agreements with Philippine and Taiwanese banks.

He said the target is to secure $200 million in loans from Philippine banks and another $200 million from the financial institutions in Taiwan. The rest of the capital requirements will come from the coffers of the two proponents.

Hsu said more investors may be admitted in the future, probably after the start of the commercial operation, and there are already several companies that have expressed interest to come in.

"Right now we are going into the construction stage, and it would be easier if there are only two companies involved,"he said.

Hsu said the circulating fluidized bed technology they will use for the power plant would make the generation cost cheaper because they can use low-grade coal and even waste materials as fuel.

Another opportunity that Aboitiz and TCC are looking at, he said, is to develop a pool of talents that will undertake similar projects in other countries using the expertise that they will gain in the Subic Bay venture.

"We know that there are lots of Filipino engineers that are good, and their rates are very competitive," he said. (Max de Leon, Business Mirror)

Civil Service cites 17 SBMA law enforcers

Employees of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) again proved that they are a breed apart, as the Civil Service Commission (CSC) honored 17 SBMA law enforcement officers who played a part in the discovery and seizure of more than P2-billion worth of contrabands inside the free port recently.

Three SBMA security officers received the CSC's "Gantimpala Agad" Award, while 14 others were given commendations on Monday by Director Cristina Gonzales of the CSC Zambales Provincial Field Office.

Wilfredo Agnazata Sr., Ariel Arabe, and Diosdado Ednave, all employed as security guard 3 by the SBMA Law Enforcement Department, received the "Gantimpala Award" — the reward component of the "Mamamayan Muna, Hindi Mamaya Na" program of the CSC.

SBMA deputy administrators Robert Martinez (administration) and Raul Marcelo (tourism) assisted Gonzales in handing out to the security officers the special "Gantimpala Agad" pins, Philippine Flag pins, and certificates of recognition from the CSC.

In the same occasion, 14 other security officers and guards received letters of commendation for their efforts in follow-up operations leading to the seizure of contrabands.

They are: Security Officer 5 (SO5) Vicente Tolentino and SO5 Fernando Aquino; SO4 Rolando Cepe; SO3s Alfred Jose, Aris Atienza, Benjamin Macanas; SG3s Mario Sigua, Jaime Jimenez, Romeo Agato Jr., and Romeo Reyes; SG2 Ronel Salvador, and SO1 Ceferino Abadia.

CSC's Gonzales also noted the important role played by SBMA security guards Ricardo Malig and Edwin Penticostes in the said police operation, but added that the CSC could not give them the "Gantimpala Agad" award since they are hired under contract of service.

"Malig and Penticostes are outside the coverage of the said award, but have played important roles in the said police operation. They would have earned the same recognition or award if not for the constraint brought by their employment status," Gonzales explained.

The 17 SBMA personnel received the CSC citations through the recommendation of SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza.

In a letter to CSC-Region 3 director Karin Litz-Zerna, Arreza said the SBMA law enforcement officers "sufficiently demonstrated the honesty and dedication to their duty, as well as the high esteem accorded to them by our locators."

Last Monday's awarding marked the second time this year that SBMA employees received citations from the Civil Service Commission.

On September 19, SBMA SO3 Joel Viray became one of the recipients of the CSC's "Pagasa Award", which was handed out by President Glorai Macapagal-Arroyo during the celebration of the 108th foundation day of the Civil Service Commission.

The Pagasa award is given by the CSC to government employees or group of employees, who have contributed an exceptional idea or excellent performance that significantly benefited their respective government agency. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

Photo Caption: GANTIMPALA AGAD AWARDEES: Zambales CSC Director Cristina Gonzales presents the 17 SBMA security officers who were instrumental in the recent discovery and seizure of contrabands inside the Subic Bay Freeport. Three of the officers were given the CSC "Gantimpala Agad" award, while 14 others were commended by the agency.

Subic Freeport eyes incentive travel market, hosts 8th confab on incentive marketing

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) is clearly on the move to capture a larger share of the growing outbound tourist market worldwide with its aggressive tourism promotion program and the continuous development of tourism facilities in this free port.

SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza said Subic's tourism thrust will be boosted further when the free port hosts the 8th Philippine Incentive Marketing Conference (PIMC) this April.

"This is an event institutionalized in 1994 by the Department of Tourism (DOT), the Philippine Convention and Visitors Corporation (PCVC), and the Movement of Incentive Travel Executives (MITE) to continually upgrade the standards and quality of services of existing tourism facilities and services in the country," explained Arreza.

"We intend to leverage our hosting of this event to broaden our networking with tour operators, incentive travel organizers, and other stakeholders in the tourism industry, which continues to display strength despite global economic slowdown," he said.

Arreza added that the Subic Bay Freeport also continues to make headway in tourism due to the increasing number of facilities here for leisure, entertainment, adventure and sports tourism, as well as convention and exhibition.

Figures from the SBMA Tourism Department indicate that the number of foreign and local tourists increased considerably over the last two years.

Foreign visitors numbered 41,366 in 2007, but the total as of November this year already reached 52,277. The number of local tourists, meanwhile, grew from 1,009,609 last year to 2,225,540 as of this November.

Arreza said that with the hosting of the coming conference on incentive travel, "Subic hopes to solidify its position in the growing meetings, incentives, convention and exhibition (MICE) market."

SBMA deputy administrator for tourism Raul Marcelo, meanwhile, said that the PIMC could provide a big difference in marketing Philippine tourism attractions to catch up with major players in the business.

He said that while Singapore has recorded 33 million tourists as of October 2008 and Dubai is looking at 200 million before the year ends, the Philippines has only recorded 3.3 million so far this year.

"It is evident that the Philippines has much more to offer compared to these countries, and yet, we are lagging behind. It is hoped that the PIMC would help advance Philippine tourism to beter standing," said Marcelo.

Marcelo pointed out that the PIMC strives to promote the country as an ideal tourism, convention and incentive destination through educational programs aimed at professionalizing the local incentive travel industry. This involves providing comprehensive information, technical assistance, and guidance to meeting planners and incentive travel organizers, who seek an ideal venue for their meetings and incentive groups.

He added that PICM organizers "have chosen the right venue for the next conference, as they could learn much here in Subic."

About 300 participants will be invited to the 8th PMIC, which is an immediate follow-up event to the 7th PMIC held in Batangas on November 27-30.

Marcelo said participants in the recent conference "got a good taste of Subic" when the SBMA hosted a safari-themed farewell lunch to cap the event.

"Food was served in bamboo — the Subic Aeta way— and that has got everyone excited," said Marcelo. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

Photo Caption: Foreign tourists try out indigenous Aeta dance steps during a visit to the Subic Bay Freeport.

13 December 2008

Subic container terminal bidding set for February

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) is all set to bid out the second phase of the New Container Terminal (NCT-2) in this free port in February next year, pending the completion of advertising requirements to formally start the bidding process.

The agency announced earlier that it is inviting shipping lines and port operators to bid for the operation and management of NCT-2, which has a cargo-handling capacity of 300,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs).

However, SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza clarified on Friday that the Port Commercialization project would have to wait until after formal bidding notices are published in international and national publications.

"This requirement somewhat deferred the bidding process, but this is necessary because we want to ensure that international players are duly informed so that they could participate," Arreza said.

"We're going to announce as soon as possible when bid documents would be available. Most probably, that will be by February next year," he added.

According to the SBMA Project Management Office, which was supposed to hand out bid documents to interested parties starting December 9, it has received a lot of inquiries from foreign embassies and global port operators after news on the NCT-2 bidding came out.

"This is very good news to the SBMA, but regrettably the bidders would have to wait awhile until the Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC) for Port Commercialization completes this particular requirement," Arreza said.

The NCT-2 has 14 hectares of newly constructed container yard, a 280-meter long newly constructed wharf, two units of 53-ton quay gantry cranes, as well as related buildings and equipment.

The contract for the NCT-2 operation and management (O&M) would be effective for a period of 25 years, with an option to renew the agreement for another 25 years. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

Solon urges congress to probe US$120-M hotel-casino project in Subic

QUEZON CITY-- A party list representative urged congress to fully investigate the "irresponsible accusations" made by renowned architect and urban planner Felino Palafox, Jr. against the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, even as she questioned Palafox' motives in "raising hell and high water" over the Grand Utopia project vis-a-vis his recommendation to transfer it to another project he designed in the Freeport.

In a privilege speech, Rep. Carissa Coscolluela called for a thorough congressional inquiry to clear the issues muddled in the "web of lies conveniently spun around a completely unrelated issue - an environmental advocacy campaign to save some trees in order to attract media attention and generate political and public support for the transfer of the resort project."

The congresswoman said she was "perplexed by the indiscriminate, arbitrary and irresponsible way that accusations have been hurled against the SBMA," - starting from the alleged cutting of trees at the site of the $120 million hotel casino project to accusations of extortion that Palafox alleged to have led to his disqualification from an earlier project - the redesign of the master plan for the Freeport's development.

"Since an outstanding member of the business community has made accusations against a government agency and its agents, let us fully investigate the matter so that truth may come out and those who might be found guilty can be punished and the innocent be spared," Coscolluela said in her privilege speech on Tuesday.

She cited the ever-changing statements Palafox and his spokespersons have been feeding to members of the media, which she said was unfair to SBMA.

"The reputation of the SBMA and its agents, including a nine-year old boy, was besmirched. They have been unfairly crucified in the court of public opinion in this trial by innuendo," said Coscolluela.

Palafox first claimed that his firm was disqualified from the master plan project's bidding since he did not come up with the 18% (of the contract price) allegedly demanded by a member of the SBMA Bids and Awards Committee (BAC).

Yet, Coscolluela stressed, records of the SBMA BAC clearly show that Palafox Associates was never disqualified from the bidding process as reported in the news, but was in fact among the final three firms short listed, added Coscolluela.

"Palafox Associates lost after all respective proposals of all qualified bidders were ranked in accordance with the set of criteria formulated under the Terms of Reference governing the bidding of the project," she revealed.

Coscolluela noted that Palafox subsequently said that his associate told him it was the son of SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza who was behind the extortion attempt - who was only nine years old at that time.

She added that Palafox later backtracked and said it could not have been instigated by Arreza or his son.

"Their (Palafox's camp) stories change everyday," said Coscolluela.

On Tuesday, she said a radio commentator revealed that sources close to Palafox identified the person behind the extortion attempt as a member of the SBMA Board of Directors named Boy Coscolluela.

"There is only one Coscolluela on the SBMA Board-- my father. He never spoke to Palafox or his associates about this project, and his name is not even 'Boy'," she said.

"Palafox and his cohorts cannot even get their lies straight," she added.

"To this day, Palafox hides behind all these people who speak for him and has not been man enough to name the alleged extortionist," she said.

The congresswoman reiterated that the matter must be brought to congress to set the record straight once and for all.

Meanwhile, Arreza said Palafox cannot accuse him of any environmental violations.

"We have made it clear that not one tree has been, or will be cut," said Arreza, explaining that the SBMA directive to project proponent Grand Utopia Inc. is to either incorporate the trees in the development plan, or ball and then relocate them.

Arreza wonders how Palafox has come up with the idea that centuries-old and heritage trees are in the area which, during the 50's until the early 60's, was reclaimed by the US Navy for leisure purposes, particularly as a mini-golf course.

Of the 336 trees in the area, 118 are considered as ornamental. More than half of the total have diameters less than 20 centimeters and are considered as saplings, Arreza said.

He clarified that the term 'urban jungle' is inappropriate, since the area, which was zoned for resort development as early as 1996, lies in the Central Business District, and is actually adjacent to SBMA offices.

"The Central Business District is where you would normally find entertainment structures like the proposed Ocean 9 Resort-Hotel," Arreza said. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

SBMA prefers shipping lines to operate NCT-2

SHIPPING lines are the players preferred in the privatization of the second container terminal in Subic as cargo volume would be an issue that needs to be addressed at the earliest possible time, according to the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).

SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza said his office is looking for a shipping line that would make Subic’s New Container Terminal 2 (NCT-2) its operations hub than award it to International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI), for example, a company that already operates the first terminal.

Arreza said a shipping line could guarantee to a large extent volume through the port it has cargo vessels, unlike a port operator that could only market the facilities to shipping firms.

“We hope that big liners participate and make NCT-2 its Southeast Asian hub where they will consolidate cargo rather than go elsewhere like Hong Kong, which is so expensive,” Arreza said.

He added, however, the SBMA would not prevent ICTSI from joining the bidding for NCT-2. ICTSI subsidiary Subic Bay International Terminal Corp. won the management and operations contract for NCT-1.

The facility could handle up to 350,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) of cargo per year.

Even if ICTSI should win and monopolize Subic’s container terminals, the company still needs to create volume to recoup the expenses it would incur in operating and managing the new container terminal.

The Razon-controlled firm pays SBMA about P100 million a year to manage and operate NCT-1. Should ICTSI win in the NCT-2 bidding, it would have to pay P200 million a year, Arreza said.

NCT-2 is being eyed as a transshipment hub for shipping lines and has a handling capacity of 300,000 TEUs a year expandable to 600,000 TEUs. It has a potential revenue of about $6 million a year, including wharfage fees.

The management and operations contract for NCT-2 is 25 years, renewable for another 25 years.The government has invested $80 million for NCT-2 in the form of a loan from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation. (VG Cabuag, Business Mirror)

10 December 2008

Hanjin launches 2 more vessels in Subic Freeport

South Korean shipbuilder Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Co.-Philippines (HHIC-Phil) announced that it has launched two new vessels last week, the third and the fourth container ships it has built at its $1.6-billion shipyard here.

Pyeong Jong Yu, deputy managing director of HHIC-Phil, said the two vessels were launched from HHIC-Phil's dry dock # 5 on December 4.

The ships will be named Opal and Topaz, respectively, and will be delivered also to the Greek shipping firm Dioryx Maritime Corp., which has ordered the first six vessels scheduled for production at Hanjin's Subic shipyard.

The launching of Opal and Topaz at one time "is the first event not only for HHIC-Phil but for the Philippine shipbuilding history," Yu said in statement.

"True to our word, we have finished building these two 4,300-TEU container vessels within six-and-a-half months without compromising required high quality, starting from their keel laying works done last May 15, 2008," Yu added.

He also said that the achievement was made possible with the use of "up-to-date technology, state-of–the-art equipment, weather-proof dock shelter that enables working during rainy season, hardworking attitudes of our employees, systematic training at Skill Development Center that is deemed largest in the world, actual work-training in the shipyard thereafter, and the size of dry dock # 5, where four vessels can be simultaneously built together."

Yu also said that the company's "real secret in the successful completion of the ships is the ever-increasing number of skilled Filipino workers employed at our shipyard."

He said that more than 15,000 workers are now employed at the Hanjin shipyard in Subic's Redondo Peninsula.

"Certainly, our company expects to achieve its goal of launching more than 15 vessels next year as the workers will surely become better familiarized with shipbuilding works due to continuous training and enhanced work experience," Yu also said.

"This is revolutionary, not only for HHIC-Phil but also for the Philippine shipbuilding industry. In the middle of the world-wide recession, it could be expected that this would greatly contribute to the Philippine economy," he added.

HHIC-Phil has launched two other container vessels built in its Subic shipyard early this year. These are the MV Argolikos, which was delivered to the Dioryx Maritime Corp. on July 4, and the CMA CGM Turquoise, which was launched last August 30.

All the four vessels produced in Subic were 4,300-TEU container vessels that were each worth about $60 million.

According to HHIC-Phil officials, the company expects to produce more ships in Subic as the productivity in its shipyard here is fast catching up with Hanjin's shipyard in South Korea.

"Filipinos learn fast— now they are experts," said Hanjin quality assurance director Yoonha Kim during the launching of the MV Turquoise in August.

Kim also praised Filipino workers for their "world-class efficiency" when hull construction and engine installation for the Turquoise was undertaken within the standard Hanjin timetable of 13 months.

He added that HHIC-Phil's goal "is to be at par with our South Korean counterparts in terms of efficiency and quality of work." (SBMA Corporate Communications)

Photo Caption:
PROUDLY SUBIC-MADE: Two more container vessels, the CMA CGM Opal and the CMA CGM Topaz, were launched by Hanjin Heavy Industries Co.-Philippines last week at its shipyard in the Subic Bay Freeport.

Subic Aetas venture into farm project

A nine-hectare vegetable farm is now thriving at the hilly village of Pastolan in this freeport after members of the indigenous Aeta tribe converted part of their land into a green garden and demonstration farm with the assistance of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).

The green garden project, which was launched under the SBMA’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program, was aimed at increasing the household income of some 200 Aeta families living in Pastolan.

Kenette Fernando, SBMA Deputy Administrator for Corporate Communications, said the Aeta community had recently planted the farm with sweet potato, cassava, gabi tubers and black pepper.

“Now, they are looking forward to harvesting their first crop in March,” she said.

Pastolan village chieftain Conrado Frenilla said the green garden project started as a concept of the SBMA Public Relations Department and was implemented jointly by the Aeta tribal council and the department’s community relations officers.

“A few months ago, the SBMA brought us to a Taiwanese green garden and demo farm in Castillejos, Zambales and it was where we got some ideas on vegetable farming and marketing techniques that we hope to apply in our area,” Frenilla said.

He said clearing the nine-hectare project site was quite difficult because it was rocky and full of hardy grass, and they lacked suitable farming equipment. “But little by little, we coped and cleared the area using only jungle bolos, rakes and our albino carabao named Tisoy,” he added.

Frenilla also expressed appreciation to the SBMA “for its continuous support to various Aeta communities in Subic” in terms of employment, scholarship grants, livelihood skill trainings and infrastructure projects.

Aside from Pastolan, four other Aeta villages are located in the Subic Bay Freeport, most of them in remote hills and jungles where the natives used to forage for food.

Gigi Estalilla, an SBMA community relations’ officer who oversees the Pastolan green garden project, said work in the Aeta communities is hard but very rewarding.“Twice or thrice a week, we hike several kilometers from the main road up to the farm to check on the progress of the crops,” he said.

To start the project, 10 workers were hired through the SBMA Ecology Center, said Estalilla. “But soon, the villagers came to volunteer in clearing the land, tilling the soil, and planting the crops.”

The Aeta villagers also helped put up an irrigation system that used a network of bamboo tubes to bring in water from a nearby stream. The farm uses organic fertilizers made from composted leaves, tree bark and animal manure.

With the vegetable farm project now underway, Frenilla said, Pastolan villagers are now planning to develop another five hectares of land for a similar venture.

“We plan to plant this with fruit-bearing trees, and maybe put up a herbal garden, too,” Frenilla said, adding that the SBMA has promised to help them with marketing their farm produce. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

Photo Caption: Aeta tribesmen at the Pastolan village in the Subic Bay Freeport tend a vegetable farm, which was launched under the corporate social responsibility program of the SBMA.

Subic hotel-casino to create 5,000 jobs

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Administrator Armand Arreza has expressed optimism that at least 5,000 new jobs will be created with the completion of the $120-million hotel-casino along the Waterfront Drive in this free port.

According to Arreza, the 15-story integrated resort-hotel, complete with convention center and casino, is expected to be completed within two years.

Arreza said the landmark development project, which will be known as Ocean 9 Casino and Hotel Resort, is designed to be the most beautiful hotel in the Subic Bay Freeport.

“This promises to be a significant landmark that will create meaningful jobs for Filipinos and transform the face of Subic Bay, making it the pride of Olongapo and Zambales,” the SBMA administrator added.

Arreza also emphasized that the Ocean 9 Casino and Hotel Resort project is considered to be a critical infrastructure in Subic’s bid to attract more foreign tourists to the growing number of holiday destinations in this free port.

The hotel will be located near Subic’s Alava Pier, which is being developed by another firm as a passenger terminal for cruise ships, he said.

Alava is also being used for berthing by visiting US Navy ships that regularly dock in Subic during military exercises between the Philippines and the United States, he added.

Earlier, Arreza, together with Moon-Sung Choi, chairman of the proponent-firm Grand Utopia, Inc., led the groundbreaking ceremonies. The event was witnessed by Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) chairman and CEO Efraim Genuino, Olongapo City Mayor James Gordon Jr., Zambales Vice-Gov. Anne Gordon and representatives of the Korean business community in Subic. (PhilStar)

SBMA boosts tourism development in Subic Freeport

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) is preparing for further infrastructure development in Subic Bay Freeport’s 182.40-hectare central business district (CBD) to help boost tourism there and in surrounding areas.

"We’re trying to transform CBD into a high-end area," SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza said at Kapihan sa Sulo forum Saturday.

He said SBMA is discussing with possible partners its plan to expand tourist accommodation there within the next three years. ”We plan to increase from about 2,000 units now to 4,000 or even 5,000 units the total number of hotel rooms there,” he said.

There are also discussions on other possible tourism-development projects in the CBD. The ongoing international financial turmoil is not deterring SBMA from pursuing its tourism development plans as Arreza pointed out China, Korea and Japan –- not crisis-ravaged United States –- are the country’s major tourist sources.

He noted SBMA is keen on tapping China’s outbound tourist market which authorities estimated to reach 100 million people by 2015. ”Between 80 and 90 percent of tourists in Hong Kong are from the Chinese mainland so it’s only a matter of time before they begin looking for other destinations,” he said.

SBMA is particularly interested in attracting China’s ‘nouveau riche’ and gambling aficionados who frequent Macao. ”They want to see new things and to indulge,” Arreza noted.

SBMA came up with such plans as Arreza noted the freeport is near Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) which the government projects to increasingly handle more tourist arrivals.

The freeport has several tourist sites which can draw in visitors: the 27.39-hectare Subic Gateway for shopping, exhibition and public performances; 9.38-hectare George Dewey Complex for residential and commercial use; 1.32-hectare Hidden Beach where most of Subic Bay’s marine life can be found, and 2,142.90-hectare Ilanin Forest which serves as natural habitat for several wild animals.Subic Bay Freeport's CBD itself is zoned into five areas, three of which are for tourism-related uses: 16.37-hectare Moonbay Marina for residential- commercial development, 1.18-hectare Greenwood’s Park where 3,400 square meters can be leased and 2.96-hectare Times Square Complex for commercial establishments.

”If plans push through, Subic can be a major international tourist destination in three to four years,” Arreza said.

Republic Act No. 7227 created the SBMA, the corporate body serving as government’s arm in operating and developing Subic Bay Freeport as a self-sustaining industrial, commercial, financial, investment and academe center.

Aside from tourism players, the freeport aims to have industries engaged in seaport operations, airport operations, shipbuilding, ship repair, aircraft maintenance, light and high-technology manufacturing, information and communications, logistics and distribution, power generation and distribution, water, telecommunications, land use, transportation and solid waste management. (Catherine J. Teves, PNA)

Subic Board ssues ban on subcontractor, Hanjin spared from suspension

The board of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority has banned a subcontractor of the Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction but spared the Korean shipyard owner, HHIC Philippines Inc., from suspension despite the death of 17 Filipino workers at the facility in Subic Bay Freeport since 2006.

SBMA administrator Armand Arreza said the board reached this decision in a meeting on Friday.

The certification of registration and tax exemption (CRTE) of contractor Philnorkor was cancelled because the number of workers killed at its job site had totaled two, the latest being Jose Vener Gil on Nov. 26.

P10,000 fine

He said the CRTEs issued by the SBMA to HHIC’s 39 subcontractors imposed a fine of P10,000 for the first offense and a cancellation of the CRTE for the second offense.

Arreza said the death of Gil, 42, was a result of the “negligence on the part of Philnorkor.” Gil died after a 250-kg air-conditioning unit fell on him as he was unshackling its duct, an HHIC report said.

2nd shipyard

“[Philnorkor] cannot anymore operate at the [Subic Bay Freeport],” Arreza said. Philnorkor could not be reached for comments.

The firm’s contract involved the construction of warehouses and sheds at the second shipyard of the HHIC Philippines Inc. on the freeport’s Redondo Peninsula. The cancellation of Philnorkor’s CRTE was effective Friday, Arreza said.

The board directed the HHIC, deemed to be the general contractor, to submit a compliance report on safety and labor standards.

“It’s not also fair to suspend HHIC because the negligence was not on its part,” Arreza said when asked why the board did not issue a cease and desist order on the Korean firm.

In July the SBMA issued a cease-and-desist order on HHIC following the death of a worker and injuries on four others at the construction site.

Contrast

The board’s Friday decision appeared in contrary to the July decision even though the two had similar circumstances.

Noel de Mesa, president of the Shipbuilding and Construction Workers Association, assailed the decisions of the SBMA board, saying the agency’s poor enforcement work on HHIC and HHIC Philippines Inc. “opens more Filipino workers to job-related risks or deaths.”

Sen. Pia Cayetano has not backed out of her plan to call for an investigation by the Senate labor committee to study the accountability of the Korean firms, SBMA and the Department of Labor and Employment in the deaths of the workers.

Prior to the work-related deaths, several workers have been reported stricken with malaria during the early stages of the construction of the Hanjin shipyard, which boasts of employing at least 8,000 workers. (Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon)

08 December 2008

SBMA bids out 2nd New Container Terminal

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) is now inviting bidders for the operation and management of the New Container Terminal-2 (NCT-2), the second phase of the multi-million dollar project designed to strengthen Subic’s capacity as a globally-competitive maritime service and logistics port.

SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza said the NCT-2, which is located at Cubi Point in this free port, will be bid out as a transshipment hub for shipping lines.

“What we’re basically looking for is a shipping line or a port operator who has the capacity to manage and maintain the NCT-2,” said Arreza, who is also chairman of the Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC) for Port Commercialization.

“The NCT-2, like the NCT-1 or the first phase of the terminal project, is considered a critical infrastructure for the Port of Subic, so we’d like to maximize its potential to make Subic a world-class player in the logistics business,” he added.

The NCT-2, which has an annual cargo-handling capacity of 300,000 TEUs, was completed early this year.

Arreza said it has 14 hectares of newly-constructed container yard, a 280-meter long newly-constructed wharf, two units of 53-ton quay gantry cranes, as well as buildings, equipment and utilities within the area.

Arreza said that to be eligible in the bidding, the bidder should be an operator of an international container shipping line or a consortium of operators of international shipping lines.

He added that the bidder should be currently operating an international container port terminal that handles at least 2 million TEUs per year, or has an operating capacity of 100,000 TEUs, a figure which could be combined for a bidding consortium.

Further, the bidder or consortium of bidders should have a net worth of at least US$50 million, which could also be a combined net worth in case of a consortium.

As for financial qualifications, Arreza said the bidders should be able to submit audited financial statements for the last five years; a sworn statement that there has been no materials change in the financial condition since the last audited financial statement; and letters or testimonials from reputable banks that the bidder is banking with them.

Bidders will also be required to submit evidence of the availability of, or the capacity to raise the amount needed for the operation and management of NCT-2 in the amount of at least US$50 million.

Legal requirements also state that each bidder should be able to submit proof of legal eligibility and competence to undertake the operation and maintenance of NCT-2 in terms of corporate personality, government authorization and licenses; and that it has no tax accountability.

This requirement also applies to foreign bidders, whose documents must be duly authenticated by Philippine consular officials in the country of the foreign bidder, Arreza clarified.

He added, however, that the equity participation of a foreigner shall not exceed 40 percent of the total equity of the winning operator.

Arreza said that bid documents will be available starting December 9, 2008 at the Project Management Office, Bldg. 29 Waterfront Road Extension, SRF Compound, Subic Bay Freeport, upon payment of a non-refundable amount of PhP100,000 or US$2,500.

Submission of completed bid documents will be on or before 5:00 p.m. of January 22, 2009, also at the Project Management Office. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

Photo caption: The New Container Terminal-2, with its two gantry cranes and other facilities and equipment, is being bid out to shipping lines or port operators.

06 December 2008

Hanafil to fly in foreign golfers next year

Subic golf course operator Hanafil Golf and Tour Inc. is now preparing to fly in golfers from various parts of the world after the company began the re-development of the golf links here into a venue for professional tourneys.

Hanafil president and CEO Benjamin John Defensor III said the firm will tap an international airline to accommodate “junket flights” for golfers.

”We want to fully utilize the advantage of Subic Bay Freeport's location by using the Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA) as the entry point for international golfers," Defensor said.

"We are now working out a deal with an international airline to ferry golfers to Subic by January next year," he added.

As planned, the so-called junket flights will be twice a week and using airliners capable of ferrying some 180 passengers, Defensor revealed.

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Administrator Armand Arreza, meanwhile, said the entry of foreign golfers in Subic would certainly boost Subic’s tourism industry.

“It has been awhile since we had junket flights, which were organized previously by casinos to bring in players from all over Asia. This will be the first time that junket flights will be used to ferry golfers,” he added.

Arreza also expressed optimism that foreign golfers would enjoy playing in Subic, especially since Hanafil had initiated renovation of the Subic golf course to make it at par with some of the world’s best.

Hanafil’s Defensor said the company has recently installed a new irrigation system, built a new restaurant, and acquired new golf carts to upgrade amenities at the 18-hole course. It has also built its own nursery as part of the program to expand the course by an additional nine holes.

Defensor added that the expansion of the fairways was meant to accommodate the growing number of golfers coming into Subic Bay.

He added that the recent opening of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) drew a remarkable increase in the number of golfers playing at Hanafil’s newly-renovated course, especially during long weekends.

Hanafil is a subsidiary of Hanatour, a company listed in both the London Stock Exchange and the Korean Stock Exchange. Hanafil, on the other hand, is a Philippine corporation registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). (SBMA Corporate Communications)

Top 10 Subic Freeport workers known

First, the Mt. Pinatubo eruption in 1991, then the subsequent pullout of the US Navy. Then after that came the Asian economic crisis.

What enabled this free port to triumph over these adversities and rise to economic heights cannot be credited primarily to the US$8 billion worth of infrastructure left by the Americans, but rather, to Subic ’s “greatest investment” — its exceptional workforce.

To highlight the crucial role of workers in the transformation of this former US military base into a premier investment and commercial hub, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) and the Subic Bay Workforce Development Foundation Inc. (SBWDFI) honored this year’s batch of the “10 Outstanding Freeport Workers” during the 16th anniversary celebration of the free port.

The workers awards, which is now on its seventh year, aims to promote among the entire Subic workforce the culture of excellence displayed by volunteers who are credited for rebuilding Subic from the ashes of Mt. Pinatubo , said SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza.

Arreza, who joined some 8,000 Subic volunteers in 1993, recalled that investors started to do business here primarily because of the volunteers’ exceptional display of nationalism and concern for the community.

“They saw that the facilities left by the Americans were intact, and operations of vital installations like the airport and power supply facilities were not halted because people lent their time and skills for free,” said Arreza.

He added that the recipients of the award “are of the same caliber as those of the SBMA pioneers.”

SBMA labor manager Severo Pastor, who is also chairman of the SBWDFI, said that this year, SBMA employees qualified for the awards for the first time, along with nominees from locator companies in Subic .

The awards body also acknowledged for the first time companies that made significant impact on the free port’s development through the “Administrator’s Corporate Award”.

The awardees in this category, Federal Express (FedEx) and the Subic Power Corporation, received the award for exemplifying good human resource practices by consistently keeping the balance between business interests and employees’ welfare, providing equitable work environments, as well as opportunities for professional growth, Arreza said.

Of the 51 nominees in the outstanding workers category, only 20 finalists were chosen, said Pastor. The finalists then underwent a tougher second screening by the board of judges composed of Aurelio Pineda, executive vice-president of the Olongapo Business Club; Capt. Areston Limos, of the Philippine National Police School of Values and Leadership; and former Philippine ambassador to Saudi Arabia Jonathan dela Cruz, who served as chairman.

Pastor identified the 10 outstanding workers of the Subic Bay Freeport as: Ma. Adoracion Celeste, a technical assistant at the SBMA Human Resource Department; Levi Dalida, special investigator at the SBMA Intelligence and Investigation Office; Arleen Dulay, housekeeping attendant at the Lighthouse Marina Resort; Diosdado Ednave, security officer at the SBMA Law Enforcement Department; Severino Jovero, marine mammal training supervisor at the Subic Bay Marine Exploratorium’s Ocean Adventure; Elizier Martin, foreman at the SBMA Maintenance and Transportation Department; Vicente Salvador, welder/pipe fitter at the Philippine Coastal Storage and Pipeline Corp.; Bernard Sanchez, production department head at Nicera Philippines Inc.; Paquito Torres, division chief at the SBMA Intelligence and Investigation Office; and Jaime Villafuerte, Jr., failure analysis engineering supervisor at Wistron Infocomm. (Phils.).

SBMA Chairman Feliciano Salonga, meanwhile, praised Subic ’s top workers, adding that Filipino workers “always belong to the cream of the crop.”

“Anywhere in the world, Filipino workers stand out,” said Salonga, citing Filipino engineers in Dubai who were commended for building excellent roads, and in Pearl Harbor, where the top three workers at one time were Filipina welders. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

04 December 2008

More investors in hotels, condominiums and leisure facilities in Subic Bay

A number of property developers and other investors are rushing to construct hotels, condominiums and other tourism and leisure facilities at the Subic Bay Freeport in Zambales, according to the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).

The investors, who recently signed contracts with the SBMA, include Global Dongsan Phils. Inc., which is spending $ 1.1 million for a commercial building; Cook Group and Pacific Associates, with $ 1.4 million to build camping and recreational facilities, and Buma Subic, with $ 36,585 for a restaurant venture.

The SBMA said the rest of the new investors are into manufacturing, logistics and services, and others.

Subic Daesung Corp. committed $ 15 million to engage in the construction and operation of mixed-use commercial buildings that include a condominium- hotel, restaurant and retail shop.

On the other hand, Subic Enerzone Corp., operator of the power distribution system in the area, will also construct hotels and condominiums.

Several existing business locators have also amended their contracts to expand into construction and property development.

These include GVC Subic Corp., a former computer parts manufacturer which will now develop, subdivide, exchange, lease and hold real estate of all kinds at the Subic Bay Gateway Park; and Maritan Subic Inc. which has expanded into constructing, developing, and operating commercial buildings.Other investors include the 7-Tower Properties and Management Consultants which has committed $ 125,000 for a real-estate management venture; Hanil E&C Subic Inc. which is putting up $ 11 million to engage in the design, planning, construction and development of medium to high-rise commercial residential buildings.

SBMA officials said Hanil, a Korean firm, will construct the $ 130 million Subic Ampelos Tower of the Korean property developer KT Global Subic Inc.The Ampelos Tower, which is planned to be a 17-storey, state-of-the-art condominium-hotel complex, will be Subic's second high-rise next to Hanjin's 22-storey edifice at the the Cubi-Triboa District.

The Global Terminals and Development Inc., which is developing the Alava Pier as a passenger terminal, has gained approval by the SBMA to develop a two-storey commercial building and 10 Bali-inspired villa-type hotel units at Subic's former Ship Repair Facility area. (Lynda B. Valencia - PNA)

Hanjin Subic refused DOH safety training offer

Korean shipbuilding firm Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Phils. Inc., which has been plagued by work site deaths and injuries, has rejected the "standing offer" of the Occupational Safety and Health Center (OSHC) to provide more safety training to its thousands of workers, the head of OSHC said.

OSHC executive director Dr. Dulce Estrella Gust said OSHC gave training to workers of Hanjin and its subcontractors last September.

After that initial session, OSHC has offered to continue the program to inculcate to the workers the value of health and safety.

Gust said OSHC, which is attached to the Department of Labor and Employment, insisted on a continuing health and safety program because shipbuilding is a very, very dangerous industry.

She added that OSHC could not cultivate the culture of safety in the workplace in one or two sessions.But Hanjin refused the offer to have OSHC conduct follow-up trainings, Gust said.

"They told us that they want to finish 10 ships first," she said. "We offered it, we wrote straight to the president of Hanjin, but they declined."

Hanjin, she noted, makes about two vessels per year in its Subic base."It's unfortunate that they have this kind of attitude," Gust said.

There are around 12,000 to 15,000 workers in the Hanjin shipyard in the Subic Bay Freeport.

Since the company opened its shipbuilding operations in the Philippines in 2007, 17 workers have died in the workplace, DOLE said.

In the past two weeks, two more workers were killed and three others were injured in separate incidents in the site of one of Hanjin's subcontractors.

Pyeong Jong Yu, the company's deputy managing director, had stressed that the incidents were not related to shipbuilding work.

Gust said the number was "high," considering the industry and the length of time Hanjin was operating in Subic. "It's really worrying," she said.

Hanjin should also ensure that its contractors adhere to safety standards, she added.The Labor department has expressed alarm over the rising number of workplace deaths in the Hanjin shipyard.

Last September, DOLE instituted a zero-accident program in the Hanjin site.The program entails that Hanjin institute a system that would correct, update, and disseminate information on potential hazards and risks to its workers especially the newly hired ones. (Kristine L. Alave - Philippine Daily Inquirer)

Ban on Hanjin subcontractor pressed

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority has recommended the banning of a subcontractor of the Korean shipbuilder Hanjin after the recent deaths of two workers at the firm’s work site.

SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza said his agency investigated the death of Jose Vener Gil, 42, and found that Philnorkor (not PhilNokor as earlier reported), a subcontractor of Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Philippines Inc. (HHIC), had violated proper work procedures.

A 250-kilogram duct whose shackle Gil was unhooking fell on him on Nov. 26. Gil, who was employed by Philnorkor, died while being brought to the hospital.

“We found [that] Philnorkor used improper shackles in moving the ducts,” said Arreza. “This is the company’s (Philnorkor’s) second death. We will recommend cancellation of Philnorkor’s CRTE (certificate of registration and tax exemption) to the board,” he said.

The CRTE allows a company to operate within the Subic free port without paying duties. In effect, SBMA’s move to cancel the CRTE bans Philnorkor from doing business inside the free port.

On Nov. 20, Philip Mendoza, 40, died when a metal structure fell on him when the truck he was riding in crashed into an area of the shipyard where he was working.

Mendoza’s three other companions—William Liberato, Rolex Alog and Kong Jong Sik, a Korean who was driving the truck—were hurt.

In a statement, Pyeong Jong Yu, deputy managing director of Hanjin, said the previous accident “was not in any way related to the shipbuilding operations. It was “caused by a vehicular accident as a result of human frailty,” he said.

Yu, in an accident report sent to Arreza, said the company had started an investigation “to ascertain whether the unfortunate event was the result of an industrial mishap, unavoidable human error, or simply the negligence of Philnorkor during the construction work.”

“If investigation reveals that the accident was caused by laxity in the observance of rules and regulations on occupational safety, the immediate superiors and authorities concerned with the implementation of safety policies will be made answerable, regardless of nationality,” Yu told Arreza.

“If negligence on the part of Philnorkor is the proximate cause, HHIC shall take all necessary steps to hold the contractor liable in every aspect,” he added. (Robert
Gonzaga, Inquirer Central Luzon)

Taiwanese lockmaker opens $5-M new Subic plant; targets export of 1 million locksets a month

Taiwanese company Tong Lung (Phils.) Metal Industry Co. Ltd., a designer and maker of doorknob and lock sets, recently unveiled its new $5-million zinc-die casting and plating facility here, targeting the production and export of one million lock sets a month.

Tong Lung Chairman Tony Ho said that despite the global economic recession, the company looks forward to making its offshore facility in Subic its the second primary base in Asia.

Tong Lung, which was founded in Taiwan in 1954, exports its products to various markets in Asia, America, Europe and Africa. Both its Taiwan factory and Subic unit undertake production using computer-aided design and automated precision machinery.

"Although the global economy seems to be in an economic recession period, I am happy to announce the expansion of our facility," Ho said during the inauguration of the new Tong Lung plant at the Subic Bay Gateway Park here.

"We now have a thousand suppliers and sub-contractors, and I hope to see that the Subic plant will become the second base for hardware production for Tong Lung Co. in Asia," he added.

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Administrator Armand Arreza, who joined Ho in inaugurating the new plant, noted that groundbreaking for the $5-million facility was done only late last year.

"Now, the new facility is set for production and we're thankful to Tong Lung for manifesting in a very concrete way its confidence in the Subic Bay Freeport," Arreza said.

Chung Yu Wang, the firm's vice chairman, said meanwhile that the firm's new facility in Subic will open up 1,000 new jobs when fully operational.

He also cited the company's "very solid relationship" with its Filipino workers, saying this paved the way to Tong Lung's success.

Tong Lung's expansion in Subic, meanwhile, "enables us to provide more job opportunities to Filipinos," Wang added.

Aside from producing lock set brands like EZ Set, Passion and Lucky, the company also supplies products to tools-and-equipment specialist Black and Decker, said Wang.

The inauguration of Tong Lung's new facility was graced by John Co, an officer at the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office (TECO), as well as representatives from Black and Decker. Aside from Arreza, Olongapo City Mayor James Gordon, Jr. and Zambales Vice-Gov. Anne Gordon joined Ho and Co in inaugurating the new plant.

Arreza noted that Tong Lung is one of the pioneering investors in Subic, and had since expanded operations in this free port.

"As you can see, Tony Ho is not just a million-dollar man. He is indeed a man of action. When he said that he is ready to go full force in Subic, he actually does that. And I'm very thankful for the support and confidence that you have shown us," Arreza said.

He added that the expansion by Tong Lung is "a very encouraging sign that Subic remains to be a competitive and viable investment destination."

"Tong Lung will be exporting about a million lock sets a month starting next year," Arreza said. "This additional production means more revenue for Subic, and these locksets mean more jobs," he added. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

02 December 2008

Trees at the proposed casino project

Trees — including ornamental palms — at the proposed hotel-casino project site bear inventory markings in preparation to balling and relocation.

The relocation, according to the SBMA, is just an option if the trees couldn't be incorporated in the development plan.

SBMA: Tree-cutting yarn a non-issue

Officials of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) yesterday reiterated their
position that no trees will be cut to make way for a $120-million hotel-casino project at Subic's central business district.

Reacting to allegations by architect and urban planner Felino Palafox Jr. that the project would destroy more than 300 trees, SBMA administrator Armand Arreza said he has directed the project proponent Grand Utopia, Inc. to "exhaust all means to save the trees."

"The SBMA directive to Grand Utopia is clear — either they incorporate the trees in their development plan, or ball them and relocate them to another place," Arreza said.

"And as far as we can tell they're complying, because they have applied for a permit to ball the trees," he added.

"So I don't know why some quarters are bitching about this supposed issue, when not one twig has been cut off and the trees are still there," he added.

Palafox has said in several media reports that more than 300 trees would be destroyed by the hotel-casino project. He also alleged that 37 of the affected trees are century-old.

This was the reason, Palafox claimed, why he broke ties with Grand Utopia, which had reportedly tapped him to design the project.

He added that he would have been paid $1 million for the design, but he learned later that the developer had tapped a Japanese designer and that he will simply be asked "to sign on other people's work."

Arreza said, however, that the issue about Palafox's aborted deal with Grand Utopia "should be treated separately from the yarn about cutting trees in Subic."

"This story about cutting century-old trees is simply a non-issue because it isn't true. He's just barking up the wrong tree," Arreza said.

He added that experts from the University of the Philippines in Los Baños doubted whether there are century-old trees in the area, because geological studies of
the project site indicated that the area was reclaimed by the US Navy.

"That being the case, the UP group said that the so-called urban jungle in the project site couldn't be a natural-growth forest. Ergo, the possibility that there are century-old trees present is quite nil," Arreza explained.

An SBMA official who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak on the matter, meanwhile, said that Palafox should "not hide behind the skirt of environmentalism when his issue is really about his failed consultancy."

The official recalled that Palafox had earlier allowed the paving of a turtle-nesting site in Subic when he designed a hotel and entertainment district along Subic's waterfront in 2004.

More than 100 camachile trees were also cut to make way for the project, he said.

"That project pushed through even without an ECC (environmental clearance certificate) and it was Palafox who designed it," the official added. (SBMA Corporate Communications)