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Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (MPD-SBMA)

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28 January 2009

SBMA readies workers' rescue plan to mitigate recession effects

While the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) considers long-term strategies to mitigate the effects of the economic slowdown that primarily hit the manufacturing sector here, the agency is now preparing a re-integration program to provide safety nets to workers who might be displaced as a result of the global recession.

SBMA Chairman Feliciano Salonga said the Subic authority aims to provide laid-off workers with "lifesaver opportunities" that would include a network and access to training, livelihood programs and related assistance.

Among the training areas eyed for laid-off workers are agro-industry, small-scale enterprise, hospitality service, and short technical courses.

"We're doing this to make sure that the free port's human resources are not frozen while waiting for markets to bounce back," Salonga said.

"Filipinos are born survivors, but they still need assistance. And the SBMA will not hesitate to provide opportunities for our people, who have helped make Subic what it is today," Salonga added.

Salonga said the SBMA has begun a skills-set inventory of affected workers as early as last year when the effects of the credit crunch in the United States began to be felt globally.

Initial data from the study indicated that that most of the bigger electronics manufacturing firms here that supply electronic components to major brands like Sony, Toshiba, Panasonic, IBM, Dell, Intel and Samsung, now expect significant cuts in market demand.

In turn, these companies could be expected to cut costs and reduce manpower, Salonga said.

Salonga added the Subic workers inventory will serve as basis for the development of training programs that the SBMA will implement in partnership with Technology Research Center (TRC), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Technical Skills and Development Authority (TESDA), and the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship (PCE), which has successfully trained entrepreneurs under its "Go Negosyo" program.

He also said the SBMA is now raising a P1-million seed fund to jumpstart the re-integration program, including the setting up of an oversight committee, and the establishment of a "one-stop action center" at the Subic Bay Arts Center (SuBAC).

In particular, Salonga places much hope in the agro-industry and tourism sectors to be able to absorb most of the affected workers.

"We will be focusing on existing job markets, but we will also try to create new markets after studies show that they are feasible," said Salonga.

The new markets with potential in Subic include food processing, handicraft and novelty items, as well as spa services, he added.

Salonga also expressed hope that the Subic economy will survive the economic downturn.

"This recession is a cyclic phenomenon," he said. "Eventually, the global market will go up so the SBMA remains aggressive in keeping and boosting the competitive advantage of doing business in the Subic Bay Freeport." (SBMA Corporate Communications)

Subic exports hit $977.84-M in 2008

Despite the onset of global recession, manufacturing companies in this free port unexpectedly turned out exports worth $977.84 million last year, the biggest export total for Subic in the last six years.

Subic’s 2008 export volume represented a .63 percent increase over the $971.73 million export value recorded in 2007.

The slim gain in export production was attributed by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) to the free port’s electronics and maritime industries, which had held on to previous orders to deliver positive export figures last year.

“Our 10 biggest manufacturers provided the bulk of Subic’s exports in 2008 — a total of $849 million, which is roughly 87 percent,” said SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza.

“I believe this is an achievement in itself,” Arreza added. “The fact that we did not turn out a negative figure last year despite the recession speaks so much of the resiliency of our business locators here.”

Arreza said two Subic exporters, the Taiwanese computer giant Wistron Infocom (Phils) Corp. and Hong Kong’s import-export firm Lets Do Mobile Philippines, contributed more than half of Subic’s $977.84 export total last year, with export production of $274.88 million and $234.5 million, respectively.

Two Japanese manufacturers, meanwhile, occupied the third and fourth slots among Subic’s top exporters: electrical machinery and appliance maker Sanyo Denki with $78.08 million, and ATM and cash register manufacturer Hitachi Terminals Mechatronics Phils. with $76.37million.

Korean shipbuilder Hanjin Heavy Industries Co.-Philippines (HHIC-Phil), meanwhile, posted $61.74 million worth of exports to make it as Subic’s fifth biggest exporter last year.

The rest in the top 10 exporters list are: Japanese wood products manufacturer Juken Sangyo (Phils.) Corp., with $44.17 million worth of exports; Taiwanese lock maker Tong Lung Metal Industry, with $27.94 million; Taiwanese aircon manufacturer Hitachi, with $20.31 million; Japanese precision electronics motors producer Nidec Subic Phils. Corp., with $17.78 million; and Japanese electronics sensor maker Nicera Phils. Inc., with $13.26 million.

Last year’s export production was the biggest so far in the last six years, following a continuous slide since 2003 that culminated in a $691.14 million export value in 2006.

Subic exports began picking up in 2007 with a total of $971.73 million, followed by $977.84 million last year.

Importations by Subic Freeport companies, meanwhile, reached a total of $2.27 billion in 2008, with the bulk consigned also to some of the biggest exporters in Subic.

However, SBMA records as of October 2008 indicated that the biggest importer last year was PTT Philippines, which traded in petroleum products, with a total freight on board value of $465.25 million.

Next were HHIC-Phil, with $389.32 million; Lets Do Mobile, with $214.89 million; Wistron Infocom, with $187.84 million; and Korean firm Hanil Engineering and Construction Co., Ltd., with $174.32 million.

Another oil and petroleum products trader, Tri-Solid Movers Services, Inc., was the sixth biggest importer last year, with $65.08 million worth of imports.

This was followed by Sanyo Denki, with $38.42 million; Juken Sangyo, with $29.97 million; Hitachi Terminals, with $28.26 million; and Nidec Subic, with $26.86 million. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

27 January 2009

Senate probes Hanjin Subic deaths on Feb.4

The Senate committee on labor, employment and human resource development will begin on Feb. 4 the public hearings on the string of deaths of Filipino workers at a Korean-owned shipyard in Subic, Zambales, since 2006.

A memorandum by Labor Assistant Secretary Reydeluz Conferido said three officials of the Department of Labor and Employment are attending the first hearing called through Senate Resolution No. 807 authored by Sen. Pia Cayetano.

Dulce Estrella Gust, executive director of the Occupational Safety and Health Center; Ma. Brenda Villafuerte, director of the Bureau of Working Conditions; and Nathaniel Lacambra, DOLE director in Central Luzon, have been asked to shed light on work safety issues at the shipyard of the Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Philippines Inc., Conferido’s memo showed.

The public hearing indicated that Cayetano had convinced the other senators to proceed with it despite a request by the Korean Ambassador to the Philippines not to hold one due to its “negative repercussions” on Korean investments.

There have been at least 19 work- or accident-related deaths on the site. Except for one, all the victims were Filipinos.The latest fatality, Korean foreman Choi Dong Baek, 51, was run over by a forklift operated by a Filipino worker identified as
Menti Dacanay.

Lacambra said he was ready to attend the hearing.But Hanjin, he said, had not allowed access to DOLE inspectors in the early stage of the project. (Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon Desk)

26 January 2009

SBMA cites 152,700 trees planted under Subic refo program

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) officials revealed that a continuing reforestation program by the agency has resulted in the massive replanting of trees in about 140 hectares of grasslands and barren slopes in this free port.

Calling the reforestation program "environmentalism in action, not in words", SBMA Chairman Feliciano Salonga said that concerted efforts by various stakeholders Subic has yielded a total of 152,713 new trees in forested areas here under the SBMA reforestation program.

"Laid out in a single row and 10 meters apart, these new trees would cover more than 1,500 kilometers, or about 16 times the whole length of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway, the longest tollway in the country," he said.

"This is one concrete proof of our environmental commitment here in Subic," he added.

Salonga said that the SBMA reforestation program has been a continuing activity since 1996, under the first SBMA chairman, now Sen. Richard Gordon.

"This has become a legacy project since then, with the SBMA, Subic business locators and civic groups from nearby communities doing their share in replanting grasslands and barren slopes in Subic," Salonga said.

The various groups had actually planted a total of 261,985 trees under the reforestation program. However, some trees died just before they reach three years — the minimum period before seedlings could survive without periodic care, Salonga said.

But even with a survival rate of just more than 58 percent, the 152,713 total number of surviving trees meant that close to 17,000 new trees become part of Subic's new growth forests each year, Salonga added.

The tree count under the reforestation program did not include trees planted by SBMA employees, students and business locators under the agency's annual tree-planting projects that are undertaken along major roads in Subic.

These would account for "another couple of thousands that had survived," Salonga said.

According to figures from the SBMA Ecology Center's Environmental Protection and Community Development Division (EPCDD), an average of more than 29,000 trees have been planted in Subic in the past nine years that reforestation projects were undertaken

The species planted included hardwood like narra and mahogany, as well as fruit trees like mango, cashew, avocado and jackfruit, and ornamentals like agoho and fire tree.

Most of these, Salonga said, have been planted by the Pastolan Forest Conservation Group (PFCG), which is composed of Aeta tribesmen from Subic's upland community of Pastolan.

"This group has become our spearhead in the reforestation effort in the Freeport zone," Salonga said. "After orienting them about the need to conserve forests, both to protect the environment and to create livelihood opportunities, our Aeta brothers have become indispensable as forest protectors."

EPCDD data showed that the Pastolan group had so far planted 102,100 seedlings since its creation in 2005. Of these, a total of 96,152 survived, giving the group's efforts a high survival rate of 94 percent.

Meanwhile, business locators or contractors with the most number of trees planted here included the First Philippine Infrastructure Development Corp., with a total of 15,998 surviving trees it had planted, or an 80 percent survival rate; Toyo Corp., with 13,332, also 80 percent survival; Shell Philippines, with 8,888; and construction firm A.M. Oreta, with a total of 6,888 surviving trees.

SBMA's reforestation efforts also received a big boost with the successful implementation of the "Adopt-a-Forest" program, which had so far yielded a total of 4,345 trees since it was initiated by the Ecology Center in 2005.

This program, which boasts a 100 percent survival rate, tapped Subic companies and various community groups to plant trees and maintain them for three years before turning them over to the SBMA.

Last December, Japanese computer parts maker Nidec Subic Phils., turned over its "adopted" mini forest to the SBMA, the first among the program participants to do so. Twelve other groups are scheduled to transfer their reforestation areas to the SBMA this year.

Salonga, who received Nidec's reforestation project on behalf of the SBMA, said the SBMA invites more business locators and civic groups to join the program.

"This is our brand of environmentalism here in Subic — action, not just words. I hope that more would join us in out effort to leave a green legacy in Subic," he added. (SBMA Corporate Communications)


PHOTO CAPTION: New-growth forests now thrive in most of the low-lying slopes of Mt. Sta. Rita in the Subic Bay Freeport under an SBMA reforestation program that has already covered 140 hectares. Photo shows a mini-forest of narra and some fruit trees jointly planted by the SBMA Public Relations Office and the Subic Bay Press Corps.

Korean national dies in Hanjin shipyard accident

A Korean national was killed in an accident at the shipbuilding facility of Hanjin Heavy Industries Co.-Philippines (HHIC-Phil) early on Sunday, after he was hit by a forklift while playing with a basketball during the midnight break time.

Initial information from the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) identified the fatality as Choi Dong Baek, 51, who worked as a foreman for Greenbeach Power Corp., a subcontractor of HHIC-Phil.

According to SBMA investigators, Choi was run over by a forklift operated by a Filipino employee, who was identified as Menti Dacanay, a rigger working for Freeport I-Tech Corp., also a subcontracting firm.

The incident happened at about 12:50 a.m. at the facility's Assembly Shop C in an open area being used as a basketball court by workers during break time.

The victim was brought to a hospital in San Marcelino, Zambales, but he expired at about 1:30 a.m.

Investigators said Choi was playing with the ball, kicking it about like a soccer ball, when it rolled onto the path of the moving forklift.

The victim was trying to retrieve the ball, when he was hit, dragged and run-over by the forklift, SBMA investigators said.

Dacanay, who used the forklift to move away the basketball stand, was not licensed to drive the equipment, it was noted.

Pyeong Jong Yu, deputy managing director of HHIC-Phil, said Dacanay drove the equipment "without getting any instruction from either Korean or Filipino foremen."

"We are still trying to verify how he got the key of the unit, since the key should have been kept in the toolbox container," Yu added.

Choi's death was the 19th fatal accident so far to occur at the Hanjin shipbuilding facility in Subic's Redondo Peninsula, which had claimed its 18th Filipino victim only two days earlier.

Most of the accidents, or a total of 15, were construction-related, said SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza.

Arreza immediately ordered a suspension of work at Assembly Shop C and told SBMA investigators to look at the circumstances surrounding the mishap, including the lighting conditions at the site.

Last Friday, Arreza also ordered the suspension of a Hanjin subcontractor, the Great Steel Construction, whose operations led to the fatal accident involving Raldon del Rosario, a 19-year old worker from Kalinga Apayao.

Arreza said earlier that the Subic authority will pursue the prosecution of all parties found liable in last Friday's accident, when an 800-kilogram curtain door assembly toppled during testing.

Del Rosario's co-worker, identified as Camalao Bochei, 24, and also from Kalinga Apayao, suffered leg injury in the same accident.

SBMA investigators said Del Rosario and Bochei were just passing by the assembly shop where Great Steel workers were installing and testing a rain curtain, when the chain holding the assembly reportedly broke, causing the metal base support to be detached.

"We're definitely taking action on this, and heads will roll," SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza said on Friday as he announced the suspension of Great Steel Construction during a press conference held just a few hours after the accident.

"We will be firm, but fair," he vowed.

Arreza added that the SBMA is "also looking into the contingent liability of Hanjin, because it is the general contractor of the shipyard."

While emphasizing that Del Rosario's death had nothing to do with shipbuilding activity, Arreza said that this does not necessarily clear Hanjin Heavy Industries Co.-Philippines (HHIC-Phil), which operates the $1.7-billion shipyard here.

"We will push through with prosecuting all those who will be found liable," Arreza said.

He also said that the SBMA has recently issued two notices of violation to Hanjin after the SBMA noted in a safety inspection on January 6 that some workers in the shipyard did not have personal protective equipment (PPE), and that some work areas were dimly-lit and not well-ventilated.

HHIC's Yu, meanwhile, said that Great Steel Construction was to blame for the accident on Friday.

"As it is very clear that the incident was caused by either improper installation of chain block, or mechanical failure of some of its components, and no signage was installed by them thereon to prevent incidental use of it before completion of its installation, we will hold them (Great Steel Construction) responsible for the accident," Yu said. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

24 January 2009

Senator urges probe into Hanjin accidents in Subic Bay Freeport

Sen. Pilar Juliana Cayetano on Friday urged the Senate to immediately look into the series of accidents at the construction sites of South Korean shipbuilder Hanjin Heavy Industries Corp. at the Subic Bay Freeport.

Cayetano made the request after getting hold of a letter of Korean Ambassador Choi Joong Kyung to Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile trying to dissuade the Senate from investigating the fatal accidents involving Hanjin.

Cayetano said the ambassador’s letter, dated Dec. 23, 2008, highlighted the virtues of Korean investments in the country despite the global economic slowdown.

But in another part of the letter, the ambassador mentioned that the possible Senate inquiry on the accidents at the Hanjin shipyard could have a negative effect not only on the company but on the Philippines as well.

"The policy implication of all its present actions have deep and far reaching effects within and beyond the boundaries of the Philippines, " read the letter, copies of which were distributed to reporters.

Latest victim

A total of 18 deaths at sprawling Hanjin shipbuilding facility have been reported, the latest of which happened on Friday at 8:30 a.m.

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) identified the latest fatality as Raldon del Rosario, 19, from Kalinga province, an employee of Redondo I-Tech Corp. He died of massive head injuries. Another worker, Camalao Bochie, 24, also from Kalinga, suffered leg injuries. Both victims were taken to St. Jude Hospital in Olongapo City, where Del Rosario was declared dead on arrival.

Initial reports released by the SBMA said the victims were pinned down by the metal base of a newly installed manual canvass door that fell at one of the assembly facilities of Hanjin.

Workers of Great Steel Con, a subcontractor of Hanjin, were testing the manual canvass door at around 8:30 a.m. when the accident happened, the SBMA said.

Last year, government regulators ordered Hanjin to stop its operations in its one of its assembly shops after an 8-ton girder assembly being lifted by a crane fatally struck a worker at the back of his head.

Work, however, resumed as the company assured that all safety measures were being undertaken.

Repercussions

In his letter, the Korean ambassador warned that Hanjin may find it difficult to secure overseas financing in case there would be any shadow cast on its credibility as a result of the investigation.

He said overseas competitors of Hanjin might also feel relieved not to follow Hanjin's pioneering into the Philippines.

Competitors might also find an opportunity in the company's misfortune and seize the chance to eliminate it.

Cayetano asked why the Korean ambassador would stop the investigation when "there is nothing to hide."

"The normal reaction would be telling the investigating body to go ahead with the probe and use the forum to air its side," Cayetano told reporters.

Regrettable, misplaced

She said she finds the ambassador's letter as both regrettable and misplaced. "Are we now to be told by a representative of a foreign country what we should and should not inquire into as a national lawmaking body, and even be threatened by 'deep and far reaching effects within and beyond the boundaries of the Philippines'?" Cayetano said.

"Is it not our duty, as lawmakers of the land, to look into violations and put in place measures to exact compliance?" She said she was not against the foreign investment or anything against the investments of Korean companies, adding that she was personally supportive of foreign investments that give the economy the necessary stimulus.

"Indeed, the government should create an atmosphere that encourages business and investments. But at the same time, laws aimed at protecting our people and our natural resources must be strictly complied with by all, whether Filipino or foreign investors," Cayetano said.

She further said the Senate should immediately investigate the construction activities at the project site before another Hanjin accident takes place.

"Let us not be dictated upon by the amount of investments by foreigners in the exercise of our official functions. We must stand up for our people and for our own laws. Let us remain true to our mandate as the Legislature, " Cayetano said. (Amita Legaspi, GMANews.TV)

SBMA on another fatal accident at Hanjin: ‘Heads will roll’

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) said it will pursue the prosecution of all parties found liable in the death of another worker at the Hanjin shipyard here on Friday, even as it suspended a subcontractor whose operations led to the fatal accident.

“We’re definitely taking action on this, and heads will roll,” SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza said, as he announced the suspension of Great Steel Construction during a press conference held just a few hours after the accident.

“We will be firm, but fair,” he vowed.

Arreza ordered the suspension of Great Steel after an 11x5-meter curtain door that the firm was installing in one assembly shop fell on two shipyard workers.

Initial reports from SBMA investigators identified the fatality as Raldon del Rosario, 19 years old, and a resident of Kalinga Apayao, who suffered “massive head injury” as a result of the accident.

Another worker, identified as Camalao Bochei, 24, also from Kalinga Apayao, suffered leg injury and was brought to the St. Jude Hospital in Olongapo City for treatment.

Both Del Rosario and Bochei were hired only in November last year by Redondo I-Tech Corp., another Hanjin subcontractor.

SBMA investigators said the two victims were just passing by the assembly shop where Great Steel workers were installing a rain curtain when the accident happened at about 8:15 a.m.

At that time, Great Steel workers were reportedly testing the rain curtain – a huge manual canvass door with a metal base - by pulling the canvass up and down with a rigged chain and pulley.

However, the chain holding the door reportedly broke, causing the door’s metal base support to be detached.

The canvass door and its metal frame, which weighed a total of 800 kilograms, thereafter fell on the two victims.

Del Rosario is said to be the 18th fatality at the Hanjin shipyard since it began operations in 2006. Most of the fatal accidents, or a total of 15, occurred at construction sites worked at by various subcontractors.

But while emphasizing that the recent death “had nothing to do with shipbuilding activity”, Arreza added that this does not necessarily clear Hanjin Heavy Industries Co.-Philippines (HHIC-Phil), which operates the $1.7-billion shipyard here.

“The SBMA is also looking into the contingent liability of Hanjin, because it is the general contractor of the shipyard,” he said.

Arreza said he has also instructed the SBMA Legal Department to assist the families of the victims, even as the agency is investigating the incident fully.

“We will push through with prosecuting all those who will be found liable,” Arreza said.

He also said that SBMA safety personnel are now checking on all canvass doors installed by Great Steel Construction in the Hanjin facility to find out if the subcontractor had been using substandard materials in its projects.

Noting that there were no barriers nor warning signs that would have prevented the two victims from passing by the Great Steel worksite, Arreza said that as the general contractor, Hanjin should have enforced safety regulations in the area.

He also said that the SBMA has recently issued two notices of violation to Hanjin after the SBMA noted in a safety inspection on January 6 that some workers in the shipyard did not have personal protective equipment (PPE), and that some work areas were dimly-lit and not well-ventilated.

In a letter to the SBMA, meanwhile, HHIC-Phil deputy managing director Pyeong Jong Yu said the Hanjin subcontractor was to blame for the accident.

“As it is very clear that the incident was caused by either improper installation of chain block, or mechanical failure of some of its components, and no signage was installed by them thereon to prevent incidental use of it before completion of its installation, we will hold them (Great Steel Construction) responsible for the accident,” Yu said. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

SBMA signs in 185 new investments, creates 13,321 more jobs in 2008

Investment and employment figures in this free port continued to soar in 2008 despite a slowing global economy, as the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) approved a total of 185 new investment projects last year and increased the Subic workforce by 13,321 more workers.

Yearend reports from the SBMA Business Group indicated that investment projects grew by six percent last year, or from a total of 175 in 2007 to 185 in 2008. This brought a total of 1,147 approved projects in Subic as of the yearend with cumulative committed investments worth $5.75 billion.

The new projects, worth $249 million in committed investments, were mostly in the tourism, manufacturing and services sectors, which "historically employed the most number of workers in Subic," said SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza.

He said the fresh investments are projected to add 6,260 more jobs to Subic's active workforce that, as of December 2008, already stood at a total of 87,502.

Arreza added that while last year's total value of investments significantly dropped from Subic's all-time records of $1.71 billion in 2007 and $1.44 billion in 2006, "Subic continued to attract some big-ticket projects, while remaining one of the biggest employers in the whole Central Luzon region."

Citing data from the SBMA Business Group, Arreza said the top 10 investments in 2008 was headlined by Subic Neocove Corp., a Korean-led consortium that pledged $175 million to build a high-end leisure facility at Subic's Cawag area, a short distance from the Hanjin shipyard.

Following Neocove is Hanil E & C Subic, Inc., with commitments of $11 million for medium to high-rise commercial residential buildings; Sultan Ahmed Lootah Enterprises Corp., with $6.72 million to manufacture corrugated cartons, sheets, rolls, paper cores, corner pads, trays and duplex boards; George Dewey Medical and Wellness Center, Inc., $6.58 million to operate a hospital, medical and nursing school, wellness center, and research center; and Hanafil Golf & tour, Inc., with $3 million as initial investments to operate golf, tour & other related recreational facilities.

The rest in the top 10 list are: boats and marine-related products manufacturer Australasia Marine Alliance Corp., with $2.32 million; Pacific Pearl Airways Aviation School, with $2.3 million for an aviation technical/ vocational school; Taiwan Cogeneration Corp.'s Subic Bay branch office, with $2 million to design and engineer power plant, transmission and substation projects; Palmgold Int'l Ltd., with $1.94 million for the importation of gaming equipment and operation of slot machine arcade; and Grand Pillar International Development, Inc., with $1.9 million for a real estate venture.

Arreza said the top 10 biggest projects alone made up 85.43 percent of the total committed investments approved by the SBMA Board last year. Foreign direct investments (FDIs), meanwhile, composed 90.74 percent of the $249-million total.

Most of the FDIs were pledged by Korean firms, with a total of 61 projects worth $201.8 million. Filipino firms, however, still placed second to Koreans in terms of total investments in 2008, followed by companies from the United Arab Emirates, Taiwan, Malaysia, Norway, United States of America, Pakistan, and Japan.

Meanwhile, Subic's active workforce, which increased by 18 percent from the 2007 record of 74,181 to 87,502 in 2008, was still dominated by those in the services sector, with a total of 36,203 workers as of the yearend.

Workers in the shipbuilding and marine-related services, however, were catching up in numbers over the last two years, and totaled 30,728 or 35 percent in 2008. A total of 14,545 or 17 percent were recorded in the manufacturing sector; 5,480 or six percent in the construction sector; while 546 or less than one percent were employed as domestic helpers or caretakers.

In terms of manpower distribution, Olongapo City still occupied the number one slot, with 32,620 or 37 percent of Subic's workforce in 2008; Bataan with 11,412 or 13 percent; Zambales with 19,578 or 22 percent; Pampanga, 2,942 or 3 percent; the National Capital Region, 4,289 or five percent; and Tarlac, with 2,220 or three percent.

Arreza also said that Subic's employment generation efforts, a well as its joint program with various agencies to reduce job-skills mismatch, have successfully provided more livelihood opportunities for residents of communities near the free port.

Data from the Department of Labor and Employment's Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics (DOLE-BLES) showed that the total labor force in the entire Central Luzon region increased by 2.4 percent last year, from 3.4 million in 2007 to 3.5 million as of October 2008.

During the same period, unemployment rate in Central Luzon declined from 8.6 percent in 2007 to 8.1 percent last October.

Labor statistics also indicated that out of the 3.5 million workers in the region in October, only 226,135 or 6.5 percent are underemployed. Underemployment rate in the region decreased by one percent from 254,700 or 7.5 percent in 2007, giving Central Luzon the least underemployment rate among the 17 regions in the country. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

21 January 2009

SBMA, Coast Guard firm up deal on maritime safety

Anticipating greater growth of the maritime industry within the Subic Bay Freeport, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) has entered into an agreement with the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to bolster maritime safety and safeguard the marine environment here.

In a simple ceremony recently, SBMA Chairman Feliciano Salonga and PCG Commandant Vice Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) sealing both parties’ commitments for maritime cooperation.

“It is very timely that this kind of cooperation between government agencies like the SBMA and the Coast Guard is made, as this will keep (Subic Bay) safe and encourage more investors to come to here,” Salonga said.

“As you can see, more and more shipping and transshipment activities are coming to Subic Bay and companies are bringing in their ships to Subic rather than to any other port in the country for repair and other maritime services,” he said.

Salonga said that with the assistance from the Philippine Coast Guard, the SBMA could strengthen its capability in maintaining a competitive shipping industry in the region.

“As you can see, more and more shipping and transshipment activities are seen in Subic Bay and companies are bringing in their ships to Subic than in any other ports in the country for repair and other maritime services,” he said.

Under the agreement, the Philippine Coast Guard will assist the SBMA and its Seaport, Law Enforcement, Ecology, and Maritime Affairs departments in enforcing maritime regulations in this free port.

These include conducting safety and maritime security inspections of all vessels plying the free port waters, safeguarding the marine environment and making periodic water testing, maintaining and developing navigational aid systems, and conducting search and rescue, harbor patrol, and oil spill response operations.

The SBMA-PCG agreement also provided for joint operations against all illegal activities at-sea within the Freeport zone.

For his part, Tamayo said that Coast Guard Station Subic, which is under Lt. Elizier Dalnay, will directly coordinate with the SBMA to ensure that all these undertakings are met.

“We will deploy some of our vessels in Subic Bay to assist the SBMA in implementing maritime safety and humanitarian operations within and in contiguous areas of Subic Freeport,” Tamayo also pledged after signing the agreement.

Tamayo and Dalnay also lauded the SBMA for “adopting” the PCG station in Subic and allowing the free use of a building near SBMA’s Boton Wharf as PCG detachment and quarters.

Salonga said that aside from these provisions, the SBMA will allot some space for the PCG to establish a training school, as well as a site for the planned PCG Academy.

The SBMA official also said the cooperation agreement with PCG is necessary because of the presence of big-ticket maritime investments in the Subic Bay area. These include shipyard operations by Korean shipbuilder Hanjin, ship repair facilities of Subic Dock inside the Freeport, and the Philippine Shipping and Engineering Company (Philseco), which is undergoing expansion in the nearby town of Subic, Zambales. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

PHOTO CAPTION:
SBMA-Coast Guard Agreement: SBMA Chairman Feliciano Salonga (right) seals a cooperation agreement with PCG Commandant Vice Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo. The accord aims to boost maritime safety in the Subic Bay area and promote further growth of the maritime industry.

Aboitiz suspends construction of 300MW coal

The intended construction of the 300-megawatt coal plant in Subic Bay, Zambales has been suspended by the Aboitiz Group and its partners.

Erramon Aboitiz, president and chief executive officer of Aboitiz Power Corp., said the decision on whether to push through or not with the development of the coal plant will be based on the review they will conduct.

"We have pushed back our notice to proceed further. We’ve decided to hold off and review it for the second quarter. We were hoping to start construction in the first quarter of the year," he said.

Aboitiz Power Corp. and Taiwan Cogen International Corp., a subsidiary of Taiwan Cogen Corp., jointly own Redondo Peninsula Energy Inc., operator of the proposed 300-MW coal plant that will utilize clean coal technology.

The planned 300-MW facility will be built on a leased Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority property near the Hanjin shipbuilding facility. The plant can utilize local and imported coal.

Mr. Aboitiz said the coal plant is estimated to cost up to US$500 million. "We will look at costing again because costs have come down. We will also review the demand in the Luzon grid...because if the growth is negative, we would probably think of delaying the project further," he said. (LDV/MSN, PNA)

17 January 2009

SBMA sees ‘win-win’ solution to Subic tree controversy

Officials of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) are now looking forward to a “win-win” solution in the issue of the Ocean 9 hotel-casino project in this free port after Environment Secretary Lito Atienza on Wednesday debunked claims that trees have already been cut at the project site.

SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza said the allegation that trees have been sacrificed to make way for the hotel-casino project “has sidelined most of us from more important work.”

“Now we should be able to come up with a solution that would be acceptable to all parties concerned,” Arreza said.

Arreza said the “win-win” solution would adhere to requirements and conditions to be imposed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), while still giving the project proponent Grand Utopia, Inc. “enough reason to continue with its $120-million development project.”

Atienza, who met with SBMA officials and Grand Utopia representatives during an inspection of the project site on Wednesday, described the proposed hotel-casino as “a very good project” and noted that it would create more than 5,000 jobs when operational.

“Let’s work together for a win-win solution,” Atienza asked Ocean 9 executive managing director Louis Joong-Moon Choi during the inspection.

He suggested that the project should be redesigned to incorporate “mature trees” in the area, while saplings could be transferred to forest areas in the Freeport zone.

The retention of mature trees in the site “could even add ambiance to your project,” Atienza told Choi, adding that millions of dollars are being spent just to put trees in world-class tourism projects elsewhere.

Arreza said the SBMA agrees that the trees at the project site should be spared.

“This has been our position all along,” he stressed.

“The situation only took a turn for the worst when some critics began raising issues like century-old trees and tree massacre, which are all unfounded,” he added.

In his visit to the site, Atienza confirmed that there are no signs of tree-cutting and that only “mature”, not century-old, trees exist.

The same findings were made during a site visit last Saturday by a group of environmentalists and members of civic and religious groups led by the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP).

Sharing the same observations, Atienza said that reports about tree-cutting have been “exaggerated”. He also cautioned critics of the project “to stick with the truth”.

Fr. June Vic Diolata, ARSP executive vice secretary, meanwhile said that allegations on the Ocean 9 project by architect and urban planner Felino Palafox Jr. “would have to be re-assessed” in the light of these findings.

Arreza said the SBMA considers the Ocean 9 project “a critical infrastructure” to complement the agency’s tourism development program, particularly in attracting foreign tourists and cruise ships to the area, especially under present global economic conditions.

“This is envisioned to transform the Subic waterfront and make it a world-class tourism destination,” Arreza said. “A lot is riding on this project – investments, jobs, and revenue, so the SBMA would like to ensure its viability as well as its acceptability,” he added. (SBMA Corporate Communications)


PHOTO CAPTION

Environment Secretary Lito Atienza (middle) confers with Grand Utopia executive managing director Louis Choong-Moon Choi (left) and SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza during Atienza’s visit to the Ocean 9 hotel-casino project site. The environment czar proposed a “win-win” solution to resolve the environmental issue surrounding the site of the $120-million tourism project in the Subic Bay Freeport.

15 January 2009

Subic tree row: Atienza urges critics to stick to the truth

Environment Secretary Lito Atienza confirmed that no trees have been cut here to make way for the proposed Ocean 9 hotel-casino and urged critics of the project to stick to the truth.

Atienza inspected on Wednesday the controversial two-hectare site of the project, a week after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) took over the issuance of environmental permits in this free port from the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).

“They said that trees have been cut here, so where are those cut trees?” Atienza wondered aloud during his inspection.

“At this point, personally, I can see that no trees were cut and that is important,” the DENR chief said.

“It is very important that the whole country know that no trees were cut in SBMA up to now,” he added.

Atienza was accompanied in his inspection of the project site by SBMA Chairman Feliciano Salonga and SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza, as well as some representatives of the project proponent Grand Utopia, Inc.

Atienza revoked last week a DENR agreement with the SBMA that allowed the latter to issue environmental compliance certificates (ECCs) for projects within the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.

In revoking the agreement, Atienza noted that the SBMA has been taking criticisms lately because of allegations, notably by architect and urban planner Felino Palafox Jr., that some 300 trees would be destroyed to make way for the hotel-casino project.

But in his visit of the project site, Atienza noted that the trees remain intact, and that reports that century-old trees have been cut were exaggerated.

“If there were century-old trees here, we should be seeing them now; but there’s none,” Atienza said.

"This is a reclaimed area during the US Navy days and it’s impossible for century-old trees to be here," he added.

Atienza said that activism for the environment is good. “But, of course, we have to stick to reality and the truth,” he said.

Noting Palafox’s avowed passion for the environment, Atienza also said that he and Palafox “could work together.”

At the same time, Atienza directed DENR field officers to conduct tests at the project site to determine whether some trees have really been poisoned, as insinuated by Palafox and other critics of the project.

He said that results of the soil tests may be available after a week.

Atienza’s inspection came three days after some 200 environmentalists and members of religious and civic groups visited the project site to press the SBMA to save the trees.

But during the said visit, Fr. Jun Vic Diolata, executive vice-secretary of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP), also confirmed that not one tree at the project site have been cut.

Diolata said after seeing the situation in the area that “all the allegations of Palafox will have to be assessed.”

During Atienza’s inspection, SBMA’s Salonga informed the DENR official that the SBMA has a continuing reforestation program to further enhance the environment in this free port.

“We have already planted about 170,000 seedlings since we assumed our positions here in the SBMA, and yet they are still accusing us of not loving trees,” Salonga said.

Atienza also expressed his appreciation with the SBMA after Salonga told him that since December 2 last year, the agency has frozen any work at the Ocean 9 construction site pending the issuance of ECC from the DENR. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

Carriers parking their vessels in Subic Bay

International shipping lines have started to reduce the frequencies of their vessels going to and from the Philippines, and are parking some of their vessels in the ports of the country.

Perfecto Pascual, seaport manager of Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), said at least 12 vessels have already been parked in the free port since November last year, most of which are from ship agents Ben Line and BOW Marine Services Inc.

“International carriers started to temporarily park their vessels in the third quarter of the year and continue up to this time,” Pascual
said.

SBMA is charging $0.0174 per GRT (gross registered ton) per day for every vessel anchored along the territories of the free port on top of the one-time harbor fee of $0.06 per GRT per day. The rate for domestic vessels, on the other hand, is half of that price.

Shipping lines prefer to just park their vessels to reduce the cost as cargo volumes are on a steep downtrend since the third quarter last year due to the global recession.

Such move, however, has become a boon to local port authorities as they can still get a significant amount of revenues, even if cargo volumes are decreasing.

“Several other [ship] agents have expressed possibility of parking their vessels to Subic Bay if the shipping business continues to remain slow in the next weeks,”
Pascual said.

At the Port of Manila, the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) is also allocating spaces for the international lines to lay up their vessels until such time that the economic crisis winds down. (VG Cabuag, Business Mirror)

14 January 2009

Ocean Adventure undertakes P283-M expansion

Subic Bay Marine Exploratorium, Inc. (SBMEI), the operator of the popular Ocean Adventure Marine Park here, announced on Tuesday that it will undertake a P283-million expansion program this year to develop an integrated world-class eco-tourism complex.

“The SBMEI is now in the midst of a major capital expansion program that will enhance the capacity of both our Ocean Adventure Marine Theme Park and Camayan Beach Resort and Hotel,” said company president John Corcoran.
The planned eco-tourism complex will offer amenities “not found elsewhere,” he added.

Corcoran said the Ocean Adventure Marine Park will have an all-new Sea Lion Stadium, with a sea lion holding and exhibits area that will allow underwater viewing for visitors.

“Additionally, there will be a new indoor multi-purpose theater, a new aviary exhibit area, an Ecology Theater which will feature educational terrestrial animal shows, and an Adventure Beach events area,” he said.

The marine park complex will also be enhanced with the planned Shady Grove Grill Restaurant, recreation and entertainment facilities for corporate and school groups, as well as new showers and changing rooms, he added.

Meanwhile, the nearby Camayan Beach Resort that SBMEI also operates will have a new 42-room “Sunset” wing that will offer guests with “incredible views of Ilanin Cove in Subic Bay,” Corcoran said.

The resort, which is also dive center accredited by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), will also be connected to the beach by a new boardwalk under the SBMEI expansion program, he added.

“Continuing (SBMEI’s) commitment to the environment, a second sewage treatment plant will be part of the expansion program,” Corcoran said.

SBMEI’s expansion program is scheduled to be completed within two years and will generate 160 jobs during the construction phase.

Meanwhile, 85 new jobs will be created once the new facilities become operational, Corcoran said.

Ultimately, he added, the Ocean Adventure integrated complex will also feature a retirement village, resort/vacation villas, spa, boutique specialty shops, and more eco-adventure facilities and animal exhibits.

Corcoran added that the SBMEI expansion program was made possible by the increasing popularity of the marine park and demand for its products.

He added that the company’s projected revenue increases and resulting bottom-line “will be strong even given current economic conditions.”

The Ocean Adventure’s popularity as a tourism attraction in Subic is expected to be further bolstered by a recent court decision clearing the marine animal show in the said theme park.

The Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) and some environmental groups alleged in 2001 that the SBMEI violated Republic Act 8485, or the animal welfare act, for using dolphins, sea lions and false killer whales in various animal shows here.

However, the Court of Appeals said recently that the petition against the SBMEI was “devoid of merit.” (SBMA Corporate Communications)

Aeta tribe gets computer, scholarship grants from SBMA, BOI media

For members of the remote Kanawan Aeta community in Morong, Bataan, 2009 finally introduced them to the wonders of technology and the promise of better education as the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) presented them on Monday a computer set and scholarship grants, among other gifts to uplift their socio-cultural condition.

The post-Christmas presents were received by Kanawan tribal chieftain Josefina Alejo from SBMA Chairman Feliciano Salonga, Administrator Armand Arreza, and Director Maria Angela Garcia, who represents Morong in the SBMA board.
The items included a computer set, a brand-new tricycle, and a DVD player and amplifier worth a total of P125,000.

Aside from these, Alejo also received from the SBMA a check worth P120,000 to cover scholarship grants for students from the Kanawan community.

“The past year was a very good one for all of us in Subic, and we closed 2008 with more than 85,000 workers in the free port’s workforce,” Arreza said.

“But the SBMA is not only counting the jobs to measure what it has done to the community. We are also concerned about the larger impact that SBMA and its partners are creating for the community,” he added.

Arreza said that the equipment donations given to Kanawan were solicited by the Board of Investments media pool in Manila.

He said the same group has also conducted assistance projects and gave donations recently to needy residents at the Pastolan Aeta community in the Subic Freeport, as well as in Augusuhin, Subic, Zambales.

For her part, the leader of the Aeta community thanked the SBMA for its continuous assistance to Kanawan and lauded the agency’s community relations projects initiated by the SBMA Public Relations Office.

“We are very thankful to the officials of SBMA, because while our community is in a very remote area, SBMA personnel continue to make a sacrifice in visiting us and helping improve our way of living,” Alejo said in Tagalog.

Sitio Kanawan is located more than six kilometers into the hinterlands of barangay Binaritan in Morong, Bataan. It is home to 84 families, most of them upland farmers and forest gatherers.

“Sa lugar po namin ay walang masakyan ang mga tao. Wala pong computer kaya walang marunong mag-computer sa amin, at wala ding television,” Alejo said.

She added that the computer set given to the village will help teachers assigned to the area in providing better education to children, as well as introduce Kanawan youth to modern technology.

The tricycle, meanwhile, will be a big help in moving things about in the hilly terrain of Kanawan, and during emergencies could also serve as ambulance, she added. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

PHOTO CAPTION: SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza (right), Chairman Feliciano Salonga, and Director Maria Angela Garcia present the computer set, tricycle and scholarship grants donated by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority and members of the Board of Investments media pool. Kanawan tribal chieftain Josefina Alejo (third from left) received the donation.

NGOs, religious groups reconsider Palafox claims on Subic trees

It pays to hear both sides of the story.

A visit to the site of the controversial Ocean 9 hotel-casino project here this weekend has prompted environmentalists, religious groups, and non-government organizations to reconsider accusations by architect and urban planner Felino Palafox Jr. against the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).

The groups also pressed for a dialogue between the opposing camps to ferret out the truth about Palafox's allegations that the project would destroy more than 300 trees — a claim that the SBMA has disputed.

The site visit was organized by the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP) and was joined by some 100 representatives from the Haribon Foundation, Kapatiran, Zambales Earth Savers, and students from De La Salle University, Adamson University, Assumption Academy in Bulacan, and Columban College in Olongapo City.

Fr. June Vic Diolata, AMRSP executive vice-secretary, said the visit provided "helpful" information that countered "serious" accusations by Palafox.

"All the allegations of Palafox will have to be assessed," Diolata said. "We hope we could see a dialogue between the two (parties)," he added.

The groups visited the project site on Saturday after hearing Palafox speak in a forum at the Columban College in Olongapo.

However, Palafox did not join the on-site site visit, wherein the visiting groups were escorted by SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza.

Ocean 9's managing executive director Louis Jong-Moon Choi was also at hand to welcome the visitors and respond to their queries.

He pointed out that Ocean 9 has been complying with all relevant laws, rules and regulations of the Philippines as far as the project is concerned, and that Palafox has never visited the project site.
As Arreza answered inquiries about the project, he also assured the visitors that the SBMA is open to a dialogue with Palafox.


"That was what we have been asking Palafox ever since — instead of his propagating malicious ideas against SBMA, just like what he did this morning," said Arreza.

"I can face him right now if only he has had the courage to come here," he added.

During the assembly at Columban College, Palafox , a former consultant who turned critic of the $120-milion hotel-casino project, said that "161 trees are dying in the area," and further implied that the trees could have been poisoned.

"You can kill trees simply with rock salt, or bulldozers can be used to shake the trees overnight — which can cause their death," Palafox added.

Arreza, however, laughed off Palafox's claims, saying that the project consultant-turned-critic might be referring to some narra trees, which naturally shed leaves in this season, making them appear lifeless.

The SBMA official even welcomed a proposal to test the soil for poison, adding that the visiting groups can conduct the test if they wanted to.

"Anyone can come here anytime. Just inform us so we can secure arrangements with the project proponent," said Arreza, who also ordered the SBMA police to guide the group's convoy of vehicles to the project site.

"We have nothing to hide here," he added.

Palafox also told the Olongapo assembly that the SBMA took advantage of the holidays to sneak cranes inside the project site.

Presenting slides which showed markings on trees that were made during the tree inventory undertaken by the SBMA Ecology Center last year, Palafox said that the trees "were marked like convicts lined up for execution."

But Arreza explained that the markings were made during the tree inventory and "precisely to ensure that not one tree is touched until the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is done with processing the project's environmental compliance certificate (ECC)."


As for the presence of cranes, which Palafox claimed are poised "to massacre the trees", Arreza said those were for soil testing, a necessary procedure to determine the integrity of the site, which was reclaimed from swamplands from the late 50s to the early 60s.

Fr. Diolata said that the visit confirmed that "the cranes were being used for soil testing only" and that "all of the trees are intact."

He added that the site visit "would enable everyone who participated here to come up with an objective opinion."

Meanwhile, an ARMSP member who asked not to be named, made it clear that the visiting groups were "in no way supporters of Palafox."

"We came here for the trees, and to find out the truth," the source said. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

PHOTO CAPTION:

SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza (right) fields inquiries on the Ocean 9 hotel-casino project during a visit to the project site by environmentalists, religious groups and non-government organizations. Arreza pointed out that contrary to claims by critics, the more than 300 trees in the project site remain intact to this day.

08 January 2009

SBMA ADMINISTRATOR AND CEO ARMAND C. ARREZA'S OFFICIAL STATEMENT ON REVOCATION OF DENR-SBMA MOA

"We respect the DENR's decision to revoke our Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with them and will cooperate fully with the Department in ensuring environmental compliance within the Freeport. We also wish to reiterate that the SBMA remains committed to the protection of the environment and will seek the DENR's reconsideration.

As far as our alleged plan to cut down trees to make way for a hotel-casino project is concerned, we welcome the DENR's stepping into the picture, as this would help us in making sure that Subic's environment is preserved amidst all the development that is taking place in the Freeport. This will also be an opportunity for us to clear ourselves of the negative insinuations levied against us.

At the same time, we wish to assure the public that all 366 trees at the project site remain intact to this day." (End of Statement)

07 January 2009

Subic sees modest growth despite global recession

Despite forecasts of an even grimmer economic picture this year as a compounded result of the global financial crisis in 2007, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) said it is optimistic of continued growth in “anchor industries” to keep the Subic Bay Freeport afloat even in turbulent waters.

SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza said that the agency expects modest growth in Subic’s tourism, manufacturing and maritime sectors as these “are likely to defy the global slowdown due to their firm foothold in the market.”

These sectors, he explained, turned out the bulk of the P4.21 billion total investments that the SBMA approved in December 2008 — fresh infusions that Subic managed to secure even after the impact of the global financial meltdown began to sink in.

The new investments, Arreza said, brought total committed investments in Subic to $5.75 billion as of end-2008, and are expected to add at least 1,000 new jobs to Subic’s active work force of about 85,000.

In the short term, Arreza said that growth may be generally flat in 2009, especially for certain companies in the manufacturing sector.

“But in the long haul, we expect the tide to turn and eventually lead to recovery,” Arreza said.
“There should even be opportunities in the lean months, as some firms would shift production to more cost-competitive locations like Subic,” he added.

In particular, Arreza said the tourism industry in Subic should prove to be resilient amid the expected slowdown because of its own local market niche.

In addition, he said that the SBMA and Subic business locators are now tapping the foreign market to bring in more tourism revenue.

An example of the more enterprising firms, Arreza said, is Subic golf course operator Hanafil, which was scheduled to bring in on Monday night the first planeload of golf players from South Korea under its “golf junket” program.

Arreza added that Subic is also eyeing the still emerging but potentially huge Chinese tourist market, which is expected to reach 100 million by 2015, by building more facilities and adding to Subic’s repertoire of nature theme parks and adventure sports attractions.

He said that Ocean Adventure, one of the popular tourist draws in Subic, is expanding this year and will build a hotel at the nearby Camayan beach resort that it also operates.

Anticipating bigger tourist turnouts in Subic this year, Puregold Duty Free also embarked recently on a $50-million expansion program for its duty-free retailing business here, Arreza added.

In the logistics sector, Philip Morris will be putting up in Subic this year a P1-billion warehouse to expand its tobacco leaf supply hub for Southeast Asia. This facility is expected to accommodate up to 24,500 metric tons of tobacco leaves.

Meanwhile, the manufacturing sector is also expected to provide its share in Subic’s continued growth, as indicated by expansion projects for factories and construction of new production facilities worth over $25 million.

Several manufacturing firms in Subic, including Japanese ATM manufacturer Hitachi Terminals, Taiwanese lock maker Tong Lung and abrasives producer Tailin, are slated to build or start operating bigger facilities this year.

On the other hand, the maritime industry, headlined by shipbuilder Hanjin Heavy Industries Co.-Philippines, is expected to continue boosting Subic’s revenue and employment generation programs by turning out 15 new container vessels this year.

The company had so far launched four 4,300-TEU container ships that cost around $60 million each from its Subic shipyard, and expects a faster pace of production in 2009 as its more than 15,000 Filipino workers become more familiar with the shipbuilding process.

“By and large, Subic’s core industries will see it through this economic slowdown,” Arreza said.

“Overall prospects may be dampened by some effects of the global crunch, but we expect modest gains — then possibly, full recovery in two to three years, as the new investment projects we signed in last year begin to kick off,” he added. (SBMA Corporate Communications)


PHOTO CAPTION:

NEW SUBIC INVESTORS: SBMA Chairman Feliciano Salonga (6th from left) and SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza (4th from right) pose with new investors, who are among the 34 business locators that signed investment contracts worth P4.21 billion with the SBMA last December.

Int’l airline flies in 1st batch of Korean golfers to Subic

South Korea’s Jeju Airlines made its first chartered flight from its base in Seoul to this free port Monday night, flying in 174 Korean nationals who are out for a three-day “golf holiday” here.

The Korean golfers comprise the first batch of about 3,000 tourists from Korea who shall visit the Subic Bay Freeport until March under a “golf junket” program arranged by Hanafil, a Filipino-Korean firm that now operates Subic’s 18-hole golf course.

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Administrator Armand Arreza said that two junket flights, with about 180 persons per flight, have been scheduled each week to land at the Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA).

Arreza and SBMA Chairman Feliciano Salonga personally welcomed the golfers at the SBIA.

Arreza said he was happy now that the SBIA has resumed commercial operations after a year and a half of dormancy when Mandarin Airlines stopped its regular flights here.

“This maiden flight (of Jeju Airlines) demonstrates how important SBIA is to the free port,” he said, adding that the more than 24 scheduled golf junket flights would contribute about US$48-50 million to Subic’s income.

The junket flights program, which is an initiative of HanaTour, Korea’s largest tourism firm and mother company of Hanafil, “would certainly boost Subic’s tourism industry,” Arreza also said, noting that tour packages arranged by the organizers will bring the Korean golfers to other tourism attractions in Subic like beaches, forests, theme parks, recreational facilities, and duty-free shops.

HanaGolf president and CEO Jae Yeoul Kim, whose firm marketed the golf junket flights, said that these junket flights were just the initial result of their promotion of Subic in Korea.

He added that starting March this year, he expects regular tourist flights between Subic and Seoul.

“Subic is such an attractive place, and the main factor that draws tourists here is its secure environment,” Kim said.

He pointed out that 60 percent of tourist travels in Korea is being handled by HanaTour, which he said has an international network and is listed in the Korean Stock Exchange.

He added that with HanaTour’s network, Subic could be further promoted internationally.

“It would not be long before Subic would be recognized as a prime tourist destination among Koreans,” Kim said. “We have the power to do that,” he added.

Kim said they have arranged three tour packages for the visiting golfers: the golf package, which is a three-day, 8-hole golfing spree every morning and a visit to Subic attractions every afternoon; a free-to-do package, which has no fixed schedule; and a holiday tour package, which will become available once HanaGolf finishes its villa and condominium units in Subic.

Hanafil CEO Benjamin Defensor said meanwhile that the golf junket program would also help promote the SBIA as an entry point for international golfers and tourists.

“With this, Subic Bay will be the next big thing in tourism, especially since it has all the necessary infrastructure to support tourism growth,” Defensor said. “That is why our company is committed to developing the area,” he added.

According to Defensor, Hanafil has already renovated some parts of Subic’s 18-hole golf course and is now gearing up to construct additional nine holes.

On top of this, the company is currently finalizing plans to build a five-star hotel and luxury villas near the golf course at Subic’s Binictican area. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

PHOTO CAPTION:

Korean golfers arrive at the Subic Bay International Airport under a “golf junket” program arranged by Hanafil, operator of the 18-hole golf course in Subic.

06 January 2009

Tailin of Taiwan shrugs off crisis, eyes Subic expansion

Tailin Abrasives (Subic) Corp. of Taiwan is scouting for a new site in the Subic Bay Freeport for its expansion plans as it remains confident that demand for its products will not slow down despite the global recession.

Charles Wu, company chairman, told reporters in a visit to Tailin’s headquarters in Taipei last month that exports prospects remained bright despite the worst financial crisis in the United States, which accounts for 30 percent of its exports.

The group designs, manufactures and distributes a wide range of resin-bonded abrasive
products, such as cut-off and grinding discs, coated abrasives, flap disc, mounted points and conventional grinding discs. It sells its products through industrial distributors, original equipment manufacturers and hardware private label programs.

“The recession will have little impact on our exports since we produce highly specialized industrial products. Our production for 2009 is already paid for. We are also looking at tapping other export markets to ease the impact of the slowdown in the US market,” said Wu.

The company also exports 30 percent of total production to Asia, 25 percent to Australia and 10 percent to the European Union. Taiwan accounts for 5 percent of the output. (Elaine Ramos Alanguilan, Manila Standard Today)

02 January 2009

Sights and Sounds of New Year Celebration 09 in Subic Bay (link)