Posts in:February 2009 | SubicNewsLink

27 February 2009

Architects, planners call for objectivity on Subic ‘tree-cutting’ issue

Various professional associations, including the biggest group of architects in the country, have urged an objective appraisal of the proposed hotel-casino project in this free port, pointing out that development and conservation can co-exist.

In a manifesto released to the media on Wednesday, the Council for Built and Natural Environments (CBNE), which is composed of nine professional organizations, said “a second look” at the project is needed to come up with “a more objective and intelligent appreciation of the situation.”

“The CBNE believes that development and conservation can go together and both can synergize with each other to ensure the welfare of the public,” the group said.

“A careful review of the facts together with scientific, proper and judicious implementation of environmental and natural resource guidelines will achieve this,” the CBNE added.

The CBNE is composed of the United Architects of the Philippines (UAP), Philippine Institute of Environmental Planners (PIEP), Philippine Association of Landscape Architects (PALA), Geological Society of the Philippines (GSP), Integrated Chemists of the Philippines (ICP), National Master Plumbers Association of the Philippines (NAMPAP), Philippine Association of
Agriculturists (PAA), Philippine Institute of Interior Designers (PIID), and the Society of Filipino Foresters (SFF).

The group said it has taken a “special interest” on the tree-cutting issue considering the widespread interest and concern that it has generated.

The Ocean 9 hotel-casino project proposed by Korean firm Grand Utopia has been sidelined since groundbreaking in November last year after Architect Felino Palafox Jr. alleged that it would result in the destruction of some 300 trees, including supposedly century-old trees at the proposed project site.

The allegations by Palafox, who was previously hired to design the project, stirred a controversy, although the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) had categorically stated it would not allow any tree-cutting.

The CBNE said the purported tree-cutting in the Subic Freeport “has been made to appear as an unconscionable imperative in favor of development that is grossly inimical to the environmental integrity of the proposed site.”

“This has sent an alarming signal that seems to pit development versus (the environment),” the group added.

The CBNE said that it also conducted a fact-finding mission to the site on February 5, 2009 after reviewing project technical reports presented to the media.

Among others, the fact-finding mission validated that the proposed hotel-casino project site is within Subic’s commercial district, that there is no natural forest in the proposed project site, and that no tree has been cut or felled, the CBNE statement said.

It also stressed that the three species of trees in the area, consisting of 33 individuals, that were earlier classified as “endangered” or “critically endangered” referred to species whose survival in the wild is unlikely, or those facing “extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.”

But “while some of those in the list may indeed be vanishing in the wild, they are actually planted and growing in abundance and are readily available commercially in just about anywhere else all over the Philippines,” the CBNE asserted.

The group also said that based on its investigation, it has concluded that the vegetation in the project site can neither be considered virgin forest, nor a natural or old-growth forest, and that there are no century-old trees in the area.

In view of its findings, the CBNE urged all concerned “to take a second look at the issue and come up with a more objective and intelligent appreciation of the situation.” (SBMA Corporate Communications)

Hanjin delays expansion of Shipyard

With no new ship orders, Hanjin Heavy Industries Corp., Philippines (HHIC-Phil) is slowing down its shipyard expansion.

Hanjin received 34 ship orders in the early part of 2008 in its shipyard but the number of orders has not increased to date.

Ship owners have put off new orders as they watch the manufacturing industry grapple with slackening consumer demand.

Armand Arreza, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) administrator said, Hanjin was supposed to go on with the construction of dry dock number 7, but has not started the expansion because of the changed business environment.

The present shipyard is handling the construction of 34 vessels scheduled for deliveries from 2008 to 2013. This year, Arreza said 14 vessels are scheduled for delivery.

Vessel sales are estimated to be between $840 million to $900 million, as ships vary in sizes.

Last year, Hanjin launched four 4,300 TEU container ships that cost around $60 million each.

Hanjin’s dry-dock numbers 1, 2 and 3 are all in its shipyard in Korea.

Dry-dock numbers 3 and 4 are in Subic and another one will be constructed to accommodate future vessel constructions.

Dry-dock no. 6, a 480-meter long 13 meter-wide and 13 meters deep was completed last year. It has a bigger assembly line, with a 1.7 kilometer quay wall installed with two more units of ultra huge gantry cranes.

“The dry-docks are included in the first phase of development worth $1.6 billion. The second phase of the project development which involve the construction of
dry-dock 7 is supposed to deliver another $1 billion investment,” Arreza said.

"The shipyard currently employs 20,000 workers. Their commitment to employ about 40,000 employees would happen if the phase 2 of the project would be in place," He added.

Hanjin uses state of the art technology to ensure being at par with competitors and be able to maintain value for customers.

Hanjin’s shipyard expansion will allow the company to compete well with other major shipbuilders in Korea, such as Hyundai Heavy Industries, Samsung Heavy Industries and Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering.

The firm plans to increase the shipbuilding capacity in Subic equipped with facilities that can generate annual sales of about $3.1 billion, the company said.

“We will promote the shipyard as a global shipbuilding base,” Hanjin said. (c/o Olongapo-Subic Bay News)

26 February 2009

Bidding for Subic container terminal starts

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) has announced that bid documents for the operation and management of the New Container Terminal-2 (NCT-2), the second phase of the multi-million dollar Subic port project, are now available to interested parties.

Capt. Perfecto Pascual, general manager of the SBMA Seaport Department, said on Tuesday that bid documents may be obtained from the Project Management Office (PMO) upon payment of a non-refundable amount of P100,000 or $2,500..

The PMO, which is located at Bldg. 29, Waterfront Road Extension, SRF Compound, Subic Bay Freeport, is open Monday to Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“We have started selling out bid documents today after completing the requirements of publishing notices in January,” Pascual said on Tuesday.

He added that bidders are expected to submit their proposals on or before 2 p.m. of April 14, after which the bids will be evaluated by the Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC) for Port Commercialization.

“If we have a successful bidding, then we intend to finish with the awarding sometime in July,” Pascual said.

According to the bid invitation sent out by the SBAC, the contract will be for the operation, management and maintenance of the NCT-2 as a transshipment hub.

The NCT-2, which is located at the Cubi Point in Subic, has a 14-hectare newly-constructed container yard, a 280-meter long newly constructed wharf, two units of 53-ton capacity quay gantry cranes, as well as other buildings, equipment and utilities.

Pascual said the facility, which has a capacity of 300,000-TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units), can accommodate big container ships, including Panamax vessels.

The SBMA bid invitation has set minimum requirements to determine the eligibility of interested bidders.

Under technical qualifications, the SBMA said that the bidder must be an operator of an international container shipping line, or a consortium of operators; and that the bidder handles at least 2 million TEUs per year, or has an operating capacity of 100,000 TEUs, which are combined in case of a consortium.

The bidder or consortium of bidders must also have a net worth of at least US$50 million, which are again combined in case of a bidding consortium.

Under the financial requirements, the SBMA said, among others, that each bidder or joint venture or consortium “must be able to submit evidence of the availability of, or the ability to raise the amount needed for the operation and maintenance of NCT-2 in the amount of at least US50 million.”

Legal qualifications, meanwhile, require each bidder to submit proof of legal eligibility and competence, as well as proof of payment of current taxes, among others.

Moreover, in case of a foreign bidder, the SBMA set as a condition for award that the equity participation of a foreigner “shall not exceed 40 percent of the total equity of the winning operator.”

Pascual said the SBMA is encouraging foreign shipping lines to participate in the bidding because it is positioning the NCT-2 as a transshipment hub.

“A lot would benefit if NCT-2 becomes a transshipment hub,” Pascual said. “The government would earn more revenue, commerce and trade in Central Luzon would be enhanced, and more jobs would be created.”

He said that the 300,000-TEU NCT-1, which is operated by the Subic Bay International Terminal Corp. (SBITC), is now being utilized mainly for shipping export and import requirements of business locators in Subic and Clark free ports, as well as other port users in the Luzon area. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

PHOTO: Subic’s New Container Terminal-2

We did best to comply with safety laws - Hanjin

The president of Korean firm Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction on Tuesday said that they did their best to comply with the Philippine’s safety laws, rules and regulations and even promised to “go the extra mile" to protect the lives of their workers."

"[Hanjin] feels that it has done in its two years of existence its best to comply with all safety laws, rules and regulations and if necessary would go the extra mile of providing what is lacking in this laws to completely protect the lives of our workers," Hanjin president Jeong Sup Shim told the Senate panel investigating the fatal accidents in the shipyard and construction site.

He added that Hanjin would continue to contribute to the economic development of the Philippines.

Based on the records of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, there were 19 work-related deaths at Hanjin.

Jeong Sup Shim thanked the Senate and other parties for the concern to the safety of their shipyard but he asked the panel to be objective in releasing its findings.

"The Senate and other parties will gather enough information to come up with a fair finding taking into account both sides of legislation with all objectivity and impartiality, " Jeong said.

"We believe that the purpose of the inquiry is in aid of legislation and to further improve the safety of the workplace and not really to find fault in our company which could easily hinder operations," he added.

Jeong said the firm will recognize the findings of the panel. "We are one with the Senate and other concerned parties that it is vital to implement health and safety programs in our shipyard," Jeong said.

Upon the questioning of Senator Pilar Juliana Cayetano, Jeong said that being the company’s president, his primary job is to concentrate in marketing and getting ship orders.

He said he is just relying on the report of his men on the ground particularly about labor matters. Mr. Jeong assumed his position only in February 2008.

Also present at the hearing were Hanjin general manager Myung Goo Kwon and deputy managing director Pyeong Jong Yu; Feliciano Salonga, chairman of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority and representatives from the Department of Labor and Employment and Department of Health. (Amita Legaspi, GMANews.TV)

23 February 2009

First RP cruise ship makes Subic its homeport

The first cruise ship to fly the Philippine flag has made Subic Bay its homeport, giving an added boost to this free port’s claim of being one of the country’s most spectacular tourism destinations.

Esteban Tajanlangit, chairman of the 7107 Islands Cruise, said the 370-passenger ship will now start its twice-monthly inter-island tours here, after cruise line officials saw Subic’s advantage as a nautical gateway.

“This is the Philippines’ first cruise ship and Subic Bay is the ideal homeport for it,” Tajanlangit said when the ship first sailed to Subic on February 14.

He noted that Subic’s Alava Pier, where US warships used to dock, offers an instant panorama of the freeport zone, unlike in Manila where containerized cargoes blocked the view of the city.

“The 7107 Islands Cruise is committed to make Subic a takeoff point to our country’s 7107 spectacular islands, and today is just the beginning,” he said.

On its maiden cruise to Subic on Valentine’s Day, the Filipino cruise ship brought close to 300 vacationers who spent a day exploring some of the top attractions in this free port under tour packages arranged by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).

The tour destinations included theme parks like Tree Top Adventure, Zoobic Safari, and Ocean
Adventure, as well as duty-free shops and other leisure facilities in Subic’s central business district.

With the ship homeported at Subic, meanwhile, tourists from Central and Northern Luzon will now have the chance to join the ship’s island-hopping tours, said SBMA Chairman Feliciano Salonga.

“They can take the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) and be in Subic in no time for the scheduled tours,” Salonga said.

Tajanlangit said the succeeding 7107 cruise schedules will start from Subic, proceed to Manila to pick up additional passengers, then begin the hops to Puerto Galera, Boracay and Coron.

The ship will dock one or two days in each destination before sailing back to Subic Bay, he said.

The 110-meter long 7107 Islands cruise ship has 137 cabins with a total bed capacity of 370, a swimming pool, sauna and spa, poolside bar, and entertainment lounge that features professional bands and guest artists.

The cruise line also has tie-ups with destination resorts for diving, snorkeling, boating and other water sports activities.

The entry of the 7107 Islands cruise line in Subic was the result of the aggressive promotion campaign by the SBMA Tourism group, which has been busy creating various tour packages for Subic Bay.

A private firm has also developed areas at the SRF for a passenger terminal and tourist complex, and built a Bali-type resort along the waterfront.

Salonga said the passenger cruise industry is expected to energize Subic’s tourism sector and provide some steam to port and maritime-related businesses here in face of the global recession. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

The 7107 Islands Cruise Ship steams into Subic Bay, its new home port.

Customs vows 100% X-ray scanning of cargo in Subic

The Bureau of Customs (BoC) has vowed to fully implement the mandatory X-ray scanning of containerized cargo passing through the Subic Bay Freeport after the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) offered assistance in the bureau’s revenue collection efforts.

Port of Subic customs collector Marietta Zamoranos assured the Congressional Oversight Committee chaired by Rep. Jeci Lapus of Tarlac that her office would ensure the proper use of the X-ray machine at Subic’s New Container Terminals (NCT-1 and 2) in order to plug any revenue leak and prevent the entry of anti-social goods.

“I believe that, at least with respect to the collection of fees, it can be done properly with the help of the SBMA,” Zamoranos said, after SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza proposed that boom gates be installed at the entry/exit to the container ports to facilitate X-ray inspection of containerized goods.

Lapus and oversight committee members Rep. Teodoro Casiño (Bayan partylist) and Rep. Ma. Carissa Coscolluela (Buhay partylist) conducted a hearing here last week to investigate reports that the X-ray machine installed here by the Department of Finance in late 2007 has not been utilized.

Kurais Jusman, BoC field officer for the X-ray inspection project in Subic, however, reported that only 20 percent of all containerized cargo passing through Subic from October 2008 to January 2009 were scanned.

Jusman told the committee that container truck drivers on their way out of the cargo terminal refused to stop for X-ray scanning even if they were flagged down by Customs agents.

He said that because of this, out of the total 2,125 containerized cargoes that entered the Port of Subic since October, only 433 passed through X-ray scanning.

Jusman also said that only 1,267 cargoes have been assessed for the container security fee (CSF), which is charged to help defray the $150-million cost of 10 X-ray machines installed in various ports throughout the country.

He added that in the same period, 834 cargoes were assessed for the CSF but were not scanned, while 361 did not pay the CSF and also bypassed the scanning requirement.

Arreza said that boom gates should be set up at the cargo terminal’s point of entry/exit to solve the problem.

“If this was relayed immediately to us, we could have gone after the business locators here who refused to have their cargo scanned,” Arreza said, adding that the SBMA will now take a more active role in seeing to it that Freeport locators comply with Customs scanning procedures as far as their incoming containerized cargoes are concerned.

With this, Lapus asked Jusman if the scanning requirement can be carried out once the boom gates are set up.

To which Jusman replied: “I will resign from my position if we fail to scan 100 percent of the containers.”

The X-ray scanning of all containerized cargoes in Subic is aimed at enforcing Executive Order No. 660, which imposed taxes on excess capital goods imported at the Subic Bay Freeport and Special Economic Zone to prevent technical smuggling.

Under EO 660, importations by Subic locators of capital goods in excess of what they need would be deemed brought into or sold within the customs territory and subject to taxes.

Early last month, SBMA senior deputy administrator for operations Ferdinand Hernandez issued a memorandum to all investor-firms in Subic to remind them about the required X-ray scanning of all containerized cargoes arriving in Subic. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

PHOTO: Members of the Congressional oversight committee (from left) Buhay partylist Rep. Ma. Carissa Coscolluela, Bayan partylist Rep. Teodoro Casiño, and committee chairman Rep. Jeci Lapus (Tarlac) conduct a probe on the use of X-ray scanning machine at the Port of Subic.

Feature: LUB, SCTEX extends development in Freeport, Zambales

IBA, ZAMBALES—Less than a year into its opening, the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) is fast gaining prominence among tourists and businessmen, and a great number of investors within the Subic Freeport Zone gave nothing but praise to the tollway project.

John Corcoran, president of the Subic Bay Freeport Chamber of Commerce, Inc. (SBFCCI), said that the SCTEX will provide local and foreign visitors with better and faster access to Subic’s recreational facilities as well as commercial and industrial establishments.

“This is going to have such a positive impact all over the Subic Bay Freeport because the new highway has significantly cut travel time to Subic from Clark and from as far as Tarlac,” said Corcoran.

“I am sure that we will see more development along the Subic-Clark growth corridor,” added Corcoran, who is also president of Ocean Adventure, a popular marine theme park here.

Another Subic investor, Yvett Ocampo-Desiongco, CEO of the newly-opened Subic park Jungle Joe’s World, also expressed confidence that the SCTEX would bring in more business here.

“Subic can now count on more visitors not only from Metro Manila and South Luzon areas, but also those from North Luzon.”

“And the highway is awesome and world-class,” she added, saying the SCTEX reminds her of the highway going from San Francisco to Idaho in the United States.

The SCTEX, which covers a total distance of 93.77 kilometers and touted to be the longest four-lane expressway in the Philippines today, is also expected to open up more investment opportunities along the Subic-Clark growth corridor.

SCTEX: Luzon Urban Beltway’s priority component

A flagship project of Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the SCTEX was funded with a loan from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), and is composed of two packages: the 50.5-km Subic-Clark connection, and the 43.27-km span that connects Clark to Tarlac.

The tollway project is the backbone of the Subic-Clark Mega Logistics Hub and a part of the priority infrastructure projects designed for the Luzon Urban Beltway (LUB).

LUB is one of the regions included in the super regions concept eyed to usher development towards the countryside.

“Our resolve to provide the necessary infrastructure for growth and prosperity has heightened investors’ confidence in our ability to slug it out in the global arena…we have billion dollar investments coming in because they have seen us putting money, our own money, our own investment in infrastructure. “

These words, delivered by PGMA during the Luzon Urban Beltway (LUB) Infrastructure Conference at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone in Zambales almost two years ago, sum up the government’s determination to usher development all over the country through the super region concept.

Zambales: Gearing up, cashing in

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority Administrator Armand Arreza announced that SBMA has maintained its status as the country’s leading investment agency after posting US$1.1 billion in committed investment employing nearly 70,000 workers this year.

“Our new challenge today is to bring investments to the nearby towns of Zambales and Bataan and Olongapo City. This will be easier now after the President issued Executive Order 675,” Arreza said.

With the EO 675, according to Arreza, new investors who are looking for bigger land area will be allowed to put up investment to other places near the Subic Bay Freeport and Clark areas.

“We are also preparing a plan for the construction of access roads going to some tourist and investment sites in Zambales. There are also new power plants to be built inside the Freeport zone that will provide lower power rates,” he said.

In a similar move, Zambales Governor Amor Deloso has announced that Zambales is gearing towards development as it vows to open major road networks that will connect the province to other economic zones in Northern and Central Luzon.

“There is a need to open new roads to expand the development opportunities of the provinces and maximize its potentials as a new investment site in the region,” said Gov. Amor Deloso.

He identified the new economic doors as the Santa Cruz-Mangatarem Road that will connect the northern town of Santa Cruz with the town of Mangatarem in Pangasinan and the Iba-Tarlac Road which will connect the province to Tarlac.

The roads are necessary to open new space for possible economic zones and to shorten travel going in and out of the province to and from Central Luzon, Northern Luzon and Western Luzon areas.

“The roads will also maximize the use of our Masinloc Port as a major seaport in the area benefiting investors, particularly exporters and importers, from Zambales and Pangasinan,” Deloso said.

The governor noted that the Tarlac-Iba Road, which would span to about 60 kilometers when finished, has already a plan that was approved during the administration of former president Ramos.

“The road will boost the potentials of the Masinloc Port which will be constructed under a built-operate-transfer (BOT) scheme by a Canadian business group to the amount of US$5 billion. When finished, Masinloc Port will become a major transshipment port in the region,” he said.

Meanwhile, the official said that the Mangatarem-Santa Cruz Road Project is about 82 kilometers and could be finished at the cost of P200 million. The road will shorten travel time going to Pangasinan from Iba, Zambales from six hours to about two hours.

Deloso has also announced that discussions have already been started to study the possibility of putting a 500-hectare industrial estate in the former San Miguel Naval Air Stations in San Antonio Zambales.

The proposed industrial zone will fast tract the many development programs of the province to turn the province into a tourism and light industry destination in the region.

“Roads will bind our resources- land, people and infrastructures. Due to the completion of the SCTEX, space for investment in Bulacan and Tarlac is getting scarce. Subic Freeport soon could not accommodate more factories. But Zambales has vast land space to offer and we have pier, ship repair facilities and a small airport for tourism,” Gov. Deloso said.(AMV/PIA-Zambales)

RP-Taiwan meet inks four accords, launches incentives for Clark, Subic investors - MECO

Antonio Basilio, Manila Economic and Cultural Office (Meco) managing director and resident representative, said among the highlights of the 16th RP-Taiwan Joint Economic Conference (JEC) held recently was the signing of four major trade and investment agreements between the Philippines and Taiwan.

These are a memorandum of understanding on Philippine-Taiwan Cooperation on Industrial Technology Development; an MoU on Small and Medium Enterprise Food Development; an MoU on Intellectual Property Cooperation; and an MoU on Standardization and Conformity Assessment for Electronic Products.

At the luncheon meeting hosted by the Philippine delegation headed by Trade Secretary Peter Favila, an entirely new set of investment incentives uniquely packaged and formulated to meet the evolving requirements of Taiwan’s high-technology companies was launched.

The package includes unprecedented incentives for Taiwanese companies, and presented various development opportunities within the Clark and Subic Bay economic corridor. The package is designed to compete with current offerings by the Vietnam government to Taiwanese players.

“This set of incentives, never before offered to any foreign locator in the Clark-Subic economic corridor, is also designed to fill existing gaps in the Philippines’ electronics and information and communications technology (ICT) value chain,” said Basilio.

Basilio said another highlight of the JEC was the holding of the 21st Joint Meeting of the Chinese-Philippines and the Philippine-Chinese Business Council, while the Philippine Investment Seminar was held on Feb. 11, organized by the Chinese International Economic Cooperation Association, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) and the Meco.

Clement Yang, chairman of the Chinese-Philippine Business Council, delivered the opening remarks while Valentin Khoe of the Philippine-Chinese Business Council provided the response during the event.

Chairman Tomas Alcantara of Meco and PCCI chairman Miguel Varela also delivered their remarks during the affair.

Basilio said the plenary session and seminar proper focused on a number of investment opportunities including high-yield tourism, investing in the Philippine economic corridor, the RP-Taiwan ICT industry collaborative ventures, sectoral investment opportunities, and renewable energy.

Tourism Undersecretary Phineas Alburo gave his presentation on investment opportunities in the Philippine tourism development together with Philip Chao, deputy director of the International Affairs of the Tourism Bureau of Taiwan ’s Ministry of Transportation.

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Administrator Armand Arreza presented the Master Plan of Development in the Subic Bay Free Port while Benigno Ricafort, president of Clark Development Corp. (CDC), delved on the Master Plan of Development in the Clark Free Port.

Meanwhile, on the topic of RP-Taiwan ICT Industry Collaborative Ventures, Arthur Young, chairman of the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines gave an overview of the Philippine electronics and semiconductor industry while Dr. Gwo-Jiunn Huang, fellow of Taiwan’s Institute for Information Industry, focused his presentation on the ICT industry.

Discussions on Exploring Sectoral Investment Opportunities particularly on aqualculture and agriculture were spearheaded by Philip Ong, president of Santeh Feeds Corp., and Dr. Cheng-Wei Chen, associate professor of the Department of Agriculture Economics, College of Bio-Resources and Agriculture, National Taiwan University.

For renewable energy, Felix Velasquez, president of Bataan Manufacturing Co. Inc. and Phillip Cheng, president of Cosmo Electronics Corp., spoke about investment prospects in the country.

An open forum followed the presentations after which Vice Minister Sheng-Chung Lin of Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs and Secretary Favila gave their closing remarks. (PNA)

19 February 2009

Interconnection of phone lines in Subic, Clark proposed

CLARK FREEPORT - The Angeles City council has endorsed a proposal for the interconnection of phone lines along the Subic-Clark growth corridor in a resolution unanimously approved by its members recently.

In the resolution sponsored by Councilors Jesus "Jay" Sangil and Ruben Maniago, the members of the city council stated they are "endorsing the move of the Metro Clark Advisory Council (MCAC) to press for the immediate interconnection of telecommunications facilities in Clark Freeport Zone with those in Tarlac and

"It would definitely fast-track business undertakings and greatly minimize costs to local residents," Sangil said, referring to the MCAC-initiated project which was earlier lauded by President Arroyo.

Sangil likewise called on other officials of local government units (LGUs) situated along the Subic-Clark corridor to support the move, saying this will attract investors and provide jobs for the people.

"I am urging our counterparts in government in the cities, towns along the SCTEx to follow suit and support the same as it will invite investors and eventually create employment for our constituents," Sangil said.

In the resolution, the city council stated that the "Clark Freeport and the Subic-Clark- Tarlac Growth Corridor are foreseen as one of the world’s major economic hubs and catalysts for development, hence a major employment generator in North Philippines."

Also, "the development and improvement of infrastructure facilities, including the
establishment of state-of-the art telecommunications facilities in the Metro Clark Area (Clark FZ, Pampanga and Tarlac) enhance the viability of the Metro Clark area as a choice investment destination.

"The city council noted the importance of providing interconnected telephone exchanges, saying it "is vital in minimizing costs to investors and their clientele that includes government offices."

"Interconnecting telephone exchanges in Metro Clark Area is in keeping with the integration policy of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) in which long distance and other toll charges are waived," the resolution also said.

"The general welfare clause of the Local Government Code, among other provisions, obliges us to support moves of major employment generators," it further stated. (Fred Roxas, Manila Bulletin)

Subic - Kuwait flights inked; RP, Kuwait agree on more flights

MANILA - Local carriers can now mount more flights to Kuwait with the conclusion of air talks between the Philippines and the oil-rich Arab emirate.

From only six, the Philippines is now entitled to 29 weekly flights to Kuwait.

The additional 23 entitlements were approved yesterday afternoon, said Porvenir P. Porciuncula, deputy executive director of the Civil Aeronautics Board.

The 29 flights are divided as follows: Manila, eight flights; Subic, 14; and Cebu, Davao and other airports, seven. A fifth freedom right was also given to flights from Clark, allowing carriers to pick up a passenger from Kuwait before flying to another destination in a third country.

The Philippine negotiating panel was headed by the acting board chairman, Doroteo A. Reyes. The Civil Aeronautics Board is scheduled to start air talks with Bahrain, Brunei, and Australia this year.

The government has been going after flight entitlements to several countries to address an expected increase in air travel.

Mr. Porciuncula downplayed any potential hesitation local carriers may have in competing with Middle Eastern airlines — which have access to cheaper fuel — noting that fuel costs have dipped.

Lance Y. Gokongwei, president of Cebu Pacific, said the low-cost carrier is considering flights to Kuwait."We are always looking at possible route network expansion and we are studying the possibility of mounting flights to Kuwait," Mr. Gokongwei said.

Officials of Philippine Airlines were not available for comment. (Jose Bimbo F. Santos, Business Online)

16 February 2009

Subic emerges as top sports venue, training hub

Due to its pristine environment and superb facilities, the Subic Bay Freeport is now emerging as a favorite venue for sports events, as well as a training center for professional athletes.

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chairman Feliciano Salonga said several international sports events are slated to be held in Subic this summer, including a bike festival in April and a triathlon event in May.

"We're getting some of the best events because athletes like to race in a healthy environment, and Subic definitely has this edge," said Salonga.

"Add to this the modern sports facilities that the SBMA has put in place, and there's no wonder why Subic is now a favorite venue both for training athletes and for staging sports events," he added.

to Salonga, at least two groups have opened training camps for professional athletes in Subic in the past few years.

These are Team TBB (The Bike Boutique), which trains athletes mainly for triathlon and other bike-related events, and the Philippine triathlon team, which recently put up its High Performance (HP) Training Camp.

The TBB camp recently dominated the Subic elimination round of the Milo Marathon when 14 of its foreign athletes training in Subic finished in the top 10 for both the male and female divisions.

Salonga, who flagged off the Milo marathon participants, identified the Subic-trained TBB athletes as: Bella Bayliss of Great Britain, who placed first in the ladies division of the 21-km race; Erika Csomor (Hungary), who placed 2nd; Angela Elaine Naeth (Canada), 3rd; Maki Nishiuchi (Japan), 6th; and Lucie Zelenkova (Czechoslovakia), 8th.

TBB male athletes also topped the Milo marathon leg here: James Cunnama (South Africa), 3rd in the men's division; Crifrankreadel Indapa, 4th; Stephen Bayliss (Great Britain), 7th; and Hiroyuki Nishiuchi (Japan), who finished 9th in 21-km run.

Rolen Paulino, the Milo sports director for the Subic Bay-Olongapo area, also observed that most of the winners in major races now are foreigners who have trained in Subic.

Salonga said the Triathlon Association of the Philippines (TRAP) meanwhile had also reported similar success stories for athletes training in Subic.

According to TRAP president Tomas Carrasco Jr., the group's training program in Subic "has resulted in the best competitive season for our national team in a while."

Carrasco said the TRAP accomplishments in 2008 included several first places and numerous podium finishes in regional races the team competed in. These include the 1st place finish by Joash Serrano in the juniors division of the Hong Kong Triathlon and the Taipei International Triathlon; the 1st place finish by Monica Torres in the Singapore Duathlon; and the 2nd place finish by Kim Mangrobang in the juniors level of the Taipei International Triathlon.

Six other athletes who trained in Subic had placed third in other races in Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore.

"These successes can be attributed to a training environment conducive to achieving excellence that Subic provides," Carrasco said in a letter to SBMA.

Last year, the TRAP staged two major events here in Subic: the ITU Subic International Triathlon 2008 held in May, and the first ITU 03 Asian Long Distance Triathlon held in August.

Subic Freeport also hosted last year the President's Cup Regatta / China Sea Race, the Terry Larrazabal Bike Festival, the 3rd Philippine Olympic Festival, a beach football competition by the Beach Football Association of the Philippines, the Goodyear President's Cup, the Marlboro Road Trip, the 4th National Summer Training of the Philippine Sports Commission, the Globe Platinum Independence Day Regatta, a tournament by the Philippine Sports Fishing Club, the PNP's Subic International Marathon 2008, a jet ski competition by the Jetsports Association of the Philippines, the run leg for the White Rock Triathlon, the Amazing Race of Mazda Philippines, and the Miata and BMW Motorcycle Club's "Hill Climb Race." (SBMA Corporate Communications)

[1] A foreign athlete completes the run leg of the last year's White Rock Marathon at the Subic Bay Freeport, which has become a favorite training ground for contenders in international races.

[2] Participants in the 2008 President's Cup Regatta maneuver their racing sailboats at Subic Bay.

[3] A bicycle race in the Subic Bay Freeport

[4] Archers compete at Subic's Remy Field during the Philippine Olympic Festival in 2008

13 February 2009

Rescued dolphin recovering in Subic

One of the dolphins stranded along the coastal towns of Pilar and Orion in Bataan the other day is now recovering under the care of animal health experts at the Ocean Adventure marine theme park here.

The dolphin was transported to the marine facility here late on Tuesday after it was observed to be having problems in balancing itself.

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Administrator Armand Arreza said that veterinarians from the Subic Bay Marine Exploratorium-Ocean Adventure (SBME-OA), as well as experts from Subic-based groups Wildlife in Need (WIN) and International Development and Environmental Shipping School (IDESS) are now monitoring the animal, which has shown signs of recovering.

At least 200 melon-head dolphins, which are considered as threatened species, were spotted in shallow waters off Bataan the other day for still unknown reasons.

Three of the mammals had since died as fishermen and personnel of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) tried to herd them into deeper waters.

The solitary dolphin that was brought to Subic as part of the government’s rescue effort, was very weak when it arrived here, said Olga Piaga, executive assistant to Ocean Adventure president John Corcoran.

She said the animal was placed in a circular pool and experts are tending to it around the clock.

“It’s very weak possibly because of dehydration, which causes it to lose balance,” Piaga said. “If we leave it alone, it might drown — even if it is an aquatic animal.”

Piaga said the dolphin will be staying in Subic for a couple of days before being freed into the open sea.

“We would like to determine what causes some of the dolphins to become weaker than the others,” Piaga added, saying that all the data collected by Ocean Adventure’s marine animal experts will be brought abroad for thorough study.

The results will only be available after next week, she said.

Arreza said animal health experts from the Subic marine park were tapped “for the medical aspect” of the rescue effort, while BFAR took responsibility for monitoring the movement of the dolphin pods.

“The primary concern now of our government is to keep these dolphins alive. And animal experts from the Ocean Adventure and WIN came in to help,” he said.

BFAR director Malcolm Sarmiento, Jr. said earlier that the dolphins may have been disoriented by a sea quake, or that the pod could have been following a sick or injured leader into shallow waters.

If the leader of the pod is weak or injured, it is easily disoriented and may lead the others in its pod to be beached, he added.

Ocean Adventure’s Piaga said the SBME-OA has successfully rescued several stranded dolphins in the past. However, it was the first time for the facility to respond in such mass stranding as that which occurred on Tuesday. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

PHOTO: Animal health experts at the Ocean Adventure marine park in the Subic Bay Freeport tend to a dolphin, which was weakened after getting stranded off the coast of Bataan on Tuesday.

SBMA personnel volunteer for Coast Guard; Arreza now captain of Subic squadron

A déjà vu of what happened right after the U.S. Navy pullout from Subic in 1992 occurred here recently on a smaller scale but of equal significance when close to a hundred officials and employees of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) volunteered for Coast Guard duties.

Vice-Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo, commandant of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), inducted the volunteers on February 7 into the 102nd Squadron of the Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary (PCGA), a civilian support group involved primarily in sea rescue and environmental protection.

SBMA Administrator and CEO Armand Arreza, who was among the 98 volunteers, now serves as commander of the 102nd Squadron, with the honorary rank of captain.

Members of the squadron serve purely on a voluntary basis, have undergone orientation seminars, and will undergo further trainings to help them discharge their duties better, Arreza said.

The entry of 98 SBMA personnel into the PCGA followed the signing of a memorandum of agreement on maritime cooperation between the two parties on January 9.

Arreza said this could be likened to the early days of the SBMA when some 8,000 volunteers helped to safeguard buildings and resources left behind by the U.S. Navy.

“This time, the SBMA employee-volunteers are going to protect the marine environment in Subic, as well as the robust development of maritime projects here,” he said.

Arreza pointed out that the Subic Bay Freeport boasts of an 8-hectare bay teeming with rich marine life, a maritime research center, as well as new container terminals, various ship repair facilities, and the largest shipyard in Asia, which is operated by Hanjin.

“These are assets that we must protect and guard against threats, abuse and degradation,” he added.

When asked about possible actions against illegal fishing in the Subic Bay area that covers parts of Bataan and Zambales, Capt. Arreza said it would be the first task of the 102nd Squadron to weed out predators in Subic Bay’s marine sanctuary.

“We know that they (illegal fishers) are only trying to make a living, but they are robbing the succeeding generations of Filipinos of their share of nature’s bounty,” Arreza said.

“This should serve as a warning: we’ll get them somehow if they don’t stop their illegal acts,” he said.

Arreza said that to help ensure maritime security in Subic Bay, the seven vessels acquired recently by SBMA under its port modernization program will be used by Subic’s 102nd Squadron.

These are the search and rescue vessels M/V Triboa, M/V Ilanin and M/V Cubic; the utility vessel M/V Maritan; the line-handling and search vessel M/V Redondo; and the fireboat and waste disposal vessel M/V Kalayaan.

The formation of the Subic PCGA squadron is an important step towards developing Subic as a top-notch maritime service and logistics hub, said SBMA Chairman Feliciano Salonga, a graduate of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, who also holds the rank of a commodore in the PCGA.

Salonga, who is an active PCGA official serving as the PCGA Deputy National Commander for Aids to Navigation, said the 102nd Squadron will assist the PCG in promoting safety of lives and properties at sea, conducting search and rescue operations, protecting the marine environment, disaster relief, and other maritime-related activities.

He added that PCGA membership is by invitation, and usually reserved to those who have distinguished themselves in their chosen professions. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

PHOTO: SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza (left), now also honorary Captain of the 102nd Squadron of the Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary (PCGA), is congratulated by Vice-Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo, commander of the Philippine Coast Guard. Also in photo is SBMA Chairman Feliciano Salonga, who is an active PCGA official.

11 February 2009

Korean student-volunteers bring hope to former mining village in Zambales

SAN MARCELINO, Zambales – After two devastating events that destroyed their properties, hopes and dreams, the former mining community of Pili in the remote village of Buhawen here is now eyeing a better future.

Recently, student volunteers from the Soongsil University in Seoul, South Korea returned to the village to continue their annual outreach program that has thus far brought villagers their first computers, a new day care center, and their first lessons in information technology.

This year, the Soongsil volunteers helped the community in building a better road to Pili.

“This is the fourth time since 2006 that the Korean volunteers have come to help us,” said Buhawen barangay chairman Edgardo Dueñas, as villagers honored this year’s batch of 33 volunteers in a simple program here late last month.

“Every time they arrive in Buhawen, we give them a warm welcome,” Dueñas said. “We’d like to show them how much we appreciate their assistance and their concern for us.”

Out of the Ashes

Any form of assistance is a cherished commodity nowadays for the people of Pili, who suffered a shattering reversal of fortune when the nearby Mt. Pinatubo erupted in 1992.

Pili used to be the golden village of Zambales after Benguet Corp., one of the country’s biggest mining firms, opened the Dizon Copper-Gold Operation (DCO) in this town in the 70s.

According to Benguet Corp., DCO was one of the most successfully mined ore bodies in the Philippines. In the 17 years that the firm operated DCO, some 750 million pounds of copper, 3 million ounces of silver and almost 2 million ounces of gold were produced in the area.

At its heyday, DCO boasted of one of the biggest mill tailings dam in the Far East, as well as a 900-unit township for its employees. Most of the folks of Pili, virtually awash with cash, had the latest in home appliances — televisions, stereo sets, and refrigerators.

However, the prosperous days for both the mining firm and the residents-miners abruptly ended in June 1991 when Mt. Pinatubo spewed great volumes of lahar and sulfuric ash into Pili and other areas around the volcano.
- more -
Then two years later, Benguet implemented a phase-out program for the Dizon operation. In late 1997, the company turned over the property to Dizon Copper-Silver Mines Inc. (DCSMI), the owner of the claim.
Hope from Afar

The closure further devastated the mining folks of Pili, who had lost most of what they owned to the fury of Pinatubo.

“We did everything just to make ends meet,” Dueñas now recalled.

He said formers DCO workers ventured into gold panning, while Ayta villagers went back to upland farming. Others tried their luck on little businesses in the town market. And because of their remote location, reconstruction efforts by the government were slow in coming.

Then one day in 2006, Dueñas said, another ray of hope visited their village when a dusty jeepney brought in Rev. Pastor David Bang and his first batch of student-volunteers from Soongsil.

The first time they arrived in Pili, the volunteers obviously had no idea how they could help the community, considering the lamentable condition of the village from the ravages of the eruption and the subsequent lahar flows.

Yet villagers said the visitors showed a strong determination to help out and rebuild Pili in whatever way they can.

The first two years saw the Korean volunteers repairing classrooms and other community facilities like the day care center. Then last year, they constructed the computer room that they equipped this year with 10 computer sets. Then volunteers began conducting classes on computer operation and basic information technology.

“Now we have our own IT center that we call the Soongsil University Computer Room,” said Evangelina Yap, the principal of Buhawen High School.

“We have also included the Korean martial arts taekwondo in our curriculum to teach our students not only to defend them selves, but to instill among them the kind of discipline that we see among our Korean visitors here,” Yap added.

Two-Way Learning Rev. Pastor David Bang, who coordinates the Soongsil volunteer program, explained that the student-volunteers aim to assist communities and help promote understanding between cultures.

He added that the assistance is freely given “just as we have it free from the Lord.”

SUIV program coordinator Jimmy King, meanwhile, noted three reasons why the Soongsil volunteers kept going back to the remote village of Pili.

“When I came here the very first time, I noticed that the people around are very happy. And despite that their village is far away from the town, they looked so satisfied” he said.

King said the determination of the residents to adapt to their condition and situation made the Korean students decide to help.

Koreans could learn a lot from the Pili villagers, too, King added.

“I would tell my students how these people here stay happy in spite of their situation,” King said. “I would like to bring to Soongsil University this extraordinary happiness that I have seen among the people of Pili.” (SBMA Corporate Communications)

PHOTO: Korean Volunteers bond with local schoolchildren at the Pili community in Buhawen, San Marcelino, Zambales.

09 February 2009

DOLE seeks ‘win-win’ solution to Hanjin problem

The government and other concerned sectors should be able to come up with a “practical solution” to address safety problems at the Hanjin shipbuilding facility while guaranteeing the jobs of about 18,000 shipyard workers, a top labor official stressed recently.

Nathaniel Lacambra, director of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in Central Luzon, said that while the Hanjin Heavy Industries Co.-Philippines (HHIC-Phil) may be required to adhere strictly to safety standards, shutting down the facility would not be a good idea.

“Our laws allow the issuance of cease and desist order (CDO) to Hanjin. But to shut down the entire plant, I think, is not a win-win solution,” Lacambra said.

“If we shut down the entire plant just because one unit or one sector has violated labor standards, then we will be starving 15 to 17 thousand Filipinos,” he added.

Lacambra, who accompanied Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada in inspecting the Hanjin facility last Thursday, was reacting to suggestions that work at the shipyard be suspended after 19 deaths had been recorded there since 2007.

Estrada himself, who heads the Senate labor committee, had proposed that Hanjin halt its operations here until it has complied with standards to ensure workers’ safety.

However, Lacambra said that a “practical” solution should be worked at for the benefit of workers.

One way to do this, he said, is to require HHIC-Phil to apply for variation orders to improve health and safety conditions in the shipyard and avoid being penalized.

At the same time, the government will require Hanjin to comply with the DOLE’s occupational safety standards (DOSS), he added.

As an example, Lacambra cited Hanjin’s request for a variation order from the Bureau of Working Conditions (BWC) regarding the 600-ton capacity “goliath” cranes that Hanjin uses in Subic.

Lacambra said that because no professional testing organization in the country could test the cranes, the variation order allowed that testing be made by Hanjin suppliers.

“If they could do that with the cranes, then probably they could do the same with the hospital or the medical facility requirements. That could be the win-win solution,” said Lacambra.

The labor official also pointed out that under the DOSS, firms are required to provide one doctor for every 100 workers they employ. In this case, Lacambra added, Hanjin which has about 18,000 workers should have from 150 to 200 doctors, who are to be assisted by full time nurses, dentists and first aid workers.

As a result, “we might be building a hospital here that is bigger than the (Philippine) General Hospital,” Lacambra said.

“So, we should be looking for the practical aspect and the practical side of it,” he added.

Meanwhile, Estrada said during last Thursday’s inspection that he gave Hanjin a poor rating for its poor implementation of occupational health and safety regulations.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, I am giving them a rate of 5 or 6,” Estrada said. “As you have seen there are some workers without safety helmets, and there are others wearing worn-out shoes.”

“Then there is this serious allegation from workers that they have to finish there work at all cost because they have a deadline to beat, even if it means more accidents. That is not fair on the part of the workers,” he added.

Estrada also noted the lack of regular medical personnel in the area, especially after 5:00 p.m., so that injured workers had to be brought to a hospital in Olongapo City which is about 20 kilometers away.

Estrada reiterated that he would like officials of Hanjin to answer more safety concerns at the shipyard safety when the Senate probe resumes on Wednesday.

Still, Estrada added that he will await recommendations from DOLE officials before taking actions on the Hanjin safety issues. (30)

Hanjin director Pyeong Jong Yu (left) answers questions from Senator “Jinggoy” Estrada and DOLE Region 3 director Nathaniel Lacambra during an inspection on Thursday. The Senate labor committee headed by Estrada is now investigating unsafe conditions at the shipyard, where 19 workers had died since 2007.

Sabal, Bayliss win Milo Marathon’s Subic elimination round

Former Philippine marathon king Cresenciano Sabal proved again that he is still capable of ruling the field as he bested 6,000 foreign and local runners in the regional elimination leg of the 33rd National Milo Marathon held here on Sunday.

The 30-year old Sabal posted a time of 1 hour, 9 minutes and 42 seconds to win the 21-kilometer race that also attracted world-class foreign triathletes.

“A lot of self-discipline and preparation went into my winning the gold medal today,” Sabal said after the race.

“It pays a lot if you prepare hard and persevere,” said the Army officer, who first earned his Milo Marathon title in 2005.

Sharing Sabal’s triumph was veteran triathlete Bella Bayliss of Great Britain who posted a time of 1:19:39 to win the gold in the women’s division.

Other winners in the Subic elimination race were: Bernardo Desamito Jr. (Phils.), with a time of 1:10:47 to bag the second place in the men’s division; James Cunnama (South Africa), 1:11:19, third; and Crifrankreadel Indapa, 1:12:50, fourth place.

In the women’s division, the winners were: Erika Csdmar (Hungary), 1:23:13, second place; Angel Naeth (Australia), 1:27:14, third; and Monica Torres (Philippines), 1:27:28, fourth place.

The winners will again try to outrun other competitors in the national finals of the Milo Marathon in Metro Manila on October 4.

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chairman Feliciano Salonga, who flagged off the marathon participants on Sunday, said that the Milo Marathon is just one of the many sports events regularly held in Subic Bay.

“Subic Bay is actually not only the best tourist destination in the country, but it is also a favorite place of athletes for their training,” Salonga said.

He added that organizers of local and international sports events are choosing Subic more than any other place in the country because of its superb environment and world-class facilities.

“Subic is actually a sports haven now and soon will be the region’s sports center,” he said.

Meanwhile, Rolen Paulino, the Milo sports director for the Subic Bay-Olongapo area, said that most of the winners in major races now were foreigners who have trained in Subic.

“That I would like to emphasize, puro foreigners ang nanalo and all of them have been training in Subic,” Paulino said.

This only proves that Subic is already an international sports center, Paulino added.

According to race records, of the top nine top finishers in the female division, five are foreigners who have trained in Subic under Coach Melvin Fausto. These include Bayliss, Csdmar, Naeth, Maki Nishiuchi of Japan (6th), and Lucie Zelencova, who placed eighth.

In the men’s division, of the top 10 runners, four were foreigners, namely: Cunnama, Indapa, Stephen Bayliss of Great Britain (7th), and Hiroyuki Nishiuchi of Japan, who placed ninth in the race. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

07 February 2009

Gordon remembers how FedEx was won

Dozens of workers showed up here before dawn Friday to bid goodbye to one of the last Federal Express (FedEx) planes to fly out of Subic.

Senator Richard Gordon, who signed up the US courier giant to set up its Asia-Pacific hub in Subic, was also here Friday to wave goodbye to FedEx for the last time.

“I came here when I heard they were leaving. I said I had to be here. I was here at the very beginning,” he told reporters.

Gordon, the first Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) chair, said that after he signed up FedEx to set up its hub here, DHL and UPS followed suit.

Surrounded by FedEx employees as the planes were taking off, Gordon said: “I remember
meeting one of their executives, Larry Hillbloom, who was quite a character. I was in a meeting with a senator at the time. When I went to the VIP room to meet them, there was a guy in a suit and another guy in jeans, T-shirt and dark glasses. I shook hands with the man in the suit who said, ‘I am not Larry Hillbloom. He’s my boss.’”

With a fond farewell, the government stands to lose P150 million a year after FedEx completes the transfer of its Asia-Pacific hub from the state-owned Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA) to the Baiyun International Airport in Guangzhou, China, this April.

FedEx pays P150 million annually in landing fees and warehousing to the SBMA, according to Armand Arreza, SBMA administrator.

Winding down

The US courier giant on Friday began winding down its Asian hub in the Philippines, shedding 800 staff as it starts full operation of a new regional facility in China, Arreza said.

The closure of FedEx’s operation comes in the wake of an announcement by Intel Corp. last month that it will let go 1,800 workers later this year, when the company shuts down its 35-year-old operation in the Philippines amid waning global demand for computers.

Arreza said the decision to shift the hub to China was made in 2004 and was based on “market reality” — the large cargo volume in China — not on Subic, being unable to meet the requirements of FedEx or the current global slump.

“The move has nothing to do with the financial crisis,” he said. “The volume and market conditions favored China because the volume in China dwarfed those in Southeast Asia, and China has opened the domestic market to FedEx.”

Business decision

Arreza said FedEx preterminated its 2010 contract to April this year, with options
to extend the use of the SBIA on a monthly basis as a back-up plan for its China project.The company will, for now, keep a skeleton operation in Subic.

“We understand that FedEx had to make this business decision,” he said. “Even if the economy is doing well … it’s never a good time if a company as big as FedEx [leaves]. We are sorry to see them go.”

FedEx officials were not immediately available for comment.

Largest tenant since 1995

In 1994, the SBMA obtained a $60-million loan from the World Bank to develop Cubi Point into the SBIA to entice the world’s largest freight-handling firm and attract more cargo and passenger airlines to operate from Subic.

FedEx has been the main locator at the SBIA since April 1995, serving 21 Asian cities.Arreza said the government tried to convince its largest tenant at the SBIA to stay.

SBMA Chair Feliciano Salonga and Arreza went to FedEx’s headquarters in Hong Kong to ask the company’s top executives to reconsider their plan.Trade Secretary Peter Favila also tried to convince FedEx to remain in Subic.

Generous separation pay

Arreza said FedEx would make intermittent flights at the SBIA until April or up to the extension period.

As it is, Subic is on standby, he said. He added that FedEx has not given an official closing date for its Subic operations. “We’re open to their return. We’re giving them the flexibility to extend.”

Arreza said about 800 workers of FedEx and its subcontractors will be affected. He added that the highly skilled workers could easily find jobs elsewhere in the economic zone.

He said the courier company facilitated job placements for former employees and gave “generous” separation pay and bonuses. (Robert Gonzaga & Tonette Orejas, Philippine Daily Inquirer)

FedEx to maintain standby operations in Subic until April

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) said Friday that Federal Express will still have a maintenance component here and will be on standby until April this year.

In a press conference, SBMA administrator Armand Arreza clarified that Thursday night's operations were "the beginning of the transition for the move to China."

"Last night was the last full operations. They will still have standby operations up to the end of April. They have been testing their hub at Guangzhou for the last two months," Arreza explained.

Earlier, employees of Federal Express said the Thursday to Friday flights were the last flights of the Subic hub which has been operating for more than 13 years here.

Around 500 hundred employees will be affected by the move of Fedex to China. They, however, clarified that the international courier giant will still service the Philippines through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila. (John Bayarong, GMANews.TV)

FedEx exits Subic

US delivery giant Federal Express (FedEx) closed its Asian hub in Subic yesterday.

FedEx planes began departing the freeport for various destinations for the last time before dawn, with the last taking off at around six in the morning.

FedEx, which used Subic as base for 14 years, is moving its operations to its new hub in Guangzhou, China.

The company, however, will conduct a re-integration program for more than 500 FedEx workers in the meantime it completes a two-month transition.

Armand C. Arreza, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) administrator, estimated another 300 people, who are engaged in maintenance, food, janitorial, security and other services, would be affected by FedEx’s pullout.

Overall around 800 direct and indirect workers would lose their jobs after the completion of the FedEx transfer in April, at a time when thousands are getting laid off due to the global economic slump.

The SBMA is likewise bound to lose about P150 million in annual revenues from leased airport facilities and daily aircraft landing fees, among others

Mr. Arreza said the SBMA is currently negotiating with other foreign companies involved in regional transshipment, including a Dubai-based firm, as possible replacement for FedEx.

He also clarified that FedEx would continue its local airfreight and courier services through Airfreight 2100, its exclusive licensee in the Philippines.

Mr. Arreza also stressed FedEx’s decision to transfer its hub to China was made as early as 2004 and did not result from the current global economic slowdown. "The Chinese market dwarfs that of the entire Southeast Asia combined," he pointed out, citing how China accounts 60-70% of Asia’s cargoes.

"Another incentive given by China is that FedEx can handle domestic cargo or ’cabotage.’ The Philippine Constitution allows cabotage for domestic companies only," he added. (Rey Garcia, Businessworld)

06 February 2009

Jinggoy inspects Hanjin shipyard in Subic

A day after Sen. Jinggoy Estrada grilled Hanjin during the Senate inquiry, he personally made a site inspection at the controversial shipyard in this Freeport.

Hanjin has been under fire after it has recorded 19 deaths and a number of accidents involving their workers.

Estrada arrived at Hanjin 1:30 p.m. via boat.

He immediately wanted to do a spot inspection but was told that there would be a brief power point presentation at the fourth floor of the administration building of Hanjin.

The presentation was at its half way when Estrada interrupted and said that he wanted to proceed with the inspection.

Estrada then went to the ground floor, walking towards the direction of the cafeteria but was irked when he was told the door was closed and he could not pass through there.

He then boarded a bus provided by Hanjin then shortly stopped at an assembly area although no workers were there. The senator then demanded to the Hanjin director that he be brought to an area where he could talk to workers. He later realized the workers were reluctant to speak with him.

A worker who requested not to be named told The Times that management was evidently monitoring them during the inspection, which was the reason for their hesitance to speak with the senator. “We might lose our jobs,” the worker noted.

Even members of media were having a hard time getting interviews with the workers.

Another round of inquiry regarding the deaths and accident at Hanjin has been set for Wednesday at the senate. (Anthony Bayarong, Manila Times)

04 February 2009

SBMA chief: Let’s work together for the sake of our workers

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) administrator and chief executive officer Armand Arreza called for joint efforts in addressing safety issues at the Hanjin shipyard and construction site in Redondo, Zambales.

“Due to the risks inherent in shipbuilding activities, we need to strengthen safety guidelines and build up the safety consciousness of individual workers to ensure their welfare. But we can only do this if all concerned government agencies would work together towards this end,” Arreza said.

At present, at least some 20,000 workers are fielded in shipbuilding and construction work in the 236-hectare facility. This number oftentimes swells, depending on the level of work activities to be done.

In the joint Senate labor and local government committee hearing held last Tuesday, SBMA reported that the majority of the accidents that occurred last year were due to “unsafe acts” or workers’ behavior, while others were caused by both unsafe acts and work conditions.

Arreza said this makes it imperative for the SBMA, the Department of Labor and Employment, and Hanjin not only to look more deeply into the safety conditions of the workplace but also to cultivate a culture of safety among the workers, most of who come from the informal sector.

“Although we’re working together with DOLE to ensure that Hanjin complies with our Labor Code, we need to focus not just on minimum compliance, as this does not seem adequate to protect workers engaged in big-scale shipbuilding activities,” Arreza noted, as he reiterated the need to build a culture of safety, “which cannot be done overnight”.

According to the SBMA chief, the agency is thus going beyond the minimum requirements of labor laws and is in the process of introducing more stringent guidelines based on the standards of the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to ensure the workers’ protection.

“The OSHA has specific guidelines for each industry type, particularly shipbuilding, which it describes as ‘traditionally hazardous with an injury-accident rate more than twice that of construction and general industry’,” Arreza explained.

He added that by addressing workers’ safety effectively, “not only will we be able to prevent work-related injuries, illnesses and deaths but also ensure that the benefits of gainful employment redound to the improved welfare of workers and their families”.

Meanwhile, HHIC-Phil president Jeong Sup Shim expressed Hanjin’s equally serious concern for safety issues plaguing the US$ 1.68-billion company since it began operating in Redondo in 2006.

“We take our workers’ safety seriously,” he said, adding that Hanjin would like nothing more than to ensure that all its workers are well-protected and oriented about safety guidelines.

Shim also disclosed that Hanjin’s annual payroll and workers’ benefits have reached almost PhP3 billion, which go directly to workers and their families.

“Despite the global recession, Hanjin continues to maintain its very big workforce and we hope that this contributes both to the national and local economy,” he said, referring to the revenues and the multiplier effect that its operations here generate.

Nonetheless, the Hanjin executive gave the assurance that Hanjin would continue to cooperate with concerned authorities in addressing safety issues.

“We are doing a lot to comply (with labor and safety requirements), but we are ready to do even more,” he affirmed. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

PHOTO: SBMA Administrator & CEO Armand Arreza

Senate body eyes brief halt to Hanjin operations

Manila, Philippines - The Senate panel investigating the deaths of workers of Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction is inclined to recommend the temporary suspension of the Korean firm's operations for failure to comply with the country's labor laws.

Senate Pro Tempore Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada, chairman of the Committee on Labor, Employment, and Human Resources Development, said it was clear that there was neglect on the part of Hanjin that resulted in the deaths of 19 workers in the facility it is building in Subic Freeport.

"[The possible recommendation of the committee would be] temporary cessation of the operations until after all labor requirements have been complied with," Estrada said in a chance interview after the hearing.

Sen. Pilar Juliana Cayetano, former chairman of the Environment Committee that investigated the violations allegedly committed by Hanjin, supported Estrada's recommendation.

"The committee will recommend the temporary suspension of its operation," she said.

A total of 19 deaths at sprawling Hanjin shipbuilding facility have been reported, the latest of which happened on January 25.

A South Korean expat working at an assembly facility of the Hanjin Heavy Industries Corp. Philippines in Subic was killed when a forklift ran over him.

Police reports identified the fatality as Choi Dong Baek, a 51-year-old supervisor at the sprawling shipbuilding complex located at the Redondo Peninsula in Subic Bay. He was ran over by a forklift operated by Menti Dacanay, a Filipino worker, at around 12:45 a.m. at the vicinity of assembly shop C where metal works are done.

On January 23, 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 authorities 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.

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. (Amita Legaspi, GMANews.TV)

SBMA seeks to unlock Hanjin Subic’s corporate layers

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) is now seeking to untangle the interlocking layers of subsidiaries and subcontractors operating at the shipyard of Hanjin Heavy Industries Co.-Philippines (HHIC-Phil) in Subic as part of a plan to address occupational health and safety concerns.

A total of 19 fatal accidents have been recorded at the Hanjin shipyard since February 2007, leading the SBMA to issue several cease and desist orders (CDOs) and notices of violations (NOVs) against HHIC-Phil and some subcontractors.

However, Hanjin’s multi-layered corporate setup had so far frustrated Subic authorities in pinning down parties liable for injuries and deaths arising from the accidents, said SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza.

“In most cases, investigations have pinned the blame on subcontractors who have committed safety lapses. But although we revoked the permits of those who were found liable for violations, safety lapses have become a recurring problem,” he lamented.

“We’re now trying to unlock this tangle of corporations within corporations at the Hanjin shipyard so we’d know exactly who to go after,” Arreza said.

Aside from this, he said the SBMA will implement a stricter registration process for new subsidiaries or subcontractors of HHIC, and follow on previous recommendations and requirements for compliance by HHIC, as well as its subsidiaries and subcontractors.

The SBMA also intends to file legal action against HHIC-Phil and its subsidiaries or subcontractors whose health and safety deficiencies had resulted in the injury or death of workers, Arreza said.

As of now, the SBMA is preparing a database showing an interlocking web of directors and shareholders of several HHIC subsidiaries and subcontractors, said lawyer Ramon Agregado, who is SBMA senior deputy administrator for support services.

According to Agregado, HHIC’s business model is premised on the division of its construction and manufacturing processes into distinct businesses, with the operations of each division undertaken by an HHIC subsidiary. Each HHIC subsidiary, in turn, engages several subcontractors and sub-subcontractors to perform the work.

Agregado said the layering of corporations results “in the insulation of the mother company, HHIC-Phil Inc., from liability arising from employee injury or death, or from collection cases by unpaid suppliers.”

“This structure also circumvents the security of tenure of employees, as employees could be transferred from one subcontractor to another before reaching regular status,” he added.

Agregado also said they have evidence suggesting that these subcontractors and sub-subcontractors, most of whom provide services solely to HHIC-Phil, “are also owned indirectly by either HHIC or by HHIC officials.”

“This type of business model has proven to be disadvantageous to workers and makes it more expedient for HHIC to evade regulatory controls,” he concluded.

Last week, SBMA officials vowed to pursue the prosecution of all parties found liable in the death of another worker Filipino worker on January 23, two days before a Korean foreman became the latest — and the 19th — fatality at the Hanjin facility.

Arreza said he has ordered the suspension of the Korean subcontractor whose operations led to the January 23 accident, but added that the SBMA is also looking into the contingent liability of Hanjin, because it is the general contractor of the shipyard.

SBMA records indicated that aside from the CDOs and NOVs issued to at least 14 erring subcontractors since February 2007, it has issued a seven-day cease and desist order on all Hanjin construction activities in June 2008, after a 52-year old worker was pinned to death by a wall kicker formwork.

The following month, the SBMA formed an 11-man monitoring team that included a safety officer accredited by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). The team conducted weekly monitoring activities at both the Hanjin shipyard and construction site.

In August last year, the SBMA also set up a satellite office at the Hanjin shipyard gate. This is staffed with personnel from the SBMA law enforcement department, labor center, and pass and ID department, who provided on-site labor assistance to workers, received worker complaints, and also prevented unauthorized access by employees of non-accredited subcontractors.

On December 16 last year, the SBMA also required Hanjin to establish an on-site Trauma Clinic to be staffed by medical and nursing personnel, and other technicians trained in emergency medicine, pre-hospital care, and basic and advanced cardiac life support. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

Hanjin bus crashes barrier, 21 hurt

At least 21 workers at the Hanjin shipyard in Subic were hurt after their shuttle bus crashed a road barrier in Cawag, Subic, Zambales and fell down an embankment in the early morning rush to the worksite on Tuesday.

Miraculously, no one was killed in the accident — the first involving a shuttle bus ferrying workers to and from the shipyard, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) said.

Police said the injured workers were brought to the San Marcelino District Hospital in Zambales.

However, four workers who were seriously hurt were subsequently transferred to St. Jude Hospital in Olongapo City for surgery, police added.

They were identified as Darwin Samabella, Joan Jade Guinto, Wilmer Fontillas, and Jaime Legaspina, employed at the Hanjin shipbuilding facility.

All the 21 injured came from Subic town, where they were picked up by the WPH shuttle bus.

WPH, which was contracted by Hanjin to ferry workers to and from the shipyard, operates a fleet of shuttle buses that picked up workers from various locations. The buses take the Cawag road that connects to the Zambales highway at Castillejos town.

Members of the SBMA fire and rescue team who were sent to the accident site said the bus fell down a relatively gentle slope and toppled sideways at the bottom of the embankment. However, no one was pinned by the vehicle, they added.

Initial investigation showed that the mishap occurred at about 6:50 a.m., when the WPH bus lost control while traversing a zigzag road in the Cawag area.

Police said the bus, which was carrying about 55 passengers, was racing with two other buses when the accident happened.

The bus driver, identified as Jerico Liego, survived the accident but reportedly fled the site before rescuers arrived.

Police said they are now coordinating with operators of the bus company to trace Liego and bring him in for investigation.

He will be charged with reckless imprudence resulting to multiple physical injuries, police added. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

PHOTO: The wayward WPH shuttle bus after it was brought out of the crash site.

SBMA Seaport posts 26.6% growth in 2008

Limping from the ban on the importation of used cars and the slowing global economy last year, the Subic seaport nevertheless finished 2008 with stellar performance as it surpassed target revenue collections by 21 percent and posted a 26.6 percent revenue growth over its 2007 record.

Retired Captain Perfecto Pascual, who heads the Seaport department of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), said actual collections by the Subic seaport amounted to P276.24 million versus the P228.21 target for 2008.

This was a record increase of 26.6 percent in seaport revenue compared to actual collections of P218.2 million in 2007, added Pascual.

Pascual said that 2008 could have been a disastrous year for the SBMA seaport, had not officials initiated fiscal reforms to override the effects of Executive Order (EO) No. 256 that banned the importation of used cars.

The Seaport department, he added, got off with a slow start, posting a 20 percent drop in revenues for the first quarter of 2008 compared to 2007.

"Historically, (the importations) brought in a significant income for Subic, but the ban consequently brought down ship calls and cargo. Then the global financial crisis hit us in the second half of the year, and this did not spare the shipping industry," Pascual related.

What saved the day for Subic, Pascual said, was the decision of the SBMA to modify its policy on vessel and cargo charges, including those levied on the Philippine Coastal Corp., whose exemption from paying said fees was cancelled by the SBMA in the fourth quarter of 2007.

This resulted in P3-million worth of additional revenue each month, he said..

Pascual added that the 2008 revenue upsurge was driven mainly by the updating of shipping fees being collected in the Port of Subic, and the April 2008 startup operation of the 300,000- TEU New Container Terminal (NCT-1), which rakes in some P4.3 million into the SBMA Seaport's coffers monthly.

He said the SBMA board also approved in April last year an increase in SBMA's share and cargo-handling fees, from 10 percent of the cargo handlers' gross income, to 15 percent.

This rate is still comparatively lower than those charged by other Philippine Ports Authority (PPA)-administered ports, Pascual said, pointing out that the Port of Manila collects 20 percent, while the Port of Cebu collects 15 percent and 22 percent for local and foreign cargoes, respectively.

However, Pascual said the economic slowdown that began last year left a 20 percent shortage on bulk/break-bulk cargoes as against 2007 records. Still, Hanjin Heavy Industries Inc.-Phil's continuous shipbuilding operations raised revenues for the importation of heavy equipment and steel products by 172 percent, he added.

According to the SBMA Seaport yearend report, total export and import transactions in Subic fell by 19.4 percent last year to a total of 29,730 from 36,451 in 2007.

Ship calls posted a modest 6.3 percent growth — 1,893 compared to 1,781 in 2007. Projection for 2009 is placed at 2,052, with total tonnage of 15 million.

Pascual said that because of the economic slowdown, Subic forecasts a smaller volume of containerized cargo this year, from a total of 29,370 TEUs last year to 28,551 TEUs.

In terms of non-containerized cargo, this year's forecast is 2.19 million metric tons, compared to the 2008 record of 1.87 million metric tons.

Despite the global economic downturn, the SBMA Seaport expects revenue of P316.3 million this year, compared to actual revenue collections of P276.24 million in 2008.

"We could turn this crisis into an opportunity for the Port of Subic," said Pascual, who noted that collections this January already amounted to P30 million, which is bigger than the record P29 million monthly collections made in July and August last year.

"The slowdown in the shipping industry, ironically, turns out good for the Port of Subic since shipping lines began to use Subic Bay as a place to lay by their vessels," Pascual explained.

As of last count, 22 vessels are laid up in Subic Bay to wait out the recession. The SBMA Seaport earns about P6 million monthly from these idle ships, he said. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

PHOTO: A cargo vessel unloads containers at Subic's New Container Terminal-1

02 February 2009

Move to convert Subic as ‘mother port’ lauded

The move to convert Subic Bay as the country’s transshipment hub gained further momentum after businessmen and economic experts proposed that it be developed into a “mother port” to make the Philippines more competitive in the Asia-Pacific region.

Officials of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), meanwhile, lauded the proposals, saying it reinforces the agency’s commitments to modernize the Subic sea port, which has posted a remarkable 26.6 percent growth last year despite the onset of recession.

“The picture of a modern, globally competitive and commercially viable Subic seaport gets clearer,” SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza said in reaction to the proposals.

“More and more people realize Subic’s potential in catalyzing further growth in the country’s maritime logistics industry, and that’s great news for the SBMA,” he said.

Arreza added that the SBMA has earmarked $215 million to modernize its port and gear up for a greater role as a logistics and marine services hub. The program included the construction of two container terminal with a total capacity of 600,000 TEUs, and the rehabilitation of several U.S. Navy-built piers that are being turned into specialized ports for passenger and cruise ships, as well as for loading and unloading grains, fertilizers, oil and petroleum products, and other bulk cargoes.

“This clamor to make Subic a mother port, hopefully, should hasten the government plans for Subic,” Arreza said.

Both the National Competitiveness Council (NCC) and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), the country’s biggest business group, have called for the development of Subic as a transshipment and logistics hub.

According to Meneleo Carlos, NCC Infrastructure Working Group champion, the NCC is now looking at the possibility of moving more cargo through Subic with the use of 50 to 80 twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) barges that will carry cargo from Batangas, Cavite, Manila, and Bataan.

He said the use of the Subic Bay Freeport as mother port will result in faster shipment, lower cost, and more profits and jobs.

Carlos added that Subic is closer to most major sea lanes, so it would be easy for mother ships used in transshipment to pass by Subic and pick up cargoes for direct delivery to destinations like Europe.

“Shipment will be faster,” he said, pointing out that cargoes from the country won’t have to be transshipped anymore through Hong Kong or Singapore.

Meanwhile, moving goods between manufacturing centers in the country through water transport could prove to be more economical, provided that adequate systems for handling roll-on, roll-off (RORO) vessels are provided, Carlos added.

The announcement by NCC dovetailed with a call by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) to develop a transshipment and logistics hub spanning the ports of Batangas and Subic, which is connected to the air transportation complex at the Clark Freeport by the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx).

The PCCI said the proposed logistics center is needed to decongest cargo traffic in Manila ports, reduce the cost of doing business, and improve the competitiveness of the Philippines as a business destination.

At the same time, PCCI officials urged President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to expand roll-on, roll-off facilities in the country to reduce wharfage fees to trim transshipment costs for domestic and foreign-bound cargoes.

Similar cost-cutting measures have been endorsed by the NCC, which said that reduced port and shipping charges would make the Philippines more competitive globally. (SBMA Corporate Communications)