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30 April 2009

OSG lauds SBMA’S full support in drug case probe

The Office of the Solicitor General has lauded the management of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) for providing full support to the fact finding panel that is investigating the smuggling of more than 700 kilos of shabu into the Subic Bay Freeport a year ago and the circumstances leading to the escape of the principal suspect, Anthony Ang.

Solicitor General Agnes VST Devanadera said that since the SBMA has jurisdiction over the places where the P5-billion worth of drugs were seized by SBMA law enforcers, the agency should lead them to the places mentioned in the reports.

“And we are getting the very best support,” Devanadera said, adding that the support they have received from SBMA is better than what they expected.

Devanadera heads the fact finding teeam of the Malacañang-appointed panel headed by former Supreme Court Associate Justice Carolina Griño-Aquino, with former Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Raoul Victorino and San Beda Graduate School of Law Dean Ranhilio Aquino as members.

“The role of the OSG is really to gather the materials so that it will be easy for the panel to conduct its investigation. For example, now we’re getting names, we’re getting places. The next days, some of the members of the panel will come over. And by Monday, the panel is ready to start the hearing,” she said.

Before arriving in Subic, Devanadera admitted that they thought the SBMA officials would not be available to accompany them. SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza, however, who is on an official business trip in the United States, called her up assuring her of SBMA’s all-out assistance.

“Iyon bang extra efforts na ganoon, syempre nakita namin yung suporta and that we really appreciate, she noted.

Earlier on, SBMA officials said they welcomed the investigation and expressed hope that “it would bring out the facts of the case so that speculations could finally be set aside.”

During their inspection, the team was welcomed and assisted by SBMA Senior Deputy Administrator Ramon Agregado, who has been designated officer-in-charge while Arreza is abroad; Law Enforcement Department Manager Gen. Orlando Madela (ret); Deputy Administrator for Legal Affairs Atty. Bob Ongsiako and other SBMA senior officials.

The team inspected the different areas mentioned in the reports submitted by the PASG, the SBMA and the police, as well as other documents pertinent to the case.

“So tiningnan namin kung saan nagdock, paano iyong movement nung shabu, and then how they got to the different places - like the 60 boxes that went into this warehouse, but there is no record of how these boxes got in here,” Devanadera said.

Senior Deputy Adminstrator for Support Services Ramon Agregado, meanwhile, said that SBMA is fully supporting the Griño Panel or any investigating body that is looking into the case of Anton Ang.

“SBMA is providing the physical requirements for the ocular inspection of the (Griño) commission. Basically, we’re providing for the needs of the Commission in terms of documentation, the testimonies of the SBMA witnesses and access to the places where the drugs were seized,” he said. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

Subic schools urged to produce more “green graduates”

Educational institutions in the Subic Bay Freeport area have pledged their support to the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) after the agency urged schools to participate in its “adopt-a forest program” and help produce more “environmentally-sensitive” graduates who care for the planet’s future.

The call for more “green graduates” was made by SBMA Ecology Center manager Amethya dela Llana-Koval following the recent conference held here by the Philippine Tropical Forest Conservation Foundation (PCFTF), which was attended by officials of the SBMA, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and representatives from non-government organizations (NGOs), the private sector, and the academe.

Talking about the causes and ill effects of global warming, Koval stressed that the environmental situation “has reached a state of urgency” and that environmental protection activities, like the agency’s reforestation program at the 140-hectare Mt. Sta. Rita, must be stepped up.

“This means that more people must be involved, so we turn to one sector here which churns out thousands of capable people annually— the colleges and other educational institutions,” said Koval.

In the same meeting, Mondriaan Aura College, which had supported the SBMA’s environmental projects since its relocation to this free port in 1999, immediately rose up to Koval’s challenge and “adopted” two hectares of land for reforestation at Mt. Sta. Rita.

Last week, Aura’s faculty and staff, headed by college president Edgar Geniza, planted “monumental trees” — symbolic precursors of the more than 2,200 trees that they pledged to plant in the school’s adopted reforestation site.

Geniza said the SBMA’s adopt-a-forest program is “an excellent hands-on approach to instill social and environmental values” among students, who will make up the bulk of the project manpower through the college’s National Service Training Program (NSTP).

“Aside from instilling environmental concern, the adopt-a-forest program provides an avenue for social awareness as we will work hand-in-hand with government personnel (SBMA) and our indigenous brothers— the Pastulan Aetas who make up the Pastulan Forest Conservation Group (PFCG),” Geniza also explained.

“This is the start of a new relationship — among different sectors of the society, and with nature. We are glorifying God through nature,” Geniza also said.

Aura professor Albert Layug, who also serves as NSTP coordinator, said they have conducted community immersion projects with the Pastulan community in February this year to prepare for the reforestation project.

“Our Aeta brothers will ensure our safety, given their intimate knowledge of the forest,” Layug said. “We have lots to learn from them,” he added.

As in other “adopt-a-forest” setup involving Subic business locators, agencies and civic organizations here, the SBMA will provide the seedlings to Aura, and, together with PFCG, will provide technical assistance to the college throughout the three-year reforestation program, Koval said.

“With this first adoption by Aura, we expect other schools to follow soon,” she added.

Koval also said that concerted efforts by various stakeholders in Subic have yielded a total of 152,713 new trees under the SBMA reforestation program since 1996.

The successful implementation of the “adopt-a-forest” program, which boasts a 100 percent survival rate, had so far yielded a total of 4,345 trees since it was initiated by the Ecology Center in 2005, Koval said. (SBMA Corporate Communications)


PHOTO: Aura College faculty members and Aeta forest conservators plant a tree at the school’s “adopt-a-forest” reforestation site.

24 April 2009

Another Subic firm undertakes expansion amid crisis

Another manufacturer in the electronics industry here is now undertaking facilities expansion to boost its competitive edge in face of the economic slowdown that affects economies worldwide.

Koryo Subic, Inc., which has been producing high precision plastic molding for electronics products here since 1996, recently sought the approval of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) to construct a new building adjacent to its factory at the Boton logistics area.

The expansion project, which will include building construction and acquisition of new machines, will cost P180 million, said SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza.

According to Shin-Ichi Suzuki, factory manager of Koryo Subic, the new building would be used as a “clean room facility” for the painting of molded plastic products.

“As the global recession still continues, this new facility will be part of our strategy to attract more clients and additional jobs from our current customers,” Suzuki said.

“This new painting facility will be a controlled environment and the features will be somewhat more advanced than our current painting process,” he added.

Suzuki said that their company has set the completion date of the new building before the audit to be made next month by Sony Corp., one of their biggest clients, which shall be evaluating their suppliers to determine who gets the contract for the production of components for the upcoming 2010 model of its digital camera series.

“This is the main reason why we can’t afford to delay the construction of the new building,” Suzuki said.

Initially, Koryo will not be requiring additional manpower once the new building becomes operational, as the current recession has left the firm with “a lot of excess manpower,” Suzuki said.

But when the expansion project starts to bring in more clients, the firm will eventually increase its manpower, Suzuki said.

The expansion project by Koryo is so far the second to be announced this year by a Subic Freeport firm involved in the electronics industry, one of the sectors hardest hit by recession, said Administrator Arreza.

Last week, Japanese firm Hitachi Terminals Mechatronics Philippines Corp. (HTMP), a leading manufacturer of automated teller machines and terminal card reading machines, inaugurated its new warehouse here despite the ongoing global economic slowdown, said Arreza.

The firm, which is located at the Subic Techno Park, constructed a new 3,564-square meter warehouse that will be used in receiving of goods, stocking, warehouse controlling, keeping and materials handling, picking or withdrawal of parts, delivery of picked parts to production, as well as for shipping.

Like Koryo’s planned “clean room”, Hitachi’s new warehouse was designed as part of the firm’s business strategy to control cost and improve its efficiency to be able to compete strongly, said HTMP president Kiyotaka Adachi.

Arreza, meanwhile, has described HTMP’s establishment of a new warehouse facility as “a sign of the company’s business foresight and continued competitiveness.” (SBMA Corporate Communications)

23 April 2009

Subic Hitachi opens new warehouse despite global downturn

Japanese firm Hitachi Terminals Mechatronics Philippines Corp. (HTMP), a leading manufacturer of automated teller machines and terminal card reading machines, has inaugurated its new warehouse in this free port despite the ongoing global economic slowdown.

The firm, which is located here at the Subic Techno Park, unveiled its new 3,564-square meter warehouse last Friday — an indication of how HTMP workers envision bigger and brighter operations for the company, said Hitachi Asia Ltd. general manager Hitoshi Goto.

“Success should be attributed to the deeply committed and hardworking workers and officers of the HTMP. We believe this will promote operational efficiency to meet the vision towards global competitiveness,” Goto said during the inauguration.

Goto also proudly noted that the firm’s workers and management see a clear direction for the company, despite concerns on the global financial crisis that has affected even the HTMP and other Hitachi facilities world-wide.

HTMP president Kiyotaka Adachi, meanwhile, described the new warehouse as part of HTMP’s business strategy to control cost and improve its efficiency to be able to compete strongly.

The warehouse operation involves receiving of goods, stocking, warehouse controlling, keeping and mater
ials handling, picking or withdrawal of parts, delivery of picked parts to production, as well as for shipping.

“The inauguration of this new warehouse marks the start for HTMP to compete in the global market despite worldwide financial difficulties,” Adachi said.

“In order to improve efficiency, companies like the HTMP need to introduce change in the job process. This warehouse will enable us to conserve our resources and also improve our production output,” he added.

Meanwhile, S
BMA Administrator Armand Arreza praised HTMP’s expansion project, noting that it was pursued at a time when most businesses were starting to cut back on operations.

“Those who understand the dynamics of business cycles know very well that this daring business decision of HTMP is what will give Hitachi an edge over other companies when economy or market bounces to stand,” he said.

Hitachi, Arreza added, has already proven itself as a dynamic firm when it became one of the biggest exporters in the Freeport for 2008 with a total export value of US$76 million, and setting a new benchmark for itself by outdoing its own 2007 record-breaking expor
t of US$22 million.

Arreza added that the opening of HTMP’s new warehouse facility “is a sign of the company’s business foresight and continued competitiveness.” (SBMA Corporate Communications)

PHOTO:

SUBIC EXPANSION PROJECT: Officials of Hitachi Terminals Mechatronics Philippines Corp. (HTMP) and guests inaugurate the firms’ new warehouse at the Subic Bay Freeport, which is designed to make the Subic-based ATM-maker more competitive. In photo are (left to right): Miyafumi Midorikawa, president and chairman Hitachi Kai of Hitachi Cable Philippines Inc.; Kiyotaka Adachi, HTMP president; Jun Ishihara, chairman of Manila Int’l Freight forwarders Inc.; Hitoshi Goto, general manager of Hitachi Asia Ltd.; Takashi Jinguji, managing director and chief executive for Asia of Hitachi Transport System (Asia) Pte. Ltd.; and Hiroki Nakazawa, executive vice president and general manager of CCT Constructors Corporation.

22 April 2009

Subic locator pledges P.54 million for Olongapo scholars

A Korean firm engaged in property development in this free port has committed more than a half million pesos to support “financially-constrained but intellectually capable” students in the neighboring city of Olongapo.

The financial assistance from Neorex Philkor, a registered business locator in Subic, was announced by Olongapo City mayor James “Bong” Gordon Jr. to a cheering audience of government officials and employees at the city’s public park recently.

Expressing his appreciation on behalf of his constituents for Neorex Philkor Inc.’s support of the city’s educational program, Gordon said the financial assistance “would enable more youth in Olongapo to continue with their education.”

Gordon, representing the city, has signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with Neorex Philkor president Hong Sik Park on March 31, 2009 for the provision of the financial assistance from the Subic firm.

Under the agreement, Philkor has pledged to provide a monthly assistance of $1,000 or its equivalent in Philippine currency for a period of one year. In one year, the assistance would total $12,000 or about P540,000.

The city government, meanwhile, agreed to furnish Neorex Philkor with a list of students to be benefited by the firm’s educational sponsorship..

Gordon said that through the city’s scholarship program, financially constrained but intellectually capable young Olongapeños will receive full scholarship grants in elementary, high school and college levels.

He added that the college-level beneficiaries can avail of full scholarship for any two- or four-year academic courses at Gordon College in the city.

The scholarship assistance by Neorex Philkor to the Olongapo City government was praised meanwhile by officials of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), which has initiated community outreach projects involving business locators in the Freeport.

SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza said Neorex Philkor’s “involvement in local community development is commendable, and mirrors the SBMA’s commitment to serve as a catalyst for growth in the Subic Bay area and beyond.”

“It’s a good example that we hope would inspire other locators to do the same,” he added. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

16 April 2009

Subic retooling scheme: Scholarship open to 1,000 displaced workers

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) has launched a retooling program to help out displaced workers in the Subic Bay Freeport whose companies were affected by the global financial slowdown.

SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza said that some 1,000 workers affected by the recession will be able to avail of full scholarship grants through the Pangulong Gloria Scholarship program, which is being administered by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

To avail of the scholarship grant, displaced Freeport workers should secure a recommendation from the SBMA Labor Department which shall then be presented for verification at the provincial offices of TESDA or the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

“Any Freeport worker who lost his or her job, because either the company was forced to reduce its workforce or had to close shop because of the economic crisis, can avail of the grant and enroll in any participating school,” Arreza said.

He added that the grantees are also qualified to receive allowances, aside from the opportunity to enroll in any of the available livelihood and skills-training seminars that suit their interests.

The allowance, Arreza said, start at P60 per day, but if the scholar obtained a recommendation from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), he or she will receive and additional P91, making the allowance P151 a day.

Arreza clarified that not a single centavo will be collected by the school from the scholar because TESDA, through its Pangulong Gloria Scholarship Fund, will directly pay the school for the tuition or training fees, training allowance and the assessment fees of the scholars.

Meanwhile, SBMA labor department manager Severo Pastor Jr. said that among the courses that Subic applicants may choose from are: computer hardware servicing, food and beverage service, building wiring installation, baking and pastry production, housekeeping, healthcare services and bookkeeping.

These course offerings, Pastor explained, are designed to provide displaced workers with other skills that are in demand at the Subic Freeport or abroad, thereby helping the workers “retool” themselves for better competition.

“Each course may last for from 45 to 120 days and are being offered in TESDA-accredited schools in the Subic Freeport, Olongapo City and Zambales,” Pastor said.

The SBMA labor official also announced that a total of 120 former workers will be graduating this month after taking housekeeping courses at Mondriaan Aura College in the Freeport and trainings in baking at the Central Luzon College of Science and Technology in Olongapo.

The graduates will receive a training certificate from the school, as well as a certification from TESDA that gives the bearer preference when applying for jobs abroad.

“The skills that these displaced workers learned from the training will be their key in applying for a new job, or in putting up a business of their own,” Pastor also said. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

14 April 2009

Subic records all-time high in Holy Week tourist arrivals

More tourists and visitors have chosen to spend the Holy Week here in the Subic Bay Freeport this year, resulting in record-breaking increases in both the number of tourist arrivals and hotel occupancy rates posted from April 5 to 10.

SBMA administrator Armand Arreza said that based on the vehicle count of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), a 74 percent increase in visitor arrivals was recorded here during the recent Holy week, when a total of 43,984 vehicles were monitored to have entered the Freeport through the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx), compared to only 25,300 in the same period last year.

“Using the standard multiplier of four persons per vehicle, this year’s vehicle tally translates to a total of 175,936 persons — a significant number of tourist arrivals to be recorded in a week’s time,” Arreza said.

On the other hand, hotel occupancy rates in Subic also jumped to an unprecedented level as 20 hotels and housing operators out of the 32 existing establishments in Subic reported 99.5 percent occupan
cy, Arreza also said.

The occupancy figure recorded in the same period last year was only 84 percent, he added.

The growth in Holy Week tourist arrivals, SBMA officials said, mirrors the growing popularity of Subic as tourist destination, especially in summer when schools close for a two-month break.

In February, tourist arrivals here reached a total of 124,503 and represented a 198 percent increase over the 41,815 total recorded in January.

In March, Arre
za said that SBMA-operated facilities alone have recorded 25,957 visitors — a figure that excluded the arrivals recorded at hotels and private facilities wherein the bulk of Subic tourists register.

Arreza attributed the growing tourist traffic here during the Holy Week to Subic’s accessibility via the SCTEx, as well as Subic’s increasing popularity as a holiday haven that offers a wide range of natural and man-made attractions.

“Of course, Subic also has the reputation of having retained the best in Filipino culture, like the Lenten “pabasa” and “salubong” rites that attract a huge number of visitors,” Arr
eza pointed out.

SBMA deputy administrator for tourism Raul Marcelo said that among the Lenten traditions that attracted a huge audience in the weeklong Holy Week program here include the re-enactment of Jesus Christ’s triumphant entry to Jerusalem, a ceremony celebrated by Filipino Catholics as Palm Sunday; the “pabasa” chanting, which revolved around the life, passion and death of Jesus; and the grand procession and 14 Stations of the Cross.

Aside from these, Subic visitors were also treated to more contemporary Lenten events like the “Heal Me Lord” musical concert held at the Boardwalk Area on Good Friday. The religious musical featur
ed singers and stage actors like Karylle, Christian Bautista, Ricky Davao, Iza Calzado, Jacky Lou Blanco, Kyla, and Yvette Ocampo, among others. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

PHOTO: A religious procession ambles past Subic’s iconic Spanish Gate as part of the Good Friday celebration at the Subic Bay Freeport. The weeklong Lenten program in Subic attracted at least 175,000 visitors, SBMA officials said.

SBMA seaport income surges to P130.21-M in 1st Qtr.

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) has reported an income of P130.21 million for the Subic sea port in the first three months, topping the P67.21-million target for the first quarter by 193.7 percent and posting an all-time record for the agency.

Calling the unprecedented record “a silver lining amidst the global recession,” SBMA seaport officials said the January to March sea port income surged to record high as actual collections from various revenue sources all exceeded first quarter targets.

“This is really record-breaking for the Seaport Department,” said SBMA senior deputy administrator for operations Ferdinand Hernandez, whose office oversees the Subic sea port.

“Historically, Subic seaport’s highest first quarter income was recorded in 2005 when we collected P51.6 million. But this year, our March revenue alone was already more than P51 million,” Hernandez explained.

He added that with the January-March revenue, the SBMA Seaport has already accounted for 41.17 percent of the agency’s P316.29-million revenue target for the whole 2009.

Capt. Perfecto Pascual, manager of the SBMA Seaport Department, meanwhile pointed out that the total of P130.21 million does not include accounts receivables in the amount of P17.2 million.

“Theoretically, therefore, Seaport’s first quarter income is P147.41 million,” Pascual added.

According to Hernandez, two new accounts this year boosted Subic’s seaport revenue collections: rental from the Subic Bay International Terminal Corp., which operates phase 1 of Subic’s New Container Terminal (NCT-1), and the additional income on vessel lay-ups.

The SBITC rentals already accounted for P12 million in the first quarter, while the running income this year from idle vessels parked at Subic Bay has reached P23.68 million, he said.

Another factor that helped increase the seaport revenue was wharfage fee for petroleum products, fertilizer, and grains like soya and wheat, said Hernandez.

Pascual also said that even without the two new accounts, the SBMA Seaport Department would still have posted a first quarter income of P94.53 million — still the biggest record for the department ever since the creation of the SBMA in 1992.

He said that SBMA Seaport’s six revenue sources all contributed positively to the rising revenue, with actual collections of P48.8 million for vessel charges, or an increase of 263.8 percent over the first quarter target; P38.15 million (173.7 percent increase) for cargo charges; P9.18 million (277.8 percent increase) for processing fees; P13.13 million (125.8 percent increase) for SBMA shares in port-related services; P16.38 million (128..9 percent increase) for lease/rentals; and P4.46 million (1,687.5 percent increase) for other charges.

Comparative figures from the SBMA meanwhile showed that despite the global recession, the Subic sea port has completed 83.5 percent of its first quarter target for containerized cargo volume — or 6,041 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) out of the goal of 7,236 TEUs. This is broken down into 2,087 TEUs for January, 1,832 in February, and 2,122 in March.

Pascual said that to capture the much needed volume of cargo, the SBMA continues to strengthen its marketing efforts to entice shippers, importers, brokers and forwarders to use the Port of Subic.

Meanwhile, non-containerized cargo that passed through the Subic Bay Freeport in January-March reached a total of 679,153.16 metric tons, or 139.3 percent over the first quarter target of 487,698.81 metric tons.

In the same period, a total of 508 ship calls were made in Subic as more idle vessels were laid up in Subic Bay. This figure represented a 102.2 percent increase over the first quarter target of 497, SBMA data indicated. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

PHOTO: A cargo vessel unloads containers at the New Container Terminal-1 in the Subic Bay Freeport.

SBMA approves P1.5-B new investments in 1st Qtr.

The global business outlook this year may be bleak, but officials of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) are counting on this free port’s strong domestic base to further economic growth during the global financial crisis.

According to SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza, the agency signed up a total of 30 new projects worth P1.5 billion for the first quarter this year, topping by 13.6 percent the recorded volume of new investments in the same period last year.

The new projects brought to 966 the total number of registered investors here, Arreza said during the mass contract signing held at the Subic Gateway Park here.

Some 580 workers are expected to be employed by the newly-registered Subic companies, he added.

With the continued influx of investments here despite the global economic slowdown, Arreza said the SBMA is optimistic that Subic will weather the current crisis.

"A 13.6 percent growth despite this global crisis indicates that the Subic Bay Freeport has achieved an excellent level of economic resiliency," said Arreza.

This is because the SBMA "has created a self-sustaining business environment for the Subic Bay Freeport, which, through the years, was directed towards various industries that require less, if not total dependence, on foreign markets," he added.

Arreza also pointed out that tourism has become a major economic driver for Subic Bay, and that the growing support industries for this sector, such as hotel construction, keep the local economy afloat.

He added that the maritime industry here still has a lot to offer, as proved by Filipino-owned Tountzis Shipping Inc. that committed a P975.3 million investment, the biggest among the investment projects approved in the first quarter this year.

According to Stef Saño, the SBMA senior deputy administrator for business, the biggest projects proposed by new Subic investors are related to the maritime and logistics industries.

Aside from Tountzis Shipping, which will engage in the buy-and-sell of shipping vessels and in other shipping services like logistics and warehousing, two other big investments are in maritime and logistics.

These are the 7,107 Islands Shipping Corp., which has made the Subic Bay Freeport as its home port, committing P201 million for its cruise ship operations; and Eastern Subic Fuel Depot Corp, which committed P50.8 million for the establishment of gasoline stations and retail outlets for petroleum products.

Saño also identified the other new investor-firms sharing the top ten list as: Subic Mobymix Concrete Industries Trading, Inc., which will invest P49.7 million for the production and supply of ready-mix concrete products, warehousing, import/export and trading of construction materials, equipment and machinery; R.A. Geigl Realty Construction Corp., P41 million, for the development of housing facilities; and Westcoast Automotive Corp., P39 million, for the sale and distribution of motor vehicles, spare parts, accessories and other related products, as well as repair, maintenance, and leasing of vehicles.

Also among the biggest projects are: HYS-Yacht Phils. Ltd. Co., P36.1 million, for the construction, development and operation of a marina restaurant, resort operation and yacht restoration facilities; Fuso Kasei Philippines Inc., P30.1 million, for the manufacturing of plastic products; Hankook Networks Philippines Corporation, P19.3 million; and Bongture Corporation, P18..2 million, `for real estate development, subleasing, management and marketing operations. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

PHOTO: Representatives of new investor-firms in the Subic Bay Freeport pose with SBMA Chairman Feliciano Salonga, SBMA administrator Armand Arreza, and SBMA senior deputy administrator for business Stef Saño (8th, 9th and 10th from right, respectively) after the mass contract signing ceremony at the Subic Gateway Park.

Subic Coast Guard auxiliary group fulfills environmental mandate

The now 134-strong Subic squadron of the Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary (PCGA) has mobilized its forces for an environmental protection project following the formal commissioning of the volunteers group only two months ago.

The PCGA’s 102nd Squadron, as the Subic group is designated, recently armed themselves with shovels, rakes, garbage bags and other cleaning tools, and then scoured the stretch of coastlines for garbage near the Jungle Joe’s World theme park at Subic’s naval magazine area.

“Being a young organization, the group needs to touch base with the community to gain support for its future projects, hence we decided to undertake a beach clean-up,” said the squadron’s commandant, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) administrator Armand Arreza.

Arreza, who has the honorary rank of captain in the PCGA, said the clean-up drive was technically the first project of the 102nd Squadron and he was glad it gained the support of business locators and residents in Subic.

He added that the project was also part of the PCGA’s mission in protecting the marine environment and ensuring maritime safety.

The Subic squadron, Arreza also said, has joined a similar activity organized by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Subic Station and held at barangay Calapacuan in Subic town last month.

Following the coastal clean-up project in the free port, members of the 102nd Squadron also welcomed into its circle 20 new recruits, who had volunteered their services to help the Coast Guard carry out its obligations.

Arreza said this only strengthens the view that Subic Bay has largely progressed with the rising tide of volunteerism on the part of its residents and community members.

Meanwhile, SBMA chairman Feliciano Salonga, who is an active PCGA official with the honorary rank of commodore, happily noted the growing number of members joining the 102nd Squadron.

Salonga said he expects further membership applications to rise significantly as the group’s environmental awareness and outreach program begin to permeate “every nook and corner of the Subic Bay Freeport.”

“Soon, the 102nd will be recognized as a very potent force in the promotion of safety of lives and properties at sea, as well as in the matter of marine environmental protection,” he added.

To help the 102nd Squadron fulfill its maritime mission, the SBMA has activated with the PCGA seven vessels that were obtained by the SBMA for its port development program, said Salonga.

These vessels, which range from 18 to 20 meters in length, could be dispatched for various PCGA operations like search and rescue, sea patrol, waste collection, firefighting, and oil skimming.

The PCGA is a uniformed, non-government organization with a military structure that parallels that of the PCG, and is a non-political, non-sectarian group, according to Salonga. (SBMA Corporate Communications))

PHOTO:
Members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary’s 102nd Squadron based at the Subic Bay Freeport collect garbage at a beach in the former naval magazine area, as part of the group’s mission to protect the marine environment.

02 April 2009

Foreign riders seeing action in Subic race

IN its bid to rev up cyclo-tourism in the country, the Department of Tourism (DOT) hailed bikers from 15 countries, including the Philippines, who will take part in the seventh Terry Larrazabal Bike Festival (TLBF) at the Subic Bay Free Port Zone.

Riders from Australia, Canada, Dubai, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the US are taking part.

The event, cosponsored by the DOT, will be held on Thursday up to Sunday (April 2-5, 09). It is one of the biggest mountain bike events that touts the country as a cyclo-tourism destination.

“We are looking forward to this racing event as an opportunity to show to the world our exciting terrains. Cyclo-tourism is another exciting dimension of our country’s multifaceted adventure tourism,” said DOT Secretary Joseph Ace Durano.

“The TLBF is the only multidiscipline cycling event in the Philippines and Asia. More than simultaneous competitions, we will also hold bike clinics, expositions and street parties for the participants and guests,” said festival director Gregorio Larrazabal.

The racing event features mountain bike racing (XC, 4x, dirt jumping and downhill), trials (26 and 20 categories), BMX (supercross and dirt jumping) road racing and Olympic/standard distance triathlons.

“Strong advertising and marketing support for the TLBF will, hopefully, propel the country’s viability as a cyclist’s haven,” added Eduardo Jarque Jr., undersecretary for tourism planning and promotions.

The bike event was featured in the US edition of Dirt Rag Magazine, one of the leading biker’s publications, while its homepage opened to a write-up and a link to the event website. Several billboards and radio ads have also been creating buzz for the year’s biggest bike show.

World-renowned bikers will also hold clinics on the different aspects of cycling on April 2, from 2:00-6:00pm. Biking icon Hans Rey will talk about Wheels 4 Life, a non-profit foundation that has been providing bikes to the less privileged.

On the topic of competing for the World Cup, Brian Lopes, the current UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) World Champion will reveal some strategies on winning.

Bike design legend Jeff Jones will tackle the philosophy of designing ride that can withstand the roughest terrains.

Jay Macneil, chief operating officer of Banshee Bikes, will give a lecture on bicycle suspension.

Festival Director Larrazabal will speak on the essentials of bike fitting.

Fox Racing Shox will handle the subject of tuning a mountain bike suspension fork. (c/o Olongapo-Subic Bay News)