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26 May 2009

Subic company completes first-ever luxury yacht

Australasia Marine Alliance Corp. (AMAC), a unit of Mustang Marine Australia Services Pty. Ltd., said it has completed the first-ever leisure yacht to be built in Subic Bay Freeport.

The 28-feet Mustang Marine 2800 Sports Cruiser worth A$120,000 was built by Filipino boat craftsmen. It is one of the smallest boats under the Mustang brand name.

AMAC is an "alternative manufacturer" of recreational boats of Mustang Marine Australia Services Pty. Ltd., the flagship company of Australasia Alliance Corp., the oldest and second-largest boat builder in Australia.

The leisure yacht is powered by a MerCruiser 5.0L MPI Bravo 3 260-horsepower, 300-liter gasoline engine. It went as fast as 30.4 knots or 35 miles an hour during sea trials in Subic Bay.

With technical assistance from Mustang Australia, it took five months to finish the first boat, which is now ready to be shipped to a Thai buyer, Mr. Co said.

"We have to train people step by step, so production of the first boat took quite long. But by the end of the year, we will gear up to about two to three units a month of this size," he added.

"[This] is practically a livable boat with superb craftsmanship and elegant designs found in its kitchen, toilet, bedroom and lounge," Mr. Co. said. (Rey Garcia, Businessworld Online)

Photo Caption: The first Filipino-made Mustang 2800 Sports Cruiser maneuvers in Subic Bay. The boat clocked 30.4 knots per hour during recent trials.

24 May 2009

SBMA cited for timely action on drug case

Two government agencies cited the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) vigilance in the seizure of over 700 kilos of shabu from a locator and now suspected drug trafficker Anthony “Anton” Ang, even as freeport industry leaders described the SBMA officials’ conduct in the seizure as an example of integrity in government service.

In the latest hearing by the Congressional committee investigating the attempted smuggling of over 700 kilos of shabu through the Subic freeport, the chief of Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Dionisio Santiago cited SBMA’s vigilance resulting in the seizure of the illegal drugs.

“Had the SBMA personnel relaxed their guard in this case, billions of pesos worth of shabu would have flooded the streets,” Santiago said.

Earlier in the same hearing, Presidential Anti- Smuggling Group (PASG) chief Undersecretary Antonio Villar Jr. expressed the same recognition of SBMA success in thwarting the smuggling attempt. The seizure is the biggest haul ever in the illegal drug trade.

Armand Arreza, SBMA administrator, gave the credit to SBMA personnel, saying their dedication and honesty in their job paid off, adding that “our boys did not waver in the face of deceit even as they exercised determined caution in giving locators the respect they deserve.”

“Our boys stood their ground, insisting on getting the shipping documents on the boxes that later turned out to contain shabu,” Arreza said, adding that “no inch was given in the demand for the shipping documents. They were protecting the interest of government after they were told by Ang the boxes contained sensitive computer parts.”

Ang, then being a known locator in SBMA, claimed that the cargo contained sensitive computer parts and requested it should not be opened while he promised to bring to the SBMA the required shipping document even when the boxes passed the dog sniffing screening to detect contraband.

Ang failed to return with the shipping documents on the promised time. The SBMA law enforcement team then called PASG, the government’s anti-smuggling group to open the boxes. It was only then that they found out the boxes contained crystalline substance that was suspected to be shabu.

The PDEA later confirmed the substance is shabu. The packaging of the shabu in boxes was intended to deceive sniffing dogs.

According to Arreza, three employees in the team that led the seizure of shabu boxes earned the “Gantimpala Agad” Awards of the Civil Service Commission while the rest were given commendations. This award is the reward component of the CSC’s “Mamamayan Muna, Hindi Mamaya Na” program. (Franco Regala, Manila Bulletin)

Independent panel starts investigation of Ang disappearance in Subic drug bust

Manila - The three-man independent panel that investigated the Alabang Boys has started its investigation into the questionable disappearance of suspected international drug-lord Anthony Anton Ang after he was caught in possession with some P5-billion worth of high-grade shabu at the Subic Freeport Zone.

The panel, headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Carolina Grino-Aquino with San Beda Graduate College of Law Dean Fr. Ranhilio Aquino and retired Sandiganbayan Justice Raoul Victorino as members, would look into the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of the drug suspect and determine possible liabilities of prosecutors and agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and the Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group (PASG) and of the Subic Freeport authorities.

Solicitor General Agnes Deva-nadera, whose office is providing legal assistance to the probe panel, said the investigation would zero in on the administrative aspect of the case and as well as on the alleged bribery angle.

Bribery may come in, but the focus is whats going to be the accountability of the public officials, the solicitor general said.

She said the objective of the investigation is to establish some facts, and to inquire on the reaction of the officials when all things happened.

It could be lapses. It could overt act. It could be intentional acts. It could be none. It could be regular action, she added.

A congressional committee is also investigating the drug case. In its latest hearing, both the PDEA and PASG have virtually exonerated the Subic Freeport authorities, saying that Had the SBMA [Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority] personnel relaxed their guards in this case, billions worth of shabu would have flooded the streets.

Armand Arreza, SBMA administrator, gave the credit to SBMA personnel, saying their dedication to and honesty in their job paid off, adding, "Our boys did not waiver in the face of deceit even as they exercised determined caution in giving locators the respect they deserve."

Ang, then being a known locator in SBMA, claimed that the cargo contained sensitive computer parts and requested it should not be opened while he promised to bring to the SBMA the required shipping documents even when the boxes passed the dog sniffing screening to detect contraband.

Ang failed to return with the shipping documents on the promised time. The SBMA law enforcement team, then called PASG, the governments anti smuggling group to open the boxes. It was only then that they found out the boxes contained crystalline substance that was suspected to be shabu.

The PDEA later confirmed the substance-contained shabu. The packaging of the shabu in boxes was intended to deceive sniffing dogs. (William B. Depasupil, Manila Times)

Antonio is solo leader in Subic chessfest

Grandmaster Rogelio "Joey" Antonio Jr. outsmarted Le Quang Liem of Vietnam in 59 moves of the Sicilian to vault into the solo lead after the ninth round of the 2009 Asian Continental individual chess championship Thursday at the Subic Exhibition and Convention Center in Subic Bay Freeport.

Flashing the form that made him the country's top player only several years ago, the 47-year-old pride of Calapan, Oriental Mindoro finished off his sixth-seeded Vietnamese rival to claim his fourth win in the last five rounds.

The win enabled the 28th-seeded Filipino to grab the solo lead with seven points on five wins and four draws with only two rounds remaining in this prestigious, 11-round tournament organized by the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) in cooperation with the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).

Half a point behind Antonio are two Indian and two Chinese player – Grandmasters Chanda Sandipan and Surya Shekhar Ganguly and Grandmasters Hou Yifan and Zhou Weiqi.

Sandipan drew with Hou, while Ganguly and Zhou halved the point in 39 moves of the Sicilian to remain within striking distance.

Grandmaster Wesley So also made his presence felt, beating Elshan Moradiabadi of Iran in only 33 moves of the Ruy Lopez to keep his hopes alive.

The 15-year-old So capitalized on a blunder by his Iranian rival – a queen push to h4 on the 26th move – to turn a difficult, middle game struggle into a resounding victory with the white pieces.

When the end came, So is threatening to mate Moradiabadi’s king with either his queen on g8 or his knight on d6.

Overall, So has a nine-round total of six points on four wins, four draws and only one loss. (c/o Manila Bulletin)

22 May 2009

Young Chinese GM stamps class in Subic chessfest

THIS 15-year-old girl is competing, as she puts it, “for the experience” in the open division of the 8th Asian Continental Championship at the Subic Bay Free Port.

But grandmaster Hou Yifan of China is in a group of 12 players—which includes Filipino GM Joey Antonio and international master Richard Bitoon—just half-a-point behind the four leaders after Sunday’s fifth round.

That could mean trouble for the men’s against Hou, who was second in the 2008 world’s women’s chess championship, as Bitoon found out Sunday.

Bitoon, playing black in a Sicilian Defense, was on the ropes against Hou, but in time trouble the advantage shifted to Bitoon’s side. Hou dug in despite having a bishop against a rook in a queen endgame and the game ended in a draw in 80 moves.

“She is friendly, with a smile on her face,” said Bitoon of his 5’5” rival in a phone interview with Standard Today. “But she is malupit [accurate] and has an all-around style.”

Her first Filipino victim was national master Edgardo Garma who did not survive the opening. “He [Garma] made a mistake and it was exploited quickly,” said Bitoon.

In answers to e-mailed questions given to her by Standard Today through FIDE deputy president for Asia Toti Abundo, Hou said the tournament has made a good impression on her. “Fresh air, good environment. This has been an excellent tournament. Hopefully chess will have a bright future in the Philippines.”

The tournament selects the Top 10 regional qualifiers to the next stage of the championship. Hou, having finished second in the 2008 women’s championship, has earned her ticket and is playing in the open division for experience.

Chinese chess officials are pinning her hopes that Hou will be a superstar. The daughter of a magistrate and a former nurse, Hou became the youngest woman to become a grandmaster at 14 years and six months in 2008.

Hou said she goes to a regular school, but stays with the national team in Beijing.

One of her coaches said Hou has all the qualities to become the world’s top woman chessplayer, a distinction held by Judit Polgar of Hungary for nearly a decade (c/o Manila Standard Today)

SBMA backs free port perks for Olongapo businesses

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) is now working out a scheme whereby qualified investments based in the neighboring city of Olongapo may receive some incentives enjoyed by companies registered in the Subic Bay Freeport.

According to SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza, the perks may include fiscal incentives like sales tax and five-percent gross income tax.

“We are now in the process of formulating the implementing rules,” Arreza said.

“We are working it out with Olongapo City officials so that businesses located in Olongapo would qualify for some incentives under Executive Order 675,” Arreza added, referring to the order signed by President Arroyo that expanded the area where tax- and duty-free privileges for free port zones would apply.

Under EO 675, the tax- and duty-free privileges within the Subic Special Economic and Free Port Zone (SSEFPZ) “shall apply within the secured area consisting of the presently fenced-in former Subic Naval Base and such other areas that may be identified, fenced, secured or declared as additional secured area by the SBMA.”

But Arreza said that because the planned expansion area in Olongapo is not yet fenced in, duty-free privileges cannot be applied.

“Our main concern is merchandise control,” Arreza said. “That is why we’re initially thinking of giving incentives on sales tax and the five-percent gross income tax.”

He added that under the planned set-up, businesses wanting to avail of the perks would have to be endorsed by the Olongapo city government to the SBMA.

The system would be similar to that employed by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) which registers and grants perks to investors in privately-owned economic zones, Arreza said.

Among the incentives the SBMA offers to investors registering in the Subic Bay Freeport are tax- and duty-free importation; exemption from all local and national taxes, with only a 5 percent corporate tax on gross income; unrestricted entry of foreign investments; no foreign exchange control; visas for foreign nationals; and

expanded allowable deduction and higher percentage of income allowable from sources within the Customs territory for regional enterprises.

The SBMA official revealed the planned incentives for Olongapo companies after calling for the further development of the Subic-Clark growth corridor and pushing for the creation of additional industrial estates to sustain Central Luzon’s economic momentum.

Arreza said earlier that if the areas between Subic and Clark were developed into industrial estates, the SBMA could push through with its expansion program that is projected to create 150,000 new jobs.

He also said that the SBMA’s expansion plan likewise considers the development of areas in the nearby communities of Olongapo City, Subic town in Zambales, and Morong, Hermosa and Dinalupihan in Bataan.

According to Arreza, new investors who will locate beyond the fenced-in area of Subic, but still within the Subic Special Economic and Free Port Zone (SSEFPZ), will nevertheless enjoy certain privileges as provided for under EO 675, signed by President Arroyo on November 5, 2007.

He added that one investor, the Subic Neocove Corp., which is putting up a golf resort complex in Subic, Zambales, will be the first major investor to locate outside the former base land.

The development project, which will be financed by the Heung-A Property Group (HAPG) of Korea in partnership with Westgate Resorts Asia Ltd. and the Trump Organization, will incorporate hotel and vacation complexes, a 54-hole golf course and leisure-sports facilities, an eco-park, spa and therapy centers, as well as an international hospital and an international school in a 457-hectare beachfront property in Subic town.

The project, Arreza said, received the SBMA’s full incentive package upon endorsement from the governments of Subic town and the Zambales province.

As of now, the SBMA is finalizing its master plan that would increase connections between the Subic Bay Freeport and outlying areas, particularly Olongapo City, its nearest neighbor.

The plan also calls for the widening of bridges linking the free port to Olongapo, Arreza said. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

19 May 2009

Lessons from shabu-smuggling incident: Modern surveillance system to heighten Subic security

With last year’s Subic drug-smuggling case under investigation for possible administrative lapses by law enforcers and other concerned parties, authorities in this free port allayed fears of more smuggling attempts and said remedies are now in the offing.

In particular, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) will be relying on modern surveillance equipment like radars and closed-circuit television (CCTV) systems to build a virtual security cloak around Subic’s 14 piers and docks, said SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza.

“Whatever administrative lapses may have been in the shabu smuggling case, these are being addressed already,” Arreza said in a media interview on Friday.

“Even policies, like those on the classification of cargoes, are being looked into,” he added.

The SBMA executive said the close monitoring of Subic’s port “is basically our key requirement.” “That’s why we want a modern maritime surveillance setup,” he explained, adding that the SBMA would like to acquire a complete system of monitoring equipment as mandated by the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

Arreza disclosed the SBMA’s initiative to upgrade security in Subic’s maritime port as an independent investigating panel created by President Arroyo began last week, looking into the foiled attempt to smuggle some P5 billion worth of methamphetamine hydrochloride, or shabu, into the Subic Bay Free Port in May.

The suspected mastermind, a business locator in Subic named Anthony Ang, managed to escape after promising to secure documents for his yet-undocumented cargo that later turned out to be shabu.

Arreza said a similar scenario is unlikely in Subic today as the SBMA begins streamlining the maritime traffic-management system in this free port and subjecting its seaport personnel to an exhaustive training in port operations.

The primary objective, he added, is to prevent the undetected entry or exit of small watercraft like yachts, rubber boats and bancas that could be used in smuggling activities.

“Unlike ships, tankers and other vessels which are equipped with an automatic identification system that registers their presence in port control stations, small vessels are harder to monitor since they only appear as small dots on radar screens,” said Arreza.

Arreza explained that once a vessel is suspected to have departed without notice, the protocol is to immediately contact the SBMA Harbor Patrol or the Philippine Coast Guard to intercept the boat.

“When all else fails and the craft escapes interception, our safety net is we can go after the ship’s agent,” he added.

Arreza said, however, that the projected installation of modern radars and CCTV systems would make the port of Subic safer and less prone to smuggling attempts.

“Once the closed-circuit cameras are installed, all vessels berthed in Subic Bay Free Port’s 14 piers and wharves can be monitored 24/7 in one control room,” Arreza said.

Arreza said the upgrading of Subic’s port security system was actually contained in the $215-million Subic port-modernization program that includes the construction in two phases of Subic’s new container terminal. (Henry EmpeƱo, Business Mirror)

17 May 2009

Woo dominates Subic triathlon but local bet Catiil also shines

Hong Kong’s Daniel Lee Chi Woo won his fifth Subic Bay International Triathlon Championship title with another dominating show in the men’s elite of the 2009 edition on Sunday from Dungree Beach to Waterfront Street inside Subic Bay Freeport.

But local bet Neil Catiil also got his share of the spotlight as he gave the Philippines its first Top 5 finish in the tough competition in a long while.

The 32-year old Woo, a two-time Olympian who also won the gold at the 1st Asian Beach Games last year, leaned on strong a showing in the three disciplines to retain his crown.

Prior to these back-to-back titles, Woo emerged champion in the 2000, 2001 and 2006 editions.

“I have been racing for the past three weeks and I’m in my best shape and really expected to win," said Woo, who clocked in at one hour 58 minutes and 30 seconds in the 1.5k swim, 40k bike and 10k run.

Woo was actually a distant second to China’s Zheng Yi Ming in the swim but gained much headway in the bike stage, joining hands with Zheng and Australian Dane Robinson to maintain their lead against the chase group.

With running as his best asset, Woo started to pull away after the first of four loops for a solo finish in the event organized by Triathlon Association of the Philippines.

Playing in his first tournament this year, China’s top triathlete Zhang took the silver medal with 1:59:55 while teammate Li Wei Sun outsprinted Robinson for the bronze medal with 2:00:26.

“It was a tough race especially in the bike where half of the course was done in hilly portion. But I worked hand in hand with Zheng and Dane to keep our lead against the chase group before I made my move in the run which is my strength," Woo said.

Robinson clocked in at 2:00.58 for fourth place, ahead of Catiil, who crossed the finish line in 2:03.57 for fifth place.

This is the first time in the past years of the Subic meet that a Filipino landed inside the top five of the men’s elite.

Catiil made heads turn with a blazing show in the bike as he emerged as the fastest among the participants with 1:04:32 time.

“Naiwan ako sa swim pero tinuhog ko sila sa bike. Kung mahaba-haba pa nga sana ang karera ay naabutan ko yung Australiyano (Robinson). Pero masaya ako dahil ito na ang best time ko sa standard distance," said the 23-year old, Cagayan de Oro native who was the champion in the Under-23 division last year.

Woo, Zhang and Li netted P30,000, P20,000 and P10,000, respectively, for topping the race.

Woo and Zhang also joined Catiil in receiving a bonus prize of $100 for submitting the best time in splits. Woo was the fastest in the run with 1:58:00 while Zhang finished ahead of everybody in the swim at 20 minutes and 38 seconds.

The other Filipino participants, George Vilog and Fil-Am Arland Macasieb, settled for 9th and 10th spot with 2:08:25 and 2:13:52, respectively.


Hong Kong’s triathletes also swept the top three places in the Under-23 with Ivan Lo Ching Hin winning the gold with 2:07:26, Jam Joe Dickson getting the silver with 2:11:46 and Ricco Chan ye Ko bagging the bronze with 2:15:46.

Rowel Odonio was the best Filipino participant in this category at fourth place with 2:17:17 before another Hong Kong entry Fun Ho Kong took fifth with 2:19:21. (c/o GMANews.TV)

16 May 2009

Yun leads China’s 1-2 finish in Subic triathlon (Women's)

China’s Yun Lu would forever remember the year 2009.

Competing for the first time in the Philippines, Lu out-sprinted teammate Zhang Yi to claim her inaugural title in Saturday’s 2009 ITU Subic Bay International Triathlon female elite which started at Dungeree Beach and finished at the Waterfront Road inside the former American Naval Base in Olongapo City.

A total of 13 triathletes saw action in the Triathlon Association of the Philippines (TRAP)-organized race, which is also sanctioned by the International Triathlon Union (ITU).

Lu proved to be the best conditioned triathlete in the 1.5-kilometer swim, 40-k bike and 10-k run race submitting the fastest time of two hours, 10 minutes and 34 seconds. She struck hard in the third of four loops in the run event to leave behind Yi, a Beijing Olympian and is China’s top ranked female triathlete.

Yi fell short by 23 seconds at 2:10:57 for the silver medal.

“This is my first win after six years in triathlon and it came in my first race this year and I’m very happy with my performance," said Lu, ranked third in China, thru an interpreter.

She admitted to have struggled especially in the bike course as she and Yi wound up fourth and fifth into the second transition behind Japan’s Hideko Kikuchi, Australia’s Michelle Wu and the country’s top bet Lea Coline Langit.

All three ladies however faltered in the run event with Langit suffering the most as she had bouts with stomach cramps that slowed her down.

“I was well within my game plan since I went along well with my rivals in the swim and bike. But stomach cramps started affecting me in the first loop and I had to walk-run in the next loops," said a dejected Langit who settled for fifth place (2:20:13).

Langit’s mark was way off her 2:08:09 national record she established at the I-Lan Blossom Lake Triathlon in Taipei last year.

Wu took the bronze medal with 2:11:59 while Kikuchi finished fourth at 2:12:04.

The top three finishers in the race received P30,000, P20,000 and P10,000 respectively.
Marion Kim Mangrobang, 18, gave the country something to cheer about after finishing third in the Under 23 (2:32:45).

Mangrobang, competing in her second Olympic distance race, was in a good position to take the top spot after coming out of the water second to Beijing Olympian Tania Mak So Ning of Hong Kong and was still within striking distance after the bike leg.

She however lost steam in the run leg allowing Mak the gold (2:24:27) while another Hong Kong bet Joyce Cheung Ting Yan bagged the silver (2:28:53).

Competitions were also held in the mini-sprint, junior sprint elite and adult sprint where top three finishers also went home with medals.

John Rommel Uy (38:23) and Singapore’s Joy Phan Young Ting (52:58) topped the mini-sprint, Johannah Pe Benito (1:34:18) and Hong Kong’s Tsz Hei Cheung (1:16:04) ruled the jr. sprint elite while Malaysia’s Stephanie Chok (1:36:22) and Jon Jon Rufino (1:25:21) took the Adult Sprint titles.

Competition ends Sunday with action in the male elite, junior elite, age groups and Inter-Club championships.

Doha Asian silver medalist Daniel Lee Chi Wu of Hong Kong leads 30 athletes including 24 foreigners, who will see action in the male elite.

The Philippines will be bannered by Fil-Am Arland Macasieb, Geroge Vilog, Neil Catiil, Rowel Odoion, Carlo Pedregosa and Brian Borling.

A total of nine countries are competing this year and joining host Philippines are China, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Republic of South Africa, Macau and Iran. (c/o GMANews.TV)

15 May 2009

SBMA urges community support on Influenza A (H1N1) prevention program

Amid growing concerns on the spread of swine flu in several areas abroad, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) conducted a public awareness community forum on this newest threat on public health and safety.

SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza said the forum is the first step towards raising awareness and preventing the spread of the disease and its devastating socio-economic consequences.

“It is important for the entire community to understand how to prevent the spread of this disease, mainly because it poses a major health risk for all of us and also because it could have a devastating effect on businesses and eventually the economy,” Arreza said as he opened the forum.

Citing the experience of Mexico, where the swine flu outbreak began and more than a thousand confirmed cases have been reported to date, Arreza said, “Hotels, restaurants and other public establishments in Mexico had to be shutdown to prevent further spread of the disease.”

“We don’t want that to happen in Subic Bay,” he stressed.

Around 1,500 participants composed of employees, business locators, and residents of Subic and nearby communities joined the forum wherein SBMA health practitioners and other experts fielded questions from the public.

The panelists included Dr. Solomon Jacalne, manager of the SBMA Public Health and Safety Department; Dr. Joseph Macaraeg, assistant medical officer of the Subic Quarantine Station; Dr. Irene Canlas, officer in charge of the Department of Health’s (DoH) Regional Epidemiology Surveillance Unit (RESU); and Leni Carreon, a health education promotion officer (HEPO).

“This is a very important undertaking because of the growing global health concerns and the fact that the Subic Freeport is not only a tourist destination but also a port of entry with its own seaport and airport,” said Knette Fernando, SBMA deputy administrator for corporate communications, who coordinated the event.

“Although we may get some information from the media, including the Internet, it’s really necessary for us to discuss these health concerns and be educated about the Influenza A (H1N1) flu virus so we’d know what to do and not to do,” Fernando explained.

She added that Arreza, in support of directives from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the DoH, has ordered the SBMA Health and Safety Group to formulate an SBMA Influenza A (H1N1) Contingency Plan for the Subic Bay Freeport.

In the recent forum, SBMA health experts said it is important for the Subic community to be aware and supportive of a common action plan that involves four components: information dissemination, coordination with health agencies, screening at points of entry and exit, and enhanced disease surveillance.

The experts added that as of May 11, WHO data confirmed more than 4,694 cases of Influenza A (H1N1) flu in 30 countries and 61 deaths.

In the Philippines, they added, there are only 10 probable cases reported that are currently being monitored, and no case of death has been reported.

“That does not mean that we can disregard taking precautionary measures to avoid getting infected,” Canlas warned.

Canlas said the Influenza A (H1N1) virus was developed in pigs, which served as the mixing vessel before the virus was passed on to humans, who could pass them on to others by sneezing and coughing.

She added the Subic community should be aware of probable cases of Influenza A (H1N1) with patients who have a history of travel to countries with confirmed cases or a history of exposure to people with history of travel to countries with confirmed cases.

Meanwhile, Jacalne explained that the Influenza A (H1N1) flu virus is also called “quadruple reassortant” virus because it is a combination of two strains of swine flu, avian flu and the human flu.

He, however, stressed that one cannot be infected with the Influenza A (H1N1) flu virus from eating pork or working with pork products, as long as pork meat is cooked well, leaving no pink parts.

Aside from this, Jacalne recommended three major preventive measures to avoid the virus: (1) thorough hand-washing – a person could be infected by touching surfaces that a virus carrier touched; (2) social distancing – as much as possible, avoid crowds, or at least maintain a three-feet distance from other people; and (3) cough etiquette – cover mouth when sneezing or coughing to minimize the spread of the virus.

Panelists also advised forum participants to report suspected cases where fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue and sometimes, diarrhea and vomiting, are present.

According to health experts in the forum, vaccine for the Influenza A (H1N1) flu is still in the development stage, and that even vaccines for seasonal flu cannot prevent Influenza A (H1N1) flu.

“The best prevention, therefore, is knowledge,” SBMA Chairman Feliciano Salonga counseled everyone, as he reiterated SBMA’s appeal for cooperation among members of the Subic Bay community. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

PHOTO: SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza urges participants in a community forum on swine flu to cooperate with health authorities in monitoring the disease and taking preventive measures.

SBMA eyes modern radar, CCTVs for close monitoring of vessels

Subic authorities are banking on upgrading its port monitoring equipment with radars and closed-circuit television systems (CCTVs) to heighten security in this free port and prevent the furtive entrance or exit of small watercraft used in smuggling activities.

Administrator Armand Arreza of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) said the agency would like to acquire a complete system of maritime surveillance and monitoring equipment as mandated by the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

“Close monitoring is basically our key requirement. That's why we want a modern maritime set-up,” explained Arreza who previously outlined the same plan to the House committee on dangerous drugs, which is investigating last year’s attempt to smuggle illegal drugs into this free port.

Arreza said the SBMA has anticipated these security concerns at the outset and has thus included the installation of monitoring systems in the $215-million Subic port modernization program, a flagship infrastructure project of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration.

He added that under the phased port development plan, the modern monitoring systems should be in place before the end of this year.

Prior to the acquisition of modern surveillance equipment, however, Arreza said the SBMA is streamlining the maritime traffic management system in this free port and subjecting its seaport personnel to an exhaustive training on port operations.

The primary objective, he added, is to prevent the undetected entry or exit of small watercraft like yachts, rubber boats and bancas that could be used for smuggling activities.

“Unlike ships, tankers and other vessels which are equipped with an automatic identification system (AIS) that registers their presence in port control stations, small vessels are harder to monitor since they only appear as small dots on radar screens,” said Arreza.

He added that there is a possibility that small watercraft can evade detection and leave the port’s premises without proper documents, since Subic port personnel for the meantime are relying on scheduled physical checks to ensure the presence of these crafts.

Arreza explained that once a vessel is suspected to have departed without notice, the protocol is to immediately contact the SBMA Harbor Patrol or the Philippine Coast Guard to make an interception.

“When all else fails and the craft escapes interception, our safety net is we can go after the ship’s agent,” he added.

Arreza said, however, that the projected installation of modern radars and CCTV systems would make the port of Subic safer and less prone to smuggling attempts.

“Once the closed-circuit cameras are installed, all vessels berthed in Subic Bay Freeport’s 14 piers and wharves can be monitored 24/7 in one control room,” Arreza said.

“In this case, our highly-trained port personnel, coupled with this surveillance system and complete radar equipment, can easily detect illegal departures and take the required actions and countermeasures,” he added. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

Subic 1st Qtr. exports hit $359.45 million

Exports by registered enterprises in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone reached $359.45 million in the first three months of the year, posting a 54.79 percent increase over the $232.21 million export record in the same period last year.

According to Armand Arreza, administrator and CEO of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), export production by Subic firms were recorded at $127.83 million in January, $58 million in February, and $173.59 million in March.

The surging exports in the first quarter this year led to a positive variance of $127.23 million over Subic’s export performance in the first quarter of 2008, he added.

Figures from the SBMA indicated that the bulk of first quarter exports, or a total of $328.29 million, were contributed by the top ten exporters in Subic Bay.

These leading exporters are: Korean shipbuilder Hanjin Heavy Industries Co.-Philippines, which posted a freight on board (FOB) value of $179.36 million; Hong Kong cell phone trader Lets Do Mobile Philippines, with $57.43 million; Taiwanese computer maker Wistron Infocomm (Phils) Corp., $36.13 million; Japanese ATM-maker Hitachi Terminals, $16.46 million; and Japanese micro-motor manufacturer Sanyo Denki, $16.23 million.

Also in the top 10 exporters list are: Japanese wood products manufacturer Juken Sangyo, with exports of $8.73 million; Danish eyewear manufacturer Lindberg Subic Inc., $6.38 million; Taiwanese lock maker Tong Lung (Phils) Metal Industry, $4.34 million; Taiwanese aircon maker Hitachi, $3.38 million; and Japanese electronics sensor maker Nicera, with $2.79 million.

Arreza said the increase in export production is a good sign that the Subic Bay Freeport remains economically healthy despite the ongoing global economic downturn.

“Recent indicators only show that Subic stays on top of the situation and the companies here remain resilient and productive,” Arreza said.

“This makes us all the more confident that hard work on the part of the SBMA and the business locators here would enable us to pull through these hard times,” he added.

Earlier, Arreza announced that the Subic Bay Freeport has increased its revenue remittance by 9.3 percent in the first quarter of 2009, compared to its 2008 record.

He said the combined collections generated by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in Subic reached P1.29 billion in January to March this year, an increase of more than P100 thousand over the P1.18-billion total in 2008.

”Basically, Subic made some gains but experienced some losses as far as first quarter revenue collection is concerned,” Arreza said.

“Overall, however, Subic revenue generation posted a positive total and that is consistent with the SBMA's efforts to increase income in the Port of Subic,” he added.

Records indicated that BIR collections in Subic in the first quarter totaled P252.08 million, while the BoC reported collections amounting to P1.04 billion.

The BoC also reported that it was able to surpass its first quarter 2009 target by 55.9 percent since the agency’s first quarter target in Subic was pegged at only P669.5 million.

SBMA records indicated that the biggest annual revenue in combined collections by the BIR and the BoC was posted in 2007 at P5.32 billion, followed by last year’s combined collection amounting to P5.27 billion. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

13 May 2009

Hanafil to start Subic golf course rehab in June

Construction of additional facilities to transform the 18-hole Subic Bay golf course here into an all-weather championship sporting venue will begin next month when the rainy season starts.

The course, a favorite among golfers from South Korea, will be closed to customers during the construction period, according to Hanafil Golf and Tour Inc. chief executive officer Benjamin John Defensor III.

”We have scheduled the reconstruction of the Subic golf course during the rainy season to take advantage of the period when a minimal number of golfers play here,” Defensor explained.

He added the construction is part of the company’s agreement with the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), which awarded the operation of the facility to Hanafil late last year.

Hanafil, a Korean-Filipino joint venture backed by Hanatour, Korea’s biggest tourist agency, announced last year its $48-million commitment to redevelop the golf course at Subic’s Binictican area into an all-weather championship course, with full-blown country club amenities.

The firm said the six-year development program includes the construction of nine more holes, a hotel and some villas, and improving the driving range.

Defensor added that after building a new restaurant, acquiring new golf carts and other equipment, Hanafil is about to complete installation of a new irrigation system and establishment of a nursery.

“All these are just preparation for the reconstruction of the golf course. The nursery is necessary because the greens and fairways of the whole golf course will be replaced,” he said.

A typical 18-hole golf course consumes approximately 500,000 gallons of water every day, but the new irrigation system installed by Hanafil is eco-friendly and is designed to use wastewater for the greens and fairways.

“There is absolutely no impact on the underground rivers in the area and will not affect the supply of fresh drinking water in Subic Bay,” Defensor said, adding the expansion of the fairways was meant to eventually turn the Subic course into a venue for international tournaments, as well as to accommodate the increasing number of golfers visiting Subic Bay.

Since the firm’s takeover of the facility last year, the Subic Bay golf course has become the favorite of thousand of Koreans who were brought to Subic under “golf junket” flights organized by Hanafil in January to March this year.

He said the 18 trips from Incheon, Korea, had helped project Subic Bay as “the next big thing” in adventure tourism among big Korean groups.

”The new Subic golf course is just one of the many attractions Hanafil intends to build inside this premier free port. The company is currently making plans to build a five-star hotel and several luxury villas,” Defensor added. (Henry Empeno, Business Mirror)
IN PHOTO -- Hanafil President and CEO Benjamin Defensor III (right) is spearheading the redevelopment of the Subic Bay golf course into an all-weather facility.

Subic Freeport posts 9.3% increase in 1st Qtr. revenue

Duties and taxes remitted to the National Treasury by the two revenue collection agencies in this free port showed an increase of 9.3 percent in the first quarter of 2009 when compared to records in the same period last year.

According to Administrator Armand Arreza of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), the combined collections generated by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in Subic reached P1.29 billion in January to March this year, an increase of more than P100 thousand over the P1.18-billion total in 2008.

”Basically, Subic made some gains but experienced some losses as far as first quarter revenue collection is concerned,” Arreza said.

“Overall, however, Subic revenue generation posted a positive total and that is consistent with SBMA efforts to increase income in the Port of Subic,” Arreza added.

Based on reports submitted by the BIR, cash receipts derived from income and profit taxes, value-added taxes, percentage taxes and other taxes paid for by some 956 registered enterprises and port users in Subic totaled P252.08 million in the first three months of 2009.

The BIR, however, reported that cash receipts dropped by 23.61 percent from last year’s first quarter receipts amounting to P329.99 million.

On the other hand, the BoC reported that duties and taxes collected during the same period increased by 21.99 percent from P855.7 million last year to P1,043.85 million this year, or a positive variance of P188.15 million.

BoC cash receipts were sourced from importation duties and taxes on oil, motor vehicles, general merchandise, as well as the last two months of operation of cargo giant FedEx that transferred its Asia-Pacific hub from Subic to Guangzhou, China last February.

In the same period, the BoC also reported that non-cash collection through deferred payments and government-to-government transactions reached a total of P848.3 million, or 41.21 percent more that last year’s P600.7 million.

These receipts were obtained from importations by the National Food Authority (NFA) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

The BoC also reported that it was able to surpass its first quarter 2009 target by 55.9 percent. The agency pegged its first quarter target at P669.5 million and posted P1.04 billion in cash collection alone.

Meanwhile, Arreza said the SBMA is confident of sustaining the economic growth in this free port with the entry of 30 new investment projects in the first quarter.

He said that the new projects are projected to infuse some P1.5 billion in fresh investments and initially generate close to 600 new jobs, thereby contributing further to tax collections in the Subic Freeport.

SBMA records indicated that the biggest annual revenue in combined collections by the BIR and the BoC was posted in 2007 at P5.32 billion, followed by last year’s combined collection amounting to P5.27 billion. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

11 May 2009

500 vie in Subic int’l triathlon

Close to 500 local and foreign triathletes, men and women, young and old, competitive and recreational athletes, including world-class competitors from Japan, South Africa, Hong Kong, China, Singapore, great Britain, New Zealand and Singapore are expected to be at the starting line of the ITU Subic Bay International Triathlon (SUBIT) set May 16-17 inside the Subic Bay Freeport Area.

Now on its 16th year, SUBIT is the country’s longest running major international triathlon even and is recognized as one of Asia’s best organized triathlon races despite its limited budget. It has attracted the two-time world Ironman Female champion Chrissie Wellington, former ITU world champions Takumi Obara, Haruna Hosoya and Daniil Sapunov.

Heading the cast this year is four-time SUBIT winner and Doha Asian Games silver medalist Daniel Lee Chi Wo of Hong Kong and female defending champion Tenoko Sakumoto of Japan, the latter to be challenged by strong contenders from Hong Kong, Australia and South Africa.

“Right now we already have over 250 entries, including those entered in the mini spirit (13-15 yrs. old), sprint event for juniors (16-19 years old) and beginning adults, inter-club and team relay competitors and a large bunch of age groupers, all vying for glory of their own categories” declares TRAP president Tom Carraso.

The race, sponsored by Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), Speedo, Vitwater / Sunkist, David’s Salon, Globe Telecoms and supported by Gatorade, Fitness First, Rudy Project, Asian Center for Insulation Phils. And Legenda Hotel, is sanctioned by the International Triathlon Union (ITU) and the Asian Triathlon Confederation (ASTC). (c/o The Philippine Star)

09 May 2009

SBMA bats for development of areas between Subic and Clark

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) is actively promoting the further development of the Subic-Clark growth corridor, saying that only an outward push from the two neighboring economic zones to nearby areas would maximize their effects as growth catalysts.

In a meeting with members of the Subic Bay Freeport Chamber of Commerce (SBFCC) recently, SBMA officials explained the agency’s concern about the limited land area for development in Subic and said an expansion into nearby areas is crucial.

“Our concern about the limited area for industrial use in Subic can be resolved if we start developing additional industrial estates along Subic-Clark corridor,” said SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza.

He also said that the SBMA is continuously receiving investment proposals, but some of these had to be turned down because of limited space in the Subic Freeport.

Arreza added that if the areas between Subic and Clark were developed into industrial estates, the SBMA could push through with its expansion program that is projected to create 150,000 new jobs.

“Our chances of getting more and more investments depend on the development of the areas between Subic and Clark,” Arreza pointed out. “If you happen to drive along the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx), you would see so much land there, and a large part of them are idle.”

He also said that the SBMA’s expansion plan also considers the development of areas in the nearby communities of Olongapo City, Subic town in Zambales, and Morong, Hermosa and Dinalupihan in Bataan.

Arreza pointed out that these areas, as well as those along the SCTEx, would be ideal for manufacturing firms, which would also create the volume of goods needed for Subic and Clark to really become globally-competitive logistics centers.

However, Arreza stressed the need to put more exits along the expressway before any developments can start, pointing out that as of now, the nearest expressway exit from Subic Freeport is the Hermosa Exit that actually leads to the Layac junction in Dinalupihan, Bataan.

He also cited the case of the Hermosa Industrial Park, which boasts of more than 400 hectares of cheap lands, but had not realized much investment because of the need for a separate exit.

“Whether you like or not, manufacturing facilities should be along expressways where the working population is, and where cheap lands are available,” Arreza said.

He also clarified that new investors who will locate beyond the fenced-in area of Subic, but still within the Subic Special Economic and Free Port Zone (SSEFPZ), will nevertheless enjoy tax- and duty-free privileges as provided for under Executive Order No. 675, signed by President Arroyo on November 5, 2007.

Arreza likewise said that the SBMA expansion calls for the development of more parks and leisure resorts in the coastal barangay of Minanga in Morong, the Cawag area in Subic town, and barangay Barretto in Olongapo City, as major tourist resort destinations.

The SBMA expansion plan also takes into consideration the need for further improvement of water and power utilities, development of housing facilities, reforestation and conservation activities, and the promotion of indigenous peoples’ rights and welfare. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

PHOTO: Surrounded by mountains and the sea, the Subic Bay Freeport has little area available for business expansion. The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority is now calling for the development of areas between Subic and the Clark Freeport to maximize the opportunities for economic growth.

Demand for skilled workers still growing in Subic

Noticing that the local labor market continually leans toward specialization, officials of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) have urged students in the Subic Bay area not to scorn technical and vocational trainings, but instead try out non-traditional courses that promise better employment opportunities in this free port.

“There is still a consistent demand for highly skilled workers in the Subic Bay Freeport,” said SBMA Labor Department chief Severo Pastor Jr.

He pointed out, however, that most of the companies that continue to expand or choose to invest lately despite the current recession require specific skills that cannot be acquired from traditional schooling.

”This is a clear indication of where the Subic Freeport is headed in terms of job creation and employment, so we must act accordingly,” Pastor said.

The SBMA official also revealed that the employment generation trend in Subic now appears to revolve around five major investment areas that have displayed growth amid the global slowdown. These are logistics, manufacturing (other than electronics), tourism, business process outsourcing (BPO), and other knowledge-based industries that made up most of the 30 new investment projects worth P1.5 billion that signed in during the first quarter of 2009..

“The top two biggest investments in the first quarter that are worth P975.2 million and P201 million, respectively, are maritime-related,” said Pastor, pointing out that one of the new investors, HYS-Yacht Phils. Ltd. Co., needs 100 workers for its yacht restoration operations.

“Now, is there a four-year course that teaches you yacht restoration?” he pointed out.

Pastor added that Subic’s booming maritime sector is constantly in need of skilled workers as the shipbuilding industry here is on full-scale production, and dry dock operations increased when shipping lines found Subic Bay an ideal place to lay up vessels.

Stressing that various maritime facilities are mushrooming in Subic, Pastor advised students and job-seekers, as well as parents and teachers, to closely monitor labor developments and thus prepare themselves by acquiring the needed skills.

“It is the task of the SBMA to always look ahead, and we advise everyone concerned to do the same,” added Pastor.

Meanwhile, SBMA Chairman Feliciano Salonga, a graduate of the US Merchant Marine Academy and a commodore in the Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary, also cited the need for specialized courses aimed at producing marine engineers knowledgeable in naval architecture, design and construction.

Salonga said the SBMA is intent on further developing the Subic Bay Freeport as a full-blown maritime logistics and service hub, as mandated under President Arroyo’s 10-point development program.

“We’re undoubtedly getting there, so those who plan to seek employment in the Subic Freeport should make themselves more competitive,” he added.

Pastor said students who would try out technical and vocational courses will find adequate support from schools in the Subic Bay area that offer trainings in foreign language proficiency (English, Korean, Mandarin, Nihonggo), aeronautical engineering, airplane maintenance, metal works, call center operations, information and communications technology, cellphone repair, practical nursing, care-giving, massage therapy, housekeeping, cooking, bartending, and other service-oriented programs.

The development of most of these courses came as a result of the SBMA’s partnership with concerned government agencies and the academe, as well as the annual “Congress on Job-Skills Mismatch” that his department launched in 1995 to address gaps in the industry-workforce-academe linkage.

Salonga and Pastor also urged local investors to set up business enterprises in response to the emerging industries so that they could exploit the growing opportunities open to pioneering firms.

Among the areas to look into, they said, are the growing community of foreign retirees in this free port, and the BPO industry where the SBMA now steps up capability-building. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

PHOTO:
Trainees learn welding skills that are much in demand in maritime industries at the Subic Bay Freeport.

06 May 2009

SBMA kicks off livelihood training program

Seeking to head off further effects of the global economic downturn among the labor force in the greater Subic Bay area, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) launched the first installment in a series of livelihood training-seminars to educate displaced workers and unemployed residents on how to start micro businesses of their own.

The seminars which are being organized by the SBMA in cooperation with Sipag at Tiyaga Foundation, Divine Mercy Apostolate, Bataan Peninsula State University (BPSU), and the 132nd Squadron of the Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary (PCGA), will be conducted for free, said SBMA Chairman Feliciano Salonga.

“Our target participants are workers and heads of families who have been displaced, or whose income have been severely reduced by the present economic slowdown. And we won’t be charging them for these. We just intend to help provide them with some new means of earning a living to cope with the crisis,” Salonga further said.

The first training sessions, which were held at the Subic Bay Exhibition and Convention Center (SBECC), were conducted by technical experts from the BPSU and lasted for three hours each.

Armie Llamas, manager of the SBMA Public Relations Office, said that the training focused on candle making,
as well as the production of powder detergent, dishwashing liquid, and fabric softener.

“This is actually the start of a series of seminars that we have lined up. In the next seminar, we will be teaching participants basket making, stuffed toy making, fruits and meat processing, and baking,” she said.

Among the more than 350 participants who joined the first seminar were residents of the Nagyantok fishing community in barangay Cawag, Subic, Zambales, Llamas said.

The training was also attended by members of the SBMA Landfill Recyclers Association who were econom
ically affected by the recent closure of the landfill in the Subic free port; indigenous people from Kanawan village in Morong and Pastolan village in Hermosa, both in Bataan; and members of the Pro-Poor Livelihood Project.

As was intended by the SBMA, the project was well received by the beneficiaries and community leaders in the Subic Bay area.

“Maganda itong proyekto ng SBMA dahil nahihikayat ang lahat na magsimula ng negosyo mula sa maliit na puhunan, gaya ng candle making na mabiling-mabili para pang-regalo o pang-dekorasyon,” said Laureano Artagame, chairman of Subic Municipal Federation of Aquatic Resource Management Committee (MFARC).

Luz Estandian
, chairman of the SBMA Landfill Recyclers’ Association, lauded the SBMA for coming up with a scheme to help participants earn while staying at home.

“Napakaganda ng ideyang ito. Marami sa mga miyembro namin ang hindi naman puwedeng mag-apply ng trabaho sa factory. Dito, pwede kaming kumita kahit nasa bahay lang,” she said.

Last month, the SBMA also facilitated the grant of full scholarship benefits to some 1,000 displaced workers from the Subic free port through
the Pangulong Gloria Scholarship Program in cooperation with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza said that displaced free port workers who qualified for the scholarship grants available in many TESDA-accredited schools in the Subic Bay area also received allowances to help them pursue further training.

Among the courses available under the grant are: computer hardware servicing, food and beverage service, building wiring installation, baking and pastry production, house keeping, healthcare services, and bookkeeping. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

PHOTO:

SBMA Chairman Feliciano Salonga expresses appreciation to project sponsors for the successful launch of the SBMA livelihood training program for displaced workers and unemployed residents in the Subic Ba
y area.