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30 June 2009

Wartime sea tragedy to be remembered in Subic Bay

Ailsa Nisbet, 82, along with her daughter Marg Curtis and cousin Ron Hayes, will represent one of 15 Australian families at the July 1 memorial at Subic Bay (Freeport) in the Philippines.

THE hardest thing for families who lost relatives in the sinking of the Montevideo Maru during World War II was not knowing the fate of their loved ones.

But for those families, closure may finally come on Wednesday when a plaque is unveiled at an official ceremony marking Australia's worst maritime tragedy.

Melbourne, Australia - Ailsa Nisbet, 82, along with her daughter Marg Curtis and cousin Ron Hayes, will represent one of 15 Australian families at the July 1 memorial at Subic Bay in the Philippines.

They leave Melbourne today to pay respects to Ms Nisbet's brother, Private John "Jack" Groat, who was on board the Montevideo Maru when it sank on July 1, 1942, carrying 845 prisoners of war from Australia's Lark Force and 208 civilian men.

The troops had been taken prisoner after Japan invaded Rabaul in Papua New Guinea in January 1942.

The unmarked Japanese ship left occupied Rabaul on June 22, 1942 but nine days later an American submarine, unaware it was carrying allied prisoners, torpedoed it off the Philippines coast.

The sinking of the ship was not reported back to Australia, and for several years the fate of the prisoners of war was unknown.

Ms Nisbet said for years her brother's fate was a mystery.

"The family was first told he was missing," she said.

"Then they said 'missing presumed dead', then we got a message he was a prisoner of war, then we got a letter from Jack saying he was being looked after by the Japanese.

"But that's all. Mum didn't hear what happened until late 1945. And there is still doubt about it," she said.

In 1997, Ms Nisbet visited Rabaul to see where her brother was stationed and this year Ms Curtis and Mr Hayes completed a three-day trek retracing the escape many Lark Force men made during Japanese occupation.

"It's a very emotional trip," Ms Nisbet said.

"It's been many, many years and nothing has been heard of the Montevideo Maru and it's just all coming out now.

"I'm the last member of the family and it will be a closure for me to go up there."

Former federal Labor leader Kim Beazley, whose uncle Reverend Sydney Beazley was lost on the ship, is the patron of the Montevideo Maru Memorial Committee.

Phil Ainsworth, in the Philippines for the event, said the committee aimed to get more national recognition for the tragedy.

"This memorial will give the families some comfort because even now 67 years later they still feel discomforted and in grief," he said.

Another attendee is Andrea Williams, whose grandfather and great uncle were on board. She wants a government response similar to that for the recently found HMAS Sydney, another World War II sea tragedy that claimed 645 lives.

"There is a fair amount of literature on the Montevideo sinking but there are some nagging specifics, like why there was no inquiry into the fate of these men," she said.

Australian archives had several passenger lists but they were inconsistent and there was no passenger manifest, she said.

"What has happened to the nominal roll of the men apparently on board?"

Veterans' Affairs Minister Alan Griffin marked the 67th anniversary of the sinking of the Montevideo Maru in a speech to Parliament last Friday.

Mr Griffin said the Australian Government put $7200 towards the memorial and the Australian ambassador to the Philippines, Rod Smith, will attend.

"I've spoken to individuals who lost family members as part of the Montevideo Maru and I know these things remain with people forever," he said.

"I express my heartfelt sympathy for their loss." (Ilya Gridneff AAP, The Age)

Ex-Subic casino workers seek payment of back pay

With the recent closure by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) of several foreign-owned hotels and a casino here, former employees are clamoring for payment of back wages and benefits before the firm’s remaining assets are taken by its creditors.

Romeo Caoile, spokesperson for the displaced employees of Legend International Resorts Ltd. (LIRL), said the employees feared that nothing would be left to them after the creditors of the Hong Kong-registered company divide its assets to cover its debts.

“The same fate [awaits] the more than 200 employees left working at LIRL’s remaining establishments,” Caoile said.

Rehabilitation plan

In 2006, foreign investors and local non-financial creditors of LIRL, like the SBMA and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), agreed to a corporate rehabilitation plan for the company that ultimately failed to restore its profitability.

Due to this, Caoile said the LIRL management decided to put regular employees on a rotation basis.

“One of the first things they did is to suspend our salaries and benefits, and then they employed us on a rotation basis. Then we were retrenched when we did not accept to work as casual employees because we had already been working there for years,” he said.

Most of LIRL’s 700 employees who lost their jobs in 2007 filed a case of illegal dismissal with the National Labor Relations Commission. “[We filed the case] to get what is rightfully ours, especially since we have lost our livelihood when they retrenched us,” Caoile said.

He said more than 200 employees lost their jobs in 2006 when Pagcor revoked LIRL’s gaming license when the firm failed to pay more than P1 billion it owed the government.

“I understand that the casino had debts to Pagcor, but the hotels still had plenty of customers,” he said.

On Friday, the SBMA shut down and barricaded LIRL’s establishments due to nonpayment of arrears.

Lawyer Robert Ongsiako, SBMA deputy administrator for legal affairs, said LIRL had over P200 million cash in bank, “excluding their movable and physical assets.”

However, Ongsiako said the SBMA cannot yet seize control of LIRL’s property. “That is another matter for the court to decide,” he said.

He said the SBMA was collecting more than P800 million from LIRL.

Efren Zubiri, the local representative of LIRL’s liquidators in Hong Kong, said the issue “should be discussed in the proper forum.” (Robert Gonzaga, Inquirer Central Luzon)

A-H1N1 quarantine facility up in Subic

Stepping up its contingency plan against the A-H1N1 virus, which has been recently declared as a pandemic threat, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) has established an A-H1N1 Quarantine Facility (AQF) at the old passenger terminal of the airport here.

SBMA administrator Armand Arreza said that with the growing cases of A-H1N1 in the country, Subic, which is a port of entry, has to be ready for any contingency.

“As one of the major tourism and investment destinations in the country, it is not impossible that an unsuspecting visitor may arrive in Subic by air, land or sea, before knowing that he or she has been infected by the virus,” Arreza said.

Putting up the AQF, Arreza added, was part of the SBMA’s contingency plan to help combat the spread of the disease, aside from stepping up the agency’s information campaign and prevention program.

Dr. Solomon Jacalne, manager of the SBMA Public Health and Safety Department (PHSD), meanwhile said that the AQF would be used primarily for members of the SBMA medical staff who were exposed to patients believed to have been infected by the A-H1N1 virus.

Jacalne said that personnel in the SBMA Dispensary are vulnerable to the virus since they attend to different patients — both foreigners and Filipinos — with various medical concerns.

The Subic AQF, Jacalne added, will also be used for the observation of Subic Bay Freeport workers and SBMA employees who opt to be quarantined in Subic.

On the other hand, Subic visitors, workers and residents who are found infected by the virus will be transferred to the Jose B. Lingad Medical Hospital in Pampanga, the only hospital in the region identified by the Department of Health (DoH) as capable of handling A-H1N1 cases.

Jacalne added that in cases where SBMA medical personnel accompanied some A-H1N1 patient to the said hospital, they would be quarantined at the AQF for 10 days instead of sending them home to avoid endangering their families and relatives.

SBMA officials who arrived from other countries may also opt for self-quarantine at the AQF, he said.

The quarantine facility, which is located at the old terminal of the Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA) in Cubi Point, can comfortably accommodate eight to 12 patients at a time, and is complete with air conditioning system, comfort room, and a receiving lounge.

Last month, the SBMA hosted a public forum on A-H1N1 influenza at the Subic Bay Exhibition and Convention Center as a first step towards raising public awareness of the disease and preventing its spread.

Some 1,500 employees of the SBMA and various firms in Subic, as well as free port residents, attended the forum that was headed by a panel of experts from the DoH Regional Epidemiology Surveillance Unit and the SBMA-PHSD. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

Subic business wants billboards banned along SCTEx

Businessmen in this free port are now advocating for a ban on commercial billboards along the scenic Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx), pointing out that an unsullied view of the natural landscape would be a better come-on for tourists.

Danny Piano, president of the Subic Bay Freeport Chamber of Commerce (SBFCC), said tourists have expressed appreciation of the billboard-free view along the SCTEx, adding that a lack of clear-cut policies on commercial billboards might spur the proliferation of giant outdoor advertisements along the 94-kilometer expressway.

“The scenery along SCTEx, when blocked by giant billboards, could also seriously harm tourism in the area,” Piano warned.

“[Billboards] will destroy the beautiful landscape, which is the foundation of the tourism industry,” Piano said during the recent taping here of The Freeport Forum, a new television show covering developments in Subic and the Clark Free Port.

He added that concerned government agencies should come up with clear and strict policies against the erection of billboards along the SCTEx, which was built to hasten the flow of goods and services between economic centers in the Central Luzon region.

Piano said Subic businessmen, who consider tourism as a major industry in this free port, believe it is in the best interest of the public to prohibit billboard advertisements along the SCTEx.

“There is a growing movement to make this so,” Piano said, adding that his group’s position is backed by several organizations and local government units (LGUs).

Piano said the SBFCC has sent a position paper on the proposed billboards ban to Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) president Narciso Abaya, who reportedly committed his agency’s full support to protect beautiful sceneries along the SCTEx.

However, Piano said the BCDA hedged on its jurisdiction over billboards erected outside the right-of-way (ROW) limits of the SCTEx, saying that outside the ROW, the rights of owners of the private properties will prevail.

Because of this, Piano said the national government must integrate policies related to the construction of billboards and place the responsibility of implementation under a single agency.

“In the meantime, agreements between [concerned] agencies and LGUs could be employed [to effect the billboards ban],” Piano said.

He added that Olongapo City has already passed a resolution for the abatement and dismantling of billboards along the SCTEx.

Last year a Pampanga board member voiced the same sentiment, and recently CDC director Maximo Sangil asked the same from Abaya, according to Piano.

Piano also pointed out that one reason why European countries like Great Britain, Germany, France, Ireland and Austria retained their appeal to visitors despite rapid development in their respective countryside was the prohibition of billboards along highways.

“Business people in these countries recognize that an unmarred landscape promotes tourism and benefits them in the long run,” Piano said.

In the United States, he added, the state of Vermont, likewise, recorded a 50-percent rise in tourism in the first two years that its highways became billboard-free.

Meanwhile, the move to ban commercial billboards along the SCTEx is gaining support from users of Facebook, a popular social-networking site online. To date, 149 Facebook users have joined the cause to preserve the scenery along the SCTEx and “save the virgin countryside from commercialism.” (Henry Empeño, Business Mirror Online)

PHOTO CAPTION
If the Subic Bay Freeport Chamber of Commerce could have its way, billboard advertising would be banned along the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway for an unimpeded view of the landscape during the drive over the mountains of Zambales. (Nonie Reyes)

Court junks case vs. Hanafil, SBMA

The forcible entry charge filed by the former operator of the Subic Bay golf course against its successor, the Hanafil Golf and Tour Inc. (Hanafil), and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) has been dismissed by a court in Olongapo City.

Judge Rosemary Bautista, presiding judge of Branch 3 of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC-3), threw out the case filed by the Universal International Group Development Corp. (UIGDC) after concluding that the Taiwanese-owned firm has engaged in forum shopping.

Bautista signed the order clearing Hanafil and the SBMA of charges of forcible entry on June 18, according to Hanafil president and CEO Benjamin John Defensor III.

In effect, the court “recognized the right of the SBMA to terminate its lease development agreement [LDA] with the UIGDC, thereby making it clear that Hanafil is the new rightful lessee of the property,” Defensor explained.

In dismissing the case filed by the UIGDC, the court noted that the complainant had filed different cases in different courts against the SBMA and Hanafil.

According to Judge Bautista, evidence submitted by the parties indicated that the UIGDC has initiated three separate actions before different courts.

These included a petition for certiorari with prayer for preliminary mandatory injunction and temporary restraining order (TRO) filed in April 2008 before the Court of Appeals (CA); the forcible entry case filed in May 2008 before the MTCC-3 in Olongapo; and the case for breach of contract and damages, annulment of lease development agreement with prayer for TRO and preliminary mandatory injunction filed in January 2009 before Branch 72 of the Regional Trial Court in Olongapo City.

Proving the presence of these cases filed before various courts, Bautista ruled that the UIGDC is guilty of forum shopping and all the elements of litis pendentia.

Hanafil, a Filipino-Korean joint venture backed by Hanatour, Korea’s biggest tour operator, took over the management of the 19-hole Subic golf course last year after winning in a public bidding for the operation of the facility.

The SBMA itself took over the facility in June 2007 after the UIGDC failed to settle financial obligations to the SBMA that have ballooned to some $150 million, as well as to honor its development commitments under its lease development agreement.

Among the unfulfilled commitments in UIGDC’s 1995 agreement with the SBMA were the construction of world-class facilities like a new clubhouse, a 100-room condominium, 30 VIP villas and a five-star hotel and resort prior to the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference summit meeting in Subic in November 1996.

Meanwhile, SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza clarified that because the LDA between SBMA and UIGDC was rescinded on June 8, 2007, by the SBMA board, a lessor-lessee relationship no longer exists between the two parties.

He added that the SBMA validly pre-terminated the LDA because the lessee committed contractual breaches.

“As a consequence of the valid pre-termination, SBMA has repossessed the golf course without any court order,” Arreza also explained.

Arreza said that no less than the Supreme Court has upheld the validity of the provisions in the LDA between UIGDC and SBMA, including the pre-termination and repossession of the property by UIGDC in case of violations by the company.

For its part, Hanafil has complied with all the requirements of the SBMA, Defensor averred.

He added that the firm has started the reconstruction of the Subic golf course into a world-class, all-weather championship golfing facility with 27 holes.

Hanafil is also completing plans to build a five-star hotel and luxury villas near the golf facility, Defensor said. (Henry Empeño, Business Mirror Online)

27 June 2009

Firm runs Subic casino, hotel ‘illegally’ - SBMA

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority has asked the public to avoid conducting business with a gaming and leisure company that used to run the premier group of hotels and a casino in this freeport, saying the firm is occupying land and conducting business illegally.

In an advisory, SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza said Legend International Resorts Limited (LIRL), a Hong Kong-registered company that ran hotels and a casino here until 2006 when its gaming license was revoked, is “illegally occupying the land and improvements that constitute the Main Legenda, El Centro and Grand Legenda, and is illegally doing business [inside the freeport zone] since LIRL does not have a valid and subsisting lease agreement with SBMA.”

Arreza said the SBMA cancelled LIRL’s certificate of registration and tax exemption (CRTE) and permit to operate (PTO).

LIRL side

In a statement, LIRL accused SBMA of denying it due process.

LIRL said it has appealed the SBMA decision to the Office of the President.

It said SBMA “does not have any legal or factual basis to terminate [LIRL’s] lease.”

“Since October 2006, we are current in the payment due to the SBMA. SBMA continues to accept our rental payments,” it said.

Arreza said the firm owes the government some P850 million in unpaid rent.

“The SBMA shall proceed to take the appropriate legal action to address LIRL’s illegal occupation of its former lease premises and its illegal conduct of business,” Arreza said.

LIRL has been in a state of financial turmoil and has failed to pay its debts to creditors, including the SBMA, its officials said.

Arreza said from 2004, SBMA could not collect unpaid rent from LIRL because of pending corporate rehabilitation proceedings and an order issued by the regional trial court of Olongapo City.

Gambling woes

LIRL’s troubles worsened in 2006 when the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. revoked its license to operate a casino when it failed to remit 15 percent of its revenues, or more than P1 billion a year, to Pagcor.

Also in 2006, a Hong Kong court appointed a liquidator for LIRL, whose task was to regain the company’s profitability and save the jobs of more than 1,000 employees, it was learned.

An Olongapo court in 2004 issued a stay ordered that prevented SBMA from collecting from LIRL, Arreza said.

“All of the company’s other creditors were put in the same situation,” he said.

Last February, however, the court granted SBMA’s motion to dismiss the rehabilitation proceedings and lift the stay order, Arreza said. (Robert Gonzaga, Inquirer Central Luzon)

SBMA asks firm to suspend Korean foreman

A top official of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) sought the suspension of a Korean foreman at the Hanjin shipyard who was held by company officials after he hit a Filipino worker with a steel flashlight in the face and head on Tuesday.

Arceo Malit, a deputy foreman at Unit 25 of Hanjin’s pre-outfitting section, said Lee Cheon Sik, a foreman at the assembly part, hit him for no reason.

Lee was held for investigation by Hanjin safety officials, said Taek Kyun Yoo, general manager of the Hanjin Heavy Industries & Construction Philippines Inc.

Malit, 26, was taken to the St. Jude Hospital in Olongapo City where he was treated for wounds and placed under observation.

Frustrated murder

He said he would file a frustrated murder case against Lee. Melchor Remedios, president of the workers union at Hanjin, said Lee was looking for a foreman at the fit-up section to ask why the pipes had not been installed yet at about noon Tuesday.

Malit was in the same area and Lee asked him to come with him to an office. It was on their way to the office when Lee attacked Malit, the union report said.

Armand Arreza, administrator of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, asked its labor and law enforcement departments to look into the incident.

“If Lee is found guilty, we will not hesitate to turn him over to the Bureau of Immigration for appropriate action,” Arreza said in a statement.

He also asked Lee’s employer, Greenbeach, a Hanjin subcontractor, to suspend Lee pending the result of the investigation.

“We will definitely not tolerate or condone any form of violence at the workplace or any such incident that may compromise the safety and welfare of workers in the freeport,” he said.

Arreza, in his statement, said a team from the SBMA’s labor department checked on Malit’s condition at the St. Jude Hospital in Olongapo City where the worker was brought.

A CT scan, the statement said, showed that Malit did not suffer any serious head injury as a result of the blow. (Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon Desk)

Subic Freeport reinvents itself amidst global recession

May de los Santos used to make laptops and mobile phones at a high-tech Taiwanese electronics factory in Subic Bay free port, near Manila.

She joined the ranks of the laid off as the global financial crisis kicked in, but the 31-year-old has since been training to work as a chambermaid in a local hotel.

"I don't mind going to these classes. I am used to hard work and the hotel industry is the one with demand for workers," she told AFP.

She is one of an army of laid-off workers who are being retrained to meet the demands of the free port, said Severo Pastor, an official of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, the government agency that oversees the enclave.

And these days, he said, that demand is coming from tourism.

Like de los Santos, the port is adapting to the times--transforming from a light industrial zone to a tourism zone and regional logistics hub.

Free port administrator Armand Arreza says Subic's manufacturing future had been in question even before the crisis hit its electronics companies.

For years, low-wage competition from China and Vietnam has been luring companies away and a recent upgrade of Clark, just 75 kilometres (47 miles) from here rendered many of Subic's facilities redundant.

Both Subic and Clark were once US military bases that employed thousands of Filipinos. But a 1992 US military pullout left the Philippines scrambling to find alternative uses for the facilities and jobs for the locals.

Amazingly, Subic adapted swiftly and efficiently, transforming from a naval base into a 13,600-hectare (33,600-acre) free port with an international airport and factories that turned out electronics, garments, shoes, armoured vehicles and medical equipment.

Special "techno-parks" were set up for Taiwanese and Japanese manufacturers.

Federal Express (FedEx) established its Asian courier hub in 1996, using the former base's military airport while South Korea's Hanjin Heavy Industries built a shipyard in 2006 that is now the world's fourth largest.

This year however low-wage rivals abroad and the economic crisis have forced Subic factories to retrench more than 4,000 workers or place them on "forced leave," said Arreza.

FedEx shut its Subic hub in February, moving to China with its larger market and attractive perks.

Arreza said the situation is improving and some workers may be re-hired but he doubts that Subic will ever return to the days of the 1990s.

"Low-cost manufacturing is not the area where Subic is competitive," he said. "Most of our land area is protected forests and protected seas. We don't have any space to accommodate large industrial parks."

Only 4,000 hectares of Subic can be developed compared to 30,000 hectares in nearby Clark.

The future lies in tourism, medical care, ship building and logistics, using the ample space still available for warehouses especially around the largely unused Subic airport, said Arreza.

Hanjin is staying put and companies that require skilled labour may also find it more economical to remain in Subic, he said.

For displaced workers, the government is offering re-training for positions in Subic's tourism industry or even abroad.

Its well-preserved forests, wide seafront and recreational facilities and hotels have always made it popular with tourists and a new highway has made the area even more accessible to day-trippers.

There are no figures on Subic tourist arrivals but Arreza notes that between 8,000 and 10,000 cars of non-free port workers enter Subic everyday, presumably many of them carrying tourists.

Zenaida Pineda, 40, a former electronics worker here, said she now earns as much working as a chambermaid in a Subic hotel as she did at her factory job.

"I like housekeeping more because you can move around, not just stay at your work station. Besides, working on electronics hurt my eyes," she said.

Danny Piano, president of the local chamber of commerce, said, "Subic manufacturers can survive. The Philippines has the capability to do good high-end work," due to workers' better education, communication and English skills.

Subic exported $977.8 million worth of goods last year.

"There needs to be a balance between industry and tourism. After all, this is a free port," Piano said. (Mynardo Macaraig, AFP)

PHOTO: Armand Arreza, administrator of the Subic Bay free port, points to a photo of the Bay and explains his plans to convert the sprawling enclave from a light industrial zone into a tourism and logistics hub. Photo courtesy: AFP.

23 June 2009

SBMA continues to tighten port security, taps Navy assistance

A Philippine Navy detachment equipped with fast watercraft for “hot pursuit” operations will be stationed here to complement the round-the-clock maritime surveillance system being set up in this free port, Subic officials said.

According to Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) administrator Armand Arreza, the Navy’s flag officer in command Vice Admiral Ferdinand Golez has already approved in principle the inter-agency cooperation to further tighten port security in Subic.

He added that an official agreement between SBMA and the Navy will be formulated and signed soon.

Arreza added that this development was an offshoot of recommendations by Rep. Roquito Ablan, chairman of the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs that conducted a series of hearings on the attempted smuggling of illegal drugs into the Subic Freeport last year.

Arreza pointed out that the lead agency in cases of smuggling, illegal fishing, drug trafficking and piracy would normally be the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), but given PCG’s limitations in terms of manpower and vessels, he said the SBMA had to turn to the Navy for help.

“The Philipine Navy has available personnel, and a wider range of patrol ships to assist SBMA in the enforcement of maritime laws,” Arreza said.

“This partnership between SBMA and the Navy would allow us to go after fleeing vessels even when they are beyond Subic’s port limits, where the Navy has jurisdiction,” he added.

Nevertheless, the SBMA would continue to coordinate with the PCG, which has recently established an auxiliary squadron of volunteers in Subic, Arreza said.

According to Capt. Perfecto Pascual, SBMA seaport department manager, it has been agreed in initial talks with Golez that SBMA will provide an area in Subic to station Navy personnel, including a berthing area for their fast craft.

Pascual also said that it is “just proper” that a naval station be put up in Subic Freeport, which is the emerging maritime center in the Philippines, because the nearest naval detachment to Subic Bay today is in Poro Point, a long way off in the northern Luzon province of La Union.

He also said that the cooperation agreement “greatly increases our response capability, which, together with our modern maritime surveillance equipment mandated by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and highly trained personnel, would make it impossible for crooks to use the Subic Freeport as a jumping board for smuggling.”

Still, Pascual clarified that the Navy will act independently on its mandated task of territorial defense, which includes enforcement of maritime laws, hot pursuit operations, patrolling the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and immediate response to maritime emergencies.

As of now, Pascual said the SBMA seaport department is working on an inter-agency team-building workshop that would help smooth out coordination problems encountered in the handling of the drug smuggling case here last year.

The conduct of this workshop was also recommended by the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs, Pascual said. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

22 June 2009

JICA study shows SBMA as most resilient IPA

Investment generation figures collated by a leading Japanese think tank have shown that the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) is the only Investment Promotion agency (IPA) in the Philippines that turned out a positive output based on year-on-year figures in the first quarter.

According to the Nomura Research Institute (NRI), which prepared a study on the ongoing impact of the global financial crisis on foreign direct investment (FDI) in Asia, the Philippines is also reeling from a decrease in foreign investments due to the current economic slowdown.

However, the NRI study indicated that despite a generally negative record among IPAs in the Philippines, the SBMA, which manages the Subic Bay Free-Port Zone, has reported a 13.6-percent increase in committed investments based on year-on-year figures for the first quarter of 2009.

The NRI, which is reputedly Japan’s largest firm in consulting and system solutions services, prepared the study for the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica).

The study, the SBMA said in reaction, only indicated the “apparent resiliency of the Subic Bay Free Port as an investment location.”

According to the first version of the NRI report, which was dated June 2009, FDI commitments secured by the SBMA in the first quarter of 2009 totaled P1.5 billion.

Meanwhile, all of the other Philippine IPAs reported a year-on-year decrease in commitments for the same period, the NRI said.

These included the Board of Investments, which recorded a 57-percent decrease to P4.3 billion; the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (Peza), with a 50.8-percent decrease to P13.6 billion; and the Clark Development Corp., with a 72.5- percent decrease in commitment basis.

Documents gathered by the BusinessMirror showed the NRI prepared the report on FDI commitments in the Philippines for Jica in connection with a proposal for the development of the Philippine Investments Promotion Plan (PIPP).

The PIPP seeks, among others, the creation of an interagency body “to oversee the implementation and monitoring of all programs, activities and projects to improve investment climate” in the country.

The network of IPAs, including the SBMA, “is tasked with formulating and developing strategies to position the Philippines as among the prime investment destinations in Asia,” the NRI said.

In the same report, the NRI mentioned that FDI generation also fell in other Asian countries as a result of the global financial crisis.

These included Thailand, which posted a 26-percent decrease in capital commitments; Vietnam, with a 67-percent decrease in capital realization; India, with a 28-percent decrease in FDI realization; and even China, which suffered a 21-percent decrease in FDI realization.

However, the NRI particularly noted that the Philippines “has attracted far less FDI than its peer Asean countries.”

The SBMA, however, had somewhat bucked the downtrend in investment commitments when it signed up a total of 30 new projects worth P1.5 billion in the first quarter, bringing to 966 the total number of registered investors here.

SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza said the uptrend in Subic was due to a self-sustaining business environment created by the SBMA in Subic over the years “that was directed toward various industries that require less dependence on foreign markets.”

Arreza added Subic’s 2009 investment generation was recently boosted further by new investment pledges worth $86 million by South Korean shipbuilder Hanjin Heavy Industries & Construction Corp., a firm that has already set up a $1.7-shipyard in Subic.

Hanjin officials said the new investments would be for the production of ship components at the Subic facility and would be committed in two parts: $29 million starting September this year, and $57 million next year and onward. (Henry Empeño, Business Mirror Online)

21 June 2009

Subic golf course partially open despite $48M facelift

Hanafil Golf and Tour Inc. said that the Subic golf course will remain open amid its re-development costing $48 million.

Hanafil Golf chief executive and president Benjamin John Defensor III said the management had decided to open facility after a clamor by members of the Subic Bay Golf and Country Club and local players to at least open nine holes of the 18-hole golf course.

“We want them [members] to enjoy their game even during the rainy season. It is our pleasure to give our utmost services to them,” Defensor said.

“The renovation of the Subic Golf Course into a world-class golf course would be done by phases. We will open holes 1 to 9 but would close the remaining holes for us to renovate the old US Navy golf course,” he added.

He said the massive development project of Subic Golf was part of the agreement between Hanafil and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority.

“We have scheduled the reconstruction of the Subic Golf Course during the rainy season to take advantage of the minimal number of golfers playing here,” Defensor said.

He said the golf course was just one of the many attractions that Hanafil will build inside this premier Freeport. The company also plans to build a five-star hotel and luxury villas.

“The nursery and the irrigation system are almost completed. These were created in 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.

Defensor said the new irrigation system was designed to supply water to the golf course, stressing that the system is eco-friendly and uses wastewater for the greens and fairways. (Cecille Garcia, Manila Standard Today)

US naval ship, crew checked for A-H1N1 in Subic

A US naval surveillance ship and its crew were quarantined and tested for flu-like symptoms upon arrival at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone in Zambales province, Saturday morning.

Information gathered by ABS-CBN News said USNS Impeccable, an ocean surveillance ship, arrived at the freeport zone around 10:30 a.m. It arrived at the freeport from Japan for bunkering and change of crew.

The ship was scheduled to leave the freeport on Monday morning.

Health workers at the freeport, led by Dr. Solomon Jacalne, subjected the vessel to quarantine, and each crew was screened for flu-like
symptoms. The US navy crewmen, however, have been cleared.

Officials at the freeport said the screening was in accordance with the protocol ordered by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority as a precautionary measure against the influenza A(H1N1) virus.

The United States remains the most infected country with nearly 18,000 cases. (c/o abs-cbnNEWS.com)

SBMA awaits court order for Legend Resorts closure

A court order is the only thing keeping a group of hotels in this free port from being closed down due to accumulated debts, according to the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).

Administrator Armand Arreza said the SBMA has not yet stopped the operations of Legend International Resorts Ltd., which owns and operates three hotels—Legenda Hotel, Grand Seasons Hotel, and Legenda Suites.

But Arreza said Legend, a Hong Kong-registered company, has accumulated debts amounting to about P877 million.

He said the SBMA was pushing the closure for “nonpayment of lease and casino fees.”

In 2006, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., the government agency responsible for regulating casino operations in the country, closed the Legenda Casino and cancelled its gaming license after its operator failed to pay the government more than P365 million in gaming franchise, it was learned.

The closure came after a Pagcor special audit team discovered that Legend was charging expenses of its hotels to the casino operations, “thus, causing artificial net loss,” a Pagcor statement said.

About 200 casino personnel were affected by the closure, but the hotels remain operational.

Arreza said the firm had not been paying the lease and casino fees since 2000. “The company is already under liquidation,” he said.

A Hong Kong court in 2006 appointed a liquidator, Kevin Flynn, for the Legend group at the Subic Bay Freeport. Flynn announced in July 2006 the termination of the services of Khoo Boo Boon as chief executive officer of Legenda Hotel.

Flynn, who was tasked with helping the Legend group regain its profitability and save the jobs of more than 1,500 employees, appointed a new management and operations team.

Since then, the company has been the subject of “suits and countersuits, which merely delayed the inevitable,” an SBMA source said. (Robert Gonzaga, Inquirer Central Luzon Desk)

18 June 2009

Subic golf course rehab begins

A $48-million project to renovate the 18-hole golf course in this free port and turn it into an all-weather facility has begun this month.

But instead of closing the whole facility as announced last month, management has left nine holes open for avid golfers.

According to Benjamin John Defensor III, president and CEO of Hanafil Golf and Tour Inc., which operates the facility, the programmed rehabilitation “will go on as scheduled.”

“We have already renovated some parts of the course, and we have to close half of the facility so that we can fully reconstruct the whole area for the additional nine holes,” Defensor said during the recent awarding ceremony for Hanafil’s “employee versus caddy” tournament, an event that kicked off the rehabilitation project.

However, because the rehabilitation will be undertaken in several phases, Defensor said Holes 1 to 9 will be left open because of an overwhelming demand by members.

“We want them [members] to enjoy their game—and some really want to play even during the rainy season. It is always our pleasure to give our utmost services to them,” he added.

Defensor said earlier the $48-million rehabilitation project will commence during the rainy season to take advantage of the period when there are less players.

The major rehabilitation, he added, would cover a six-year period. It includes an additional nine holes, as well as improvement of the driving range.

The project, Defensor said, is part of Hanafil’s agreement with the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), which has taken over the facility in 2007 after the former operator reportedly failed to honor its development commitments.

Hanafil is getting ready for the total replacement of several greens and fairways after completing major portions of the nursery and irrigation system projects.

Defensor also said the project is just one of the many attractions Hanafil will build in the Subic Bay Free Port. The company also plans to build a five-star hotel and luxury villas.

As part of its commitment to Subic tourism, the Korean-Filipino joint venture has also initiated early this year a “golf junket” program that has so far brought a total of 18 planeloads of golfers from South Korea for a three-day tour in the free port.

Hanafil, a Philippine corporation registered under the Securities and Exchange Commission, is backed by Hanatour, the biggest tourist agency in South Korea. (Henry Empeno, Business Mirror Online)

16 June 2009

SBMA: Improved traffic system crucial for Subic-Clark growth

Wondering how to make responsible motorists out of the usually errant Filipino drivers? Bring them to Subic, a top official of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) says.

Proudly citing the world-class traffic management system in the Subic Bay Freeport, SBMA administrator Armand Arreza said that global-competitiveness could start with a most unlikely economic pursuit: traffic discipline.

“If we want to lure more investors and tourists into the country, we should create world-class facilities and support systems for investments, including the fast and orderly transfer of goods and other resources through efficient traffic management,” said Arreza, speaking at the sidelines of the pilot taping here of “The Freeport Forum”, a new television show covering the Subic and Clark free ports.

“The state of vehicular traffic says a lot about a certain place, and investors take first notice of that when scouting for possible locations for their businesses,” Arreza explained.

The SBMA official also called on concerned agencies and government units to step up the traffic management system in the areas between Subic and Clark, which are target areas for expansion of the neighboring free ports, and pledged SBMA’s support in laying down the groundwork for an internationally-competitive investment environment in the area.

“Improvements in the traffic management sector are a major component of Subic’s expansion program to the nearby communities,” Arreza said, mentioning Olongapo City, Subic town in Zambales, and Morong, Hermosa and Dinalupihan in Bataan as target areas for expansion.

He added that to help bring about better traffic management in nearby areas, the SBMA now invites traffic enforcement officers to study and adopt the orderly traffic scheme in the Subic Bay Freeport.

Aside from Arreza, the other guests in the forum were Sec. Edgardo Pamintuan, chairman of the Subic-Clark Alliance Development Council (SCADC), and Benigno Ricafort, president of Clark Development Corporation (CDC).

According to Arreza, Subic Bay’s traffic enforcement scheme, along with the American traffic system, has served as a model for the University of the Philippines’ (UP) Traffic Safety Model Zone — a test bed for a new road order designed to be replicated everywhere in the Philippines.

Likewise, officials from the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx), the Clark Freeport, Bataan, and even Cebu have also studied the Subic system while developing their own traffic management systems, he said.

“Filipinos are basically law-abiding citizens. We just have to get them inside the Subic Bay Freeport first so that this innate discipline would show,” Arreza said with a laugh.

Meanwhile, Lt. Benjamin Evia, SBMA traffic branch chief, explained that the Subic Bay Freeport has basically the same traffic laws as in other areas.

“Subic simply makes a difference because of its strict enforcement policy and a corruption-free standard operating procedure,” Evia said.

“But we are willing to share the success of the SBMA in the field of traffic enforcement. If it can be done in Subic, there’s no question it can be applied to just anywhere in the country,” he added.

Evia said corruption in traffic enforcement could be greatly reduced, if not totally eliminated, when traffic enforcement agencies employ the “minimum interaction with violators” policy, which he said could be traced back to the US Navy days here.

To illustrate, Evia said that Subic traffic enforcers must first radio their headquarters upon flagging a vehicle, and only then could the officer approach the driver and read the traffic violation citations.

The driver ticketed for violation, meanwhile, is not allowed to speak unless questioned during the whole procedure, which is monitored by closed-circuit television cameras at key areas in the Subic Bay Freeport.

“We also have hotlines where motorists could seek help, or even report traffic violators— 9111 for cellphones and 911 for landlines,” said Evia.

The SBMA traffic chief said that besides strict enforcement and smooth communication lines, the Subic system adheres to international standards of road engineering, which includes signage.

This also improves better understanding by both motorists and pedestrians of traffic rules and regulations within the free port, Evia said. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

15 June 2009

Hanjin safety compliance cited

Efforts by South Korean firm Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Corp. Philippines (HHIC-Phil) to improve health and safety conditions at its shipyard in this free port has resulted in a safer workplace for its more than 16,000 workers.

According to officials of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), who have been monitoring work safety at the Hanjin facility, the ship manufacturer has started complying with local labor laws on safety standards.

“I think much have been done since (the Congressional Committee on Labor and Employment) started its investigation, because safety awareness of all concerned at the shipyard has been raised already to a certain level,” said Nathaniel Lacambra, DOLE director for Region 3.

Lacambra noted these observations during a recent hearing of the congressional committee chaired by Rep. Magtanggol Guinigundo, which has started an investigation on labor safety at the Hanijn shipyard in Subic following complaints of unsafe working conditions that have resulted in several fatal accidents since 2007.

The committee has so far invited officials from DOLE-Region 3, SBMA, and HHIC-Phil, as well as engineers from the Professional Regulatory Commission, among others, to shed light on safety issues and other labor concerns.

But Lacambra said that the DOLE, along with representatives from professional health and safety organizations, has already conducted labor standard inspections at the Hanjin shipyard and found that some of the hazards at the work place have been already eliminated.

“The DOLE, SBMA, Hanjin and other concerned agencies and organizations, have been doing their share in making Hanjin a safer work place,” Lacambra added.

In the same forum, Ramon Agregado, SBMA deputy administrator for support services, informed the committee that based on partial reports, Hanjin is already 44 percent compliant in terms of Occupational Health and Safety Standards (OHHS) as of June 2009.

The current rating marks an improvement from the 42 percent recorded in March, Agregado added.

The SBMA official also noted that aside from gradually undergoing the compliance process for OHSS as required by DOLE, Hanjin has already began maintaining doctors at its clinic in the shipyard.

Meanwhile, Rep. Monico Pontevela (Bacolod City) commended Guinigundo’s committee for the positive effect that its investigation has had on the working conditions of employees at the Hanjin shipyard.

“I have to commend the Chair (Guinigundo) of this committee, because since the investigation started, there has been no more news about fatal accidents at the shipyard. This could only mean that there has been some improvement in the safety situation at the Hanjin facility,” Pontevela said.

The latest fatality was recorded on Saturday last week when the body of Teodoro Alvior Jr. was fished out of the sea at Hanjin’s Quay No. 3. Initial investigations pointed, however, to a case of suicide.

SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza had earlier urged investigators to exhaust all means in determining the exact cause of Alvior’s death and ascertain whether the victim’s death “was not caused by any negligence on the part of his employer or the shipyard management”. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

12 June 2009

Asean execs meet in Subic on climate change

Representatives of Southeast Asian countries are meeting here in Subic Bay Freeport to draw up measures to mitigate the effects of climate change during the 3rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations Social Forestry Network (ASFN) conference.

“While there have been programs to address these issues on the national level, this is actually the first time that these efforts are focused
at the regional level. Our hope is that the member countries learn from each other’s experiences in dealing with this important issue of climate change,” said Sagita Arhidani, ASFN secretariat officer from Indonesia.

“Taken together, the policies of Asean nations will have a dramatic impact on climate change all over the world,” she said.

The conference ends on Saturday.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization said Asean countries have approximately 283.2 million hectares of forests, covering 33.4 percent of these countries’ land area and accounts for 16 percent of the world’s tropical forests.

Neria Andin, assistant director of the Forest Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said social forestry can improve the socio-economic situation of upland farmers while taking care of the environment.

Dr. Rodel Lasco of the World Agro Forestry Center analyzed the potential benefits of agro-forestry farms. (Robert Gonzaga, Inquirer Central Luzon Desk)

07 June 2009

Hanjin's new projects hikes investments

An expansion project of Korean shipbuilder Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Corp. in this free port will raise the total investments committed by locators here to more than $6 billion this year.

Hanjin Heavy’s expansion will also reinforce the firm’s status as the single-biggest locator in the free port today.

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) administrator and chief executive officer Armand Arreza said Hanjin Heavy’s new investment pledge of $86 million would raise the firm’s total investments in Subic to $2.54 billion.

The shipbuilder’s new investment is in the production of ship components in the free port.

Hanjin Heavy, which had so far built four container vessels here in the last two years, announced its new funding commitment during the recent visit of President Arroyo in Korea.

Hanjin officials said the new investments will be placed in two schedules: $29 million starting September this year, and $57 million next year.

Arreza said Hanjin Heavy’s $86-million project raises the total investments in Subic to $6.64 billion, topping the previous record of $5.78 billion in the first quarter of 2009.

“With just the first $29 million, our investment commitments will breach the $6-billion mark this year,” Arreza said.

“With the succeeding $57 million, we will be hitting close to the $7.5-billion enhanced target that we have set for 2010,” he added.

Hanjin Heavy’s new investments would also allow it to maintain its position as Subic’s top employer. Its officials announced that the new project would create some 4,000 new positions on top of the 16,000 jobs that now exist at the firm’s Redondo Peninsula shipyard.

Arreza cited Hanjin Heavy’s new project for its huge potentials in helping ease unemployment in Central Luzon and spur growth in terms of raw materials and other production inputs.

“Best of all, with ship components produced locally, we shall have the right to claim that ships produced by Hanjin in Subic are entirely Philippine-made,” Arreza added.

Despite what critics say as its poor safety record, with several fatal accidents occurring at its Subic facility in the past two years, Hanjin is credited for putting the Philippines on the world’s maritime map by producing the first Philippine-made container ships.

In the first quarter of this year, Hanjin set a new record with the twin-launch of its third and fourth container ships and became Subic’s biggest exporter for the first time after posting $179.36 million in freight-on-board value.

The shipbuilder initially committed $1 billion in investment when it located in Subic in 2006. It increased its exposure by $68 million a year later.

Hanjin Heavy’s current expansion is also expected to bolster the job-creation program in Subic, which now employs 85,000 workers.

Arreza said Subic’s employment “could easily jump to double the current figures once projects proposed by several Korean firms are realized in the next two years.”

These include a plan by M Castle Inc. to construct a $1-billion resort complex in a 615-hectare property. Around 7,000 direct and 16,000 indirect jobs are projected to materialize when construction starts, according to reports quoting M Castle chairman Sang Soo Shin.

“These [are] major employment boosters,” Arreza said. “Aside from the jobs that would be directly created by these projects, there will be thousands of employment opportunities to be generated downstream.”

Hanjin Heavy’s expansion and M Castle’s planned project will further boost Korean business exposure in Subic, which had grown to $2.85 billion since 2003, the highest value of foreign direct investment here.

According to SBMA figures, Korean firms put up 234 investment projects in the free port. Philippine firms come in second with $513.5 million in investment value. Filipinos remain first with 533 projects.

The third-biggest investors here are Taiwanese companies, with 41 projects worth $256.4 million. Indian firms are the fourth with three projects worth $101.1 million. (HENRY EMPEÑO, Business Mirror Online)

PHOTO: Workers at the Hanjin Heavy shipyard in the Subic Bay Free Port install components to a container vessel. Hanjin Heavy now plans to produce ship components in its facility here with an $86-million expansion project.

SBMA says over 85,000 workers now in Freeport

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) officials said that more than 85,200 workers are now employed in different companies in this Freeport.

SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza said the continued confidence by foreign investors, particularly Korean companies, in the business competitiveness in the Freeport led to the doubling in the number of workers here in just two years.

Arreza said the number of workers could easily jump to double the current figure once projects proposed by several Korean firms are realized in the next two years.

He cited in particular the planned construction of a $1-billion resort complex here by M Castle Inc., a Korean developer of environment- friendly luxury resorts, and the scheduled $86-million project by Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Corp. to locally produce ship components.

“These will be major employment-boosters ,” Arreza said.

He said aside from the jobs that would be directly created by these projects, there will be thousands of employment opportunities to be generated downstream.

Reports indicated earlier that M Castle Inc. will invest in a 615-hectare property in Subic, aside from another property development project in Palawan to be undertaken with the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA).

Around 7,000 direct and 16,000 indirect jobs are said to be made available when the construction of the billion-dollar luxury resort starts, according to M Castle chairman Sang Soo Shin.

Arreza said the planned investment “would not only boost the tourism market in the country, but would also up the ante for Subic in terms of income.”

The M Castle proposal reportedly includes the development of beach and forest condominiums, a beach hotel, a casino-hotel and villas with 2,400 rooms, a 36-hole golf course, a marina club for 50 yachts, a medical center for oriental and western medicine, a water park, a shopping mall, and an English-language learning house.

The SBMA administrator said that from the planned resort complex in Subic, the local production by Hanjin of ship components will increase Subic’s active workforce by 4,000 positions.

He said the projected increase in Hanjin labor requirements was announced by company officials when they met with President Arroyo in Korea recently. (Ric Sapnu, PhilStar)

05 June 2009

Koreans plan $1-b, 615-hectare resort complex in Subic, Zambales

JEJU ISLAND, South Korea — President Arroyo has secured a commitment from a Korean company to invest $1 billion in a resort complex in Subic, Zambales, that is expected to create 144,000 jobs during its construction.

Mrs. Arroyo met representatives from M Castle Inc., a Korean developer of environment- friendly luxury resorts, at the Shilla Hotel Tuesday afternoon to discuss the company’s plan to develop a 615-hectare property in Subic.

M Castle chairman Sang Soo Shin told Mrs. Arroyo that the company also planned to develop a piece of property in Palawan with the help of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority.

“I welcome M Castle’s potential investments in the Philippines and I am glad that it considered the Philippines, specifically Subic and Palawan, as the choice destinations for your business projects,” Mrs. Arroyo said.

The resort complex in Subic is expected to generate 7,000 direct and 16,000 indirect jobs once it starts operations.

Earlier, Mrs. Arroyo received assurances from Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Co. Inc. that it would start producing ship components worth $29 million at its Subic shipyard starting in September.

The President agreed to a request from Hanjin President Nam Ho Cho for discounted power rates for its shipyards in Subic and Misamis Oriental for the next 10 years.

Cho called on the President Monday at the Shilla Hotel with former Hanjin Philippines president Jeong Sup Shim.

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority has approved in principle the business plan that M Castle submitted on March 10.

In that plan, M Castle said the Subic-based facilities would include beach and forest condominiums, a beach hotel, and a casino hotel and villas with 2,400 rooms; a 36-hole golf course; a Marina club for 50 yachts; a medical center for oriental and western medicine; a water park; a shopping mall, and an academy house for English-language training.

The membership fees would range from $25,000 to $700,000, would assure clients 30 days of time share per year.

The Philippines has been experiencing a boom in the hotel and tourism industry, with a total of 1,231 additional rooms being opened during the first quarter at a cost of more than P8 billion.

Tourist arrivals grew 10.33 percent to 1.3 million in the same period, and of which Subic accounted for 7 percent.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Arroyo left Tuesday for Moscow, where she is to meet representatives from the Russian travel industry and members of the Filipino community.

From Moscow, she will proceed to St. Petersburg where she will deliver a talk on the lessons learned from the global economic crisis during the two-day St. Petersburg Economic Forum.

Mrs. Arroyo will also meet Russian President Dmitri Medvedev before returning to Manila on Saturday. [Joyce Pangco Pañares, Manila Standard Today (Via PLDT)]

03 June 2009

Hanjin to hire 24,000 more workers for Subic & Misamis Oriental plants

MANILA - Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Corp. will hire 24,000 more Filipino workers for its Subic and Misamis Oriental plants, the government announced on Tuesday.

At present, Hanjin Philippines Inc., the corporation´s main office in the Philippines, employs 16,000 workers.

During a meeting with Hanjin Philippines President Jong Shup Shim, President Gloria Arroyo lauded the company´s billion-dollar investment in its Subic shipyard, and the additional multi-billion investment in a new facility in Misamis Oriental, which would make the Philippines the fourth-largest shipbuilder in the world.

Jong later told reporters that starting September, Hanjin would begin local production of ship components that they normally import from South Korea for the assembly of work at Subic.

Jong estimated that the company would be able to manufacture $29-million worth of locally produced components for the first year, and he expressed confidence that this amount would increase to $57 million next year.

Jong said the company would make the ships produced at the Hanjin shipyard in Subic, entirely and proudly, Philippine-made.

Medal of Merit

As this developed, President Arroyo conferred the Presidential Medal of Merit on the former president Hanjin Philippines Inc., Jong Shup Shim, for making that firm one of the world´s largest shipbuilding conglomerates and for his contribution to the shipbuilding industry in the Philippines.

Jong was also credited for influencing Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Corp., to put up a shipbuilding facility in the Subic Freeport Zone in Zambales.

The ceremony was held on Jeju Island, South Korea, at the sidelines of the 20th Anniversary of Asean and Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit. Asean is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a regional bloc of 10 countries that includes the Philippines.

More hirings

Some 600 Filipino seamen were hired daily, despite the global economic crisis, Giovanni Lopez, vice president of the Luneta Seafarer´s Center (LSC), said also on Tuesday. He added that the demand for Filipinos seafarers even increased, and if there were layoffs, they would normally be the last to go -after other foreign workers.

On average, some 1,000 jobs were available daily at the popular seamen´s hub on Kalaw Street, Manila, where 112 manning agencies offer jobs to the thousands of Filipino seafarers who troop to the center everyday.

"Over the last two years, the global maritime industry´s choice for Filipino seafarers continues, and it will never face a bleak future if you look into the official running count of available jobs being offered to them everyday," he said.

Lopez also said the Philippines was the biggest source of maritime workers in the world, and he believed that the demand for Filipino seafarers would "not be dampened in a big way."

He added that until 2012-when more modern vessels would be set to sail-the international maritime industry would be needing ship captains, marine deck officers, chief engineers, cooks, stewards and other maritime crew.

Filipino seafarers comprise 35 percent to 40 percent of the global maritime manpower. (Angelo S. Samonte nad Bernice Camille V. Bauzon, Manila Times)

SCADC completes consultations for Subic-Clark corridor land use plan

The Subic-Clark Alliance for Development Council (SCADC) has concluded its three-part consultative meetings with local government units (LGUs) and other stakeholders with a forum held at the SBDMC Conference Hall in this free port recently.

SCADC chairman Edgardo Pamintuan, who led participants in discussing various concerns on the Subic-Clark growth corridor, said the consultations were aimed at updating stakeholders on the ongoing developments at the SCAD corridor, particularly on how LGU development plans were incorporated into the SCAD Corridor Conceptual Land Use Plan (SCoLUP).

In particular, SCADC officials and planners discussed various concerns in the development plan for the corridor, including environmental and ecological issues, waste management, the accessibility of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx), as well as flood control and drainage systems.

Pamintuan, who is also the development champion for the Luzon Urban Beltway Super Region, said several development projects already in the pipeline are expected to have the greatest impact on the SCAD corridor.

These include the Tarlac-Zambales Tollway, Tarlac-Nueva Ecija-Pampanga Circumferential Tollway, Tarlac-Nueva Ecija-Pampanga-Bulacan Radial Road, and, possibly, the Zambales-Pampanga-Bulacan Coastal Viaduct, said Pamintuan.

He added that the final version of the conceptual land use plan for the 98,020-hectare SCAD corridor will be presented during the LGU Summit in July, which will also serve as the culminating activity for the series of stakeholder consultations.

In his speech during the Subic consultation, Pamintuan emphasized that President Arroyo’s multibillion-peso infrastructure development program has helped save the day for the Philippine economy by creating millions of jobs and opening more areas for investments.

As a result, “while the world economy is suffering from the impact of the global economic crisis — with the United States, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore registering negative growth outlook, the Philippines still registered a 1 percent growth in the first quarter of this year,” Pamintuan added.

The SCADC executive also said that his agency’s concern has lately expanded from infrastructure projects to “programs that would result in more efficient production, multi-modal product delivery system, industrial and agricultural projects, and better tourism facilities.”

The SCADC is also concerned with education and manpower training, human development centers, human settlements and retirement villages, and green corridors, Pamintuan said.

“One of the features of the SCAD corridor framework is the production-oriented logistics corridor with three equidistant hubs,” Pamintuan explained, referring to Subic, with its sea ports as the sea hub; Clark, with the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport as the air hub; and Tarlac, with its vast agricultural and industrial areas as the land hub.

“Connecting these three hubs is the 94-kilometer SCTEx that would serve as the backbone in the transformation of the area into the SCAD Mega-Logistics Hub,” he said.

“This is where the role of the provinces of Bataan and Zambales come into play, as they are the LGUs which will greatly benefit from the developments within the corridor,” Pamintuan added.

SCADC held the first stakeholders forum in Clark on May 15, and followed it up with the Tarlac consultation on May 22. The Subic forum, which was the last leg in the series of meetings with stakeholders, will be followed by the LGU Summit next month. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

PHOTO: Sec. Edgardo Pamintuan explains the benefits of high-impact infrastructure development projects for the SCAD Growth Corridor during a stakeholders meeting in the Subic Bay Freeport.

02 June 2009

Olongapo welcomes SBMA move to grant business incentives to adjacent areas

OLONGAPO CITY — Officials of this city welcomed the initiative of Subic Bay Freeport authorities to grant incentives to investors willing to locate outside of the fenced-in area of the freeport, particularly in this city.

Olongapo Mayor James “Bong” Gordon Jr. described the planned incentives package as “a big boost to Olongapo” as the city undertakes its program to improve the local economy and provide sustainable income opportunities to residents, said senior executive sssistant for public relations Mike Pusing.

“Of course, we welcome this plan by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA),” Pusing said in an interview. “This is good news for us,” he added.

Earlier, the SBMA announced that it is working out a scheme whereby qualified investments based in Olongapo City may receive some incentives enjoyed by companies registered in the Subic Bay Freeport.

According to SBMA administrator/ chief executive officer Armand Arreza, the perks may include fiscal incentives like sales tax and five-percent gross income tax.

Arreza said his agency is now coordinating with Olongapo officials in formulating the implementing rules that would allow businesses located in Olongapo to qualify for some incentives under Executive Order 675, which expanded the area where tax- and duty-free privileges for freeport 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.”

However, Arreza said that because the planned expansion area in Olongapo is not yet fenced in, duty-free privileges cannot be applied due to concerns on merchandise control.

Arreza said 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 added.

As of now, 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 five 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. (Bebot Sison Jr., Philippine Star)

01 June 2009

Medical and wellness center in Amorosa, Subic Freeport, serves patients, retirees from Northern Luzon and abroad

The George Dewey Medical and Wellness Center is a tertiary private hospital located in Amorosa.

Amorosa is a 12-hectare community composed of the George Dewey Medical College, living and recreation spaces for retirees and the general public, and the George Dewey Medical and Wellness Center.

The environment of Amorosa is a preserved rainforest, providing an ambiance of healing and rejuvenation. Amorosa is located in the Subic Freeport Zone, an area of business, entertainment, outdoor activities, schools, hotels and restaurants, and homes.

The George Dewey Medical and Wellness Center sprawls among the gardens of Amorosa, consisting of nine buildings, surrounding the main hospital
and separated from it by grasslined driveways. This unique arrangement provides specialized areas for privacy, proper ambiance and infection control.

The main hospital is a single-story structure with access doors to the buildings of specialty, and areas for parking and emergency.

Essentially, the building arrangement follows a logical flow for the medical process, general services, privacy and safety.

The Medical and Surgical Services are provided by doctors who are leaders in their fields.

The medical organization follows global standards of healthcare, enhanced by a hospital information system which provides an integrated holistic approach to the individual patient.

Excellence in medical and surgical service is supported by latest equipment.

The Nursing and Ancillary Services Teams are specialized, with regular training programs in coordination with the George Dewey Medical College.

The Human Resource Department goes beyond its scope of responsibility to encourage personal growth and develop the core values of the institution. Quality Assurance Programs involve the Medical, Administrative, Finance, Marketing and Business Development groups, encouraging a culture in the community for excellence in health
services and continuing education.

The patients of the George Dewey Medical and Wellness Center are residents of Amorosa, the day and night populations of Subic, residents of nearby communities and retirement villages, as well as patients from other countries and the general public.

The residents of Amorosa benefit from the assurance of a tertiary hospital on stand by and the wellness programs to enhance their lifestyle.

The George Dewey Medical and Wellness Center is the only tertiary hospital inside the Subic Freeport Zone, with access to the Subic and Clark International airports and the provinces of Northern Luzon. Its vision of excellence in continuing medical education also encourages medical and paramedical specialty training sessions and conferences.

The Phases of Operation allow for the development of specialized centers of diagnosis and treatment, many of which will be firsts in the underserved population of Northern Luzon.

The potential for growth in the medical and wellness services is large, inside and outside of Amorosa. The standard of care, employment opportunity and empowerment of people the business provides is a significant contribution to society. (c/o Manila Times)

Photo: SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza visits the facilities at George Dewey Medical and Wellness Center.