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Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (MPD-SBMA)

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07 January 2009

Subic sees modest growth despite global recession

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


PHOTO CAPTION:

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

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