10 September 2009

Subic Freeport to train Filipino workers for Guam military build-up

Guam senators who met with officials of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) on Friday said Subic Bay would make an ideal training center for the thousands of Filipino workers needed in Guam, where the United States’ “greatest military build-up since the end of World War II” will be made.

Senators Judith Guthertz and Rory Respicio, who led the Guam delegation here, inspected the various skills-training facilities in this free port and urged the SBMA to form a Philippine delegation to Guam to expedite the setting up of the Subic Bay training center.

SBMA chairman Feliciano Salonga, who led the SBMA receiving party, readily pledged his support on behalf of the SBMA, saying that “a Philippine representation will ensure that Filipino workers will get a first shot at this massive employment opportunity.”

“This project costs US$15-billion, and 20,000 foreign workers are needed. We must not let this opportunity slip from our hands,” said Salonga, who is keen on fulfilling SBMA’s mandate to maximize employment in the region.

The SBMA official said that through the Philippine representation, technical and legal requirements for the training center and various labor concerns, including the mass deployment of Filipino workers, will be addressed.

He added that the Philippine panel will also help ensure that the training center will adhere to standards set for the Guam project.

Guthertz, who chairs the Guam Committee on US Military Buildup and cites her University of the Philippines (UP) education, urged the to-be-formed Philippine representation to work out training designs with Guam’s community college.

She also expressed much confidence in the skill of Filipino workers, “who built Guam after the brutal World War II.”

Guthertz added that the “sudden change” in Guam compelled them to look up the history of Subic Bay, which underwent similar transformation as it was a former US naval base.

Meanwhile, Respicio, who heads the Guam Committee on Foreign Affairs, said the Philippines “will likely be the source of labor for the Guam buildup,” and ruled out competition from Chinese labor.

“You have the facilities here; the Philippines is poised to grab this opportunity, so you have to be prepared,” said Respicio.

The Guam mission then signed a memorandum of understanding with Salonga and SBMA administrator Arreza as an “expression of the mutual goal of the Philippines and Guam.”

“As we sign this MOU, we’re holding true to our pledge that we have an obligation as senators from Guam to ensure that foreign workers that will go to Guam will not be exploited,” said Respicio.

The Guam mission also met with Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) secretary Marianito Roque, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) chief Jennifer Manalili, Overseas Workers Welfare Association (OWWA) head Carmelita Dimzon, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) director-general Augusto Syjuco.

The visit, according to Guthertz, was meant “to establish understanding, and to learn more about the Philippine process,” so that final agreements could soon be made for the Guam build-up that would relocate US troops stationed in Okinawa, Japan.

Guthertz said that major construction works are scheduled from 2010 to 2014, while proposed troop movement of 14,200 military personnel and their 38,070 dependents starts on 2012 and is scheduled to be completed by 2016. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

PHOTO: SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza (left) and SBMA Chairman Feliciano Salonga (second from right) sign an agreement with Guam senators Judith Guthertz and Rory Respicio for the training of Filipino workers needed in the island’s massive military build-up.