19 August 2013

Business first for Subic – SBMA (US Military Presence Must Have Parameters)

Despite the impending utilization of this premier Freeport by US and Japanese military forces, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chairman Robert Garcia said that it should first function what it was mandated for, a special economic zone.

This was bared recently during an interview with Garcia, adding that the deal should first comply with three parameters before taking into full effect, that is if it in line with the Constitution, with the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), and with Subic Bay Freeport as an economic zone.

Garcia said that they need to balance the military presence while upholding Republic Act 7227, the Bases Conversion and Development Act of 1992. But Garcia also acknowledged the issue of national security and that the SBMA answers to the national government.

“How can you say no to the President? The agency answers to the national government, and if the national government says the military presence here is for our security concerns, who are we to question them?” Garcia explained.

One of the areas, the Alava Pier, will only be used by military vessels. Commercial wharves of the Subic Bay Freeport will not be affected by the military operations conducted by the country and its foreign allies.

He pointed out that it will still be business as usual for the other ports. Garcia also said that Alava Pier will only be used for supply replenishment, ship repair and docking but will not be used for deployment.

“We are in a difficult financial position, with that, we will ask for the lease and rental be paid. President Aquino also said that we should ask the US government for funding to repair the ageing Alava Pier since they will be the one who will use it more often,” Garcia said.

Aside from the usual places like the airport and wharves, the SBMA chief still doesn’t know which facilities the military will be using. “It will be up to them, but rest assured that Subic Freeport will stay true to its mandate,” Garcia said.

The SBMA is the operating and implementing arm of the Government of the Philippines for the development of the 262 square mile (670 square kilometer) area of Subic Bay Freeport into a self-sustaining tourism, industrial, commercial, financial, and investment center to generate employment opportunities. This area was the former US Naval facility in Subic Bay.

On March 13, 1992, the Philippine Congress passed Republic Act 7227, known as the Bases Conversion and Development Act of 1992, in anticipation of the pullout of the US military bases in the country.

Section 13 of RA 7227 created the SBMA to develop and manage the Freeport which provides tax and duty-free privileges and incentives to business locators in the special economic zone.

To date, Subic Bay Freeport has around 90,000 employees with close to 1,200 companies who are investing and banking on Filipino skills. Touted as the economic flagship of the country, Subic Freeport was once the biggest earning economic zone in the country.(Jonas Reyes, Manila Bulletin)