CELEBRATING its 27th year, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) has evolved from an uncertain but hopeful plan to utilize the land and facilities left behind by the departure of the US Navy into a vibrant, self-sustaining industrial, commercial, and tourism center, the gateway of trade and investment of the North.
In 1992, the US Navy ended its 81-year presence in Subic Bay, returning the magnificent natural deep-water harbor and 670 square kilometers of surrounding land to the Philippine people. To manage these resources and maximize their development, the SBMA was created by Republic Act (RA) 7227 to promote and develop the Subic Special Economic Zone. The formal turnover occurred on November 24, 1992, when the helicopter carrier USS Belleau Wood departed Subic Bay for the last time.
Then-Olongapo Mayor and now Senator Richard Gordon was appointed the first Chairman of the SBMA, and with the help of 8,000 volunteers immediately set to work to carry out the mandate of RA 7227. Gordon’s tireless efforts paid off; in just four years, on November 24, 1996, Subic Bay hosted the leaders of 18 economies during the 4th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Summit. The world leaders were impressed with the rapid development of the emerging investment destination, which had already attracted companies such as Federal Express, computer giant Acer, the French telecom company Thomson SA, and Coastal Petroleum.
SBMA is presently led by Atty. Wilma Eisma, who serves as both chairman of SBMA’s 15-member Board of Directors and SBMA administrator. A graduate of the Ateneo De Manila University College of Law, Atty. Eisma came to SBMA after a fruitful 15-year career with the Philippine affiliate of Philip Morris International (PMI), PMFTC Inc. and Philip Morris Philippines Manufacturing Inc. (PMPMI). Earlier in her career, from 1993 to 1998, Atty. Eisma served as the Executive Assistant to the Chairman and member of the SBMA Legal Department.
A 10-point program
A large part of SBMA’s continuing success can be attributed to the 10-point program unveiled by Atty. Eisma shortly after her appointment by President Rodrigo Duterte as SBMA Chairperson and Administrator. The detailed program serves as a blueprint to carry out the vision and the day-to-day management of SBMA, and addresses:
Policy reforms and good governance, including boosting efforts to stamp out corruption and smuggling;
Promoting sustainable development, and maintaining SBMA’s reputation as a clean and environment-friendly business and tourist destination;
Improving public safety and security, including monitoring the safety programs of the Subic Bay Freeport’s locators, strengthening maritime security capabilities, and supporting the government’s campaign against illegal drugs;
Community engagement, through interactions with indigenous peoples and volunteers, national and local government units, and educational institutions;
Providing service excellence to business locators, cutting red tape and streamlining processes;
Promote the Subic Freeport as a gateway to the Philippines, particularly the northern part of the country, both as a seaport and by making greater use of the Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA);
Attract high-quality foreign direct investment (FDI), and ease doing business for micro, small, and medium enterprise (MSME) locators;
Make Subic a “Tourism Star” by creating a distinctive Subic brand, and promoting Subic Bay as a cruise destination;
Participate in the government’s “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure development initiative, which includes projects such as the Luzon Cargo Railway, the SBMA Corporate Center, and expansion of the P70.3-billion Naval Supply Depot facilities; and
Expand the Freeport through development of a masterplan for land use within the Special Economic and Freeport Zones, and study the feasibility of land reclamation to create new land area.
SBMA has experienced a number of noteworthy achievements over the years, confirming its status as one of the country’s top investment and business destinations. In just its first year, the Special Economic Zone and Freeport attracted 33 business locators, bringing $360 million in investment and hundreds of new jobs to the area.
The year 1995 saw the arrival of global shipping giant Fed Ex, and the inauguration of the Subic Bay International Airport by President Fidel V. Ramos. SBMA, already gaining attention among global business investors, received an even bigger introduction to the world the following year with its hosting of the 4th APEC Leaders’ Summit. In the same year, SBMA surpassed $2 billion worth of investments.
In 2004, construction began on Phase 1 and 2 of the Subic Bay Port Development Project, which has grown to become an important alternative to the crowded Manila port facilities, especially for businesses located in Central and Northern Luzon. In 2005, SBMA became the southern anchor of the RP-Taiwan Economic Corridor, with the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Economic Processing Zone of Taiwan and the Clark Economic Development Corporation. Subic Bay got its first taste of international sporting competition in 2005 as well, with the hosting of four events of the 23rd Southeast Asian Games.
In 2006, Hanjin Heavy Industries-Philippines announced the development of what would become the world’s second-largest shipyard at Subic Bay, pledging $1 billion in initial investment for a facility that would eventually grow to employ 30,000 people. While the shipyard has since closed, several international firms are assessing the feasibility of acquiring and reopening the state-of-the-art facility.
30th SEA Games
The Southeast Asian Games will be returning to the Subic area starting this week, with several events of the 30th SEA Games scheduled to be held at Subic.
Visitors and spectators will be able to enjoy Open Water Aquatic events at the Hanjin Boat Terminal at Cubi Point on December 10; Canoe and Kayak races at Malawaan Park on December 3 and 4; Traditional Boat races at Malawaan Park on December 7 and 8; the Chess competition, which will be held at the Subic Convention Center from December 1 through December 8; Beach Handball at the Subic Tennis Court on December 7 and 8; the Modern Pentathalon at the Subic Bay Boardwalk from December 4 through December 7; and the Muay Thai competition at the Subic Bay Exhibition Convention Center from December 3 through December 8.
In addition, the Pencak Silat competition will be held at the Subic Bay Exhibition Convention Center on December 2 through 4 and December 6; the Rowing competition at Triboa Bay on December 5 through 8; the Windsurfing and Sailing competitions, which begin on November 28 and 29, respectively, and end on December 9; the Shooting and Sepak Takraw competitions, both of which run from December 1 through December 10; the Table Tennis competition from December 6 through December 10; the Triathalon and Duathalon, held on December 1 and 4 and December 2 and 5, respectively; and the Beach Volleyball competition, on November 29 and from December 1 through December 6.