July 5, 2018

CAPAS, TARLAC—The government plans to start passenger operations for the Subic Bay International Airport by the first half of next year, Transport Secretary Arthur P. Tugade said Wednesday.

“We’re closely looking at making the Subic airport operational again,” Tugade said during the economic managers’ press briefing on the “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program at the site of the soon-to-rise National Government Administrative Center in New Clark City.

The revival of the airport at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone will complement development at the Clark Freeport Zone, as these two economic zones will be connected by a railway, Tugade said.

The transport chief said the planned reopening of the airport was in response to the request of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, the investment promotion agency that administers the free port.

To recall, the airport was abandoned by courier FedEx in 2009 after it relocated its Asian hub to China.

Tugade said the airport’s structure was still sound, but in terms of aviation safety standards, new airport equipment had to be acquired.

The Department of Transportation-attached Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines will fund the provision of navigation equipment, he said.

Operations will start by the first or second quarters of 2019, Tugade said.

Later asked by the Inquirer if the airport would cater to commercial or passenger operations, he said it would serve air passengers.

Last year, the SBMA said the upgrade of the equipment of Subic Bay International Airport would cost about $40 million.—Ben O. De Vera
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Updated July 3, 2018, 8:11 AM

Subic Bay Freeport is getting additional 24,725 hectares, majority of which come from neighboring towns, to expand the former American naval base which has been running out of space it can offer to new investors and expanding existing locators.

Of this expansion area, five neighboring towns have initially allotted a total of 21,495 hectares of land to the Subic Bay Freeport, which has been running out of property to lease to more investors in the former American naval base.

Data showed that six local government units have initially allotted these properties for Subic expansion. The biggest lot contributor is San Marcelino with 10,000-hectare allocation followed by San Antonio with 9,000, Olongapo with 900 hectares, Subic with 500-600 hectares, Hermosa 505 hectares, and Castillejos with 500 hectares.

Usually, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) leases out properties to investors at certain rates. Under the plan, the San Marcelino lot would be used for mining, quarry and agriculture projects while San Antonio has been reserved for resort development and leisure industry.

The Olongapo LGU allocation would be used for housing, light industry and tourism projects while the 500-600 hectares in Subic could be offered for factories, agriculture and energy facilities.

Hermosa may be developed to house light to heavy industry, renewable energy, metal industry and staging of trucks auctions. The Castillejos land allocation can also be used for light to medium industry warehousing.

The remaining properties would come from the Redondo Peninsula with 3,000 hectares; infill development of 150 hectares and reclamation of 20 hectares.

Earlier, SBMA chairperson and administrator, Wilma Eisma, also inked strategic tie-ups with major US ports for Subic’s expansion and business plans this 2018.

Port expansion is seen as a priority by SBMA in order to make Subic a global maritime trade player. In response to the growing demands of international trade, the SBMA plans to improve local infrastructures and develop industrial zones while increasing port capacity through national funding.

SBMA has set a target to fully develop the Subic Bay Freeport Zone by 2022. “Our priority is to make Subic a more open and competitive Freeport in international trade. With additional investment prospects in the works, Subic Bay is moving forward with positive momentum,” said Eisma.

SBMA reported a 34 percent net income in 2017 to P91 million from P68 million in 2016. Total revenues reached P3 billion or 4 percent higher than 2016’s P2.95 billion.

(c) Bernie Cahiles –Magkilat




June 29, 2018

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT: An investment and development group based here recently hosted some 150 investors from different countries in Asia to explore investment opportunities and be part of this rapidly growing economic and investment hub.

Samuel Lim, group chairman of Sinosun Subic Bay Holdings Corp.; Stefani Saño, senior deputy administrator of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA); and Olongapo City Mayor Rolen Paulino welcomed the investors from China, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and other countries who attended the Subic Bay Development and Investment Conference on Tuesday.

Lim told The Manila Times that the objective of the conference is to bring global investments to the Philippines and that Sinosun and its partners chose Subic Bay because “it is a freeport and a special economic zone and the most successful military base conversion.”

Sinosun, according to its website, plans to transform Subic Bay into a sustainable and well-rounded green, safe and smart city where there will be a balance between modernization and conservation of not only the environment but also its rich arts and culture.

It will showcase Subic Bay as a model city for development that can be replicated and applied to other regions of the Philippines targeting significant long-term growth in promoting infrastructural and economic development.

Lim said Sinosun and its partners, which include China State Construction, China Railway Construction, China Engineering Corp. China Hualu Group and China Overseas Holdings Group, as well as those involved in communication satellites, communication solutions and aerospace, are committed to employment creation in Subic Bay and beyond.

He also told visiting business delegations that Subic Bay is a separate territory within the Philippines where there is free flow of goods and services.

Sinosun’s plans involve the development of an industrial zone, a Subic Bay multi- functional transshipment port, a logistics center, a wind farm, a hydro electric power plant, a photo voltaic power station, coastal resorts and a five-star hotel and casino, all in the Redondo Peninsula.

In the existing central business district, Lim said there is also a plan to develop a ferry and cruise ship terminal, Subic Bay villas and resorts and a financial technology institute.

In the city of Olongapo, the group also plans to develop the Olongapo City Public Market and the Kalaklan Ridge.




June 26, 2018

Taiwan targets more than 300,000 Filipino tourists to visit this year, owing to the visa-free policy that has been in place since late 2017, a top official of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) said.

Alfred Y. H. Wang, Teco director under its economic division, said the number of tourists in the last quarter of last year almost doubled compared to the same three-month period in 2016.

Amid improving relations between the Philippines and China, Taiwan started offering visa-free treatment to Filipino tourists in November last year. This allowed Filipino tourists to travel to Taiwan for 14 days at a time.

According to official data from Taiwan’s Tourism Bureau, Filipino tourist arrivals increased by 68.59 percent to 290,784 last year from 172,475 in 2016.

The last quarter of 2017 alone saw an increase of about 70 percent to 90,000 Filipino tourists from 52,000 to 53,000 tourists in the comparative period in 2016, Wang said, who said it was due in part to the visa-free policy.

He noted that Taiwan intends to get 90,000 tourists for each quarter of 2018, hitting around 360,000 Filipino tourist arrivals.

However, the visa-free treatment, which only covers a 9-month trial period, is scheduled to end on July 31 this year, according to Teco’s official website.

“We try to negotiate with the Meco [Manila Economic and Cultural Office]. So, hopefully, it will still extend because this measurement can make filipinos know more about Taiwan,” he said.

(c) Roy Stephen C. Canivel
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June 25, 2018

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—Grab, Southeast Asia’s leading Internet-based ride-hailing and booking company, is receiving positive feedback for its plan to expand operations into the Subic Bay Freeport.

Grab Philippines Head for Expansion Carlo Cu Unjieng outlined last week the firm’s proposal for a Subic franchise and asked Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) officials for feedback on what riding platform would be appropriate in this special economic zone.

Cu Unjieng said the firm could position either a GrabTaxi or a GrabCar, or even a GrabBike operation in Subic, depending on the needs of the local riding public.

SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma welcomed the proposal, saying it would result in better transport services within Subic Freeport, especially now that cruise ships frequently visit the area to bring in foreign tourists.

“I am all for this because it is an alternative platform for the riding public who would want ease and convenience, as well as competitive rates,” Eisma said.

“Of course, this may pose a challenge to existing transport operators in and around the Freeport, but I happen to see it as an opportunity for everybody to step up and improve their services,” she added.

With this, Eisma advised Grab to also secure the approval of local government units around the Freeport, pointing out the neighboring communities would constitute a huge sector of the potential customers.

She said residents of Zambales and Bataan who work or do business in the Subic Bay Freeport would principally benefit should Grab gain a foothold into Subic and neighboring areas.

Based on responses to an informal survey conducted last week by the Subic Bay Community Center, a private social-media account, most residents are in favor of the introduction of Grab in the Subic area.

The commenters said they have been waiting for an improved transport system that charges reasonable fare and provides fast, reliable service.

Still, some respondents worried the move might cause more traffic in the Freeport, while some suggested the taxi service operating here be converted to Grab units.

Other respondents expressed hope that Grab also operate in Olongapo City and Subic, Zambales, which are both local population centers.

Grab, which originated in Singapore, now operates in seven countries—Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, Cambodia and the Philippines, where it is present in major urban centers in Manila, Cebu, Davao, Bacolod, Iloilo, Baguio, Cagayan de Oro, Angeles City and Balanga, Bataan.

Eisma said Grab is primarily needed in the Subic Freeport to modernize the local transportation system and revolutionize how Subic business locators, workers and visitors are being ferried in and around this growing business and industrial center.

(c) Henry Empeño



The Philippines fell in terms of digital competitiveness in 2018 to land among those at the bottom 10 in the world.

This was according to the 2018 World Digital Competitiveness (WDC) ranking, published by the International Institute for Management Development and released in the country with its local partner, the Asian Institute of Management’s Rizalino S. Navarro Policy Center for Competitiveness.

The WDC said the Philippines ranked No. 56 out of 63 countries. The list was topped by the United States, followed by Singapore, Sweden, Denmark and Switzerland.

Based on the latest WDC, now on its second edition, the Philippines fell 10 notches compared to its 2017 score. At the bottom were Venezuela (63rd), Indonesia (62nd), Mongolia (61st), Peru (60th) and Colombia (59th).

“The objective of the digital ranking is to assess the extent to which a country adopts and explores digital technologies leading to transformation in government practices, business models and society in general,” a portion of the report showed.

The latest WDC used 50 indicators categorized under knowledge, technology and future readiness.

Knowledge refers to intangible infrastructure and includes factors such as talent, training and education. Technology refers to the underlying regulatory and technology framework. It includes investments in technology-related developments.

Finally, future readiness refers to the readiness of an economy to assume digital transformation. Included here are business agility and IT integration. The WDC noted that 60 percent of its indicators were based on statistics while the remainder was based on an executive opinion survey.

The Philippines’ highest-ranked factor was knowledge at 50th, which was driven by the talent sub-factor.

The country’s lowest ranked factor was technology, at 58th.

(c) Miguel R. Camus

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For three days last week, the Manila Economic and Cultural Office and the Philippine Trade and Investment Center Taipei sponsored a business forum which was held at the Howard Plaza in the city’s Da-an district.

Flying in from the Philippines were Chairperson and Administrator Wilma Eisma of Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, Vice-President Evangeline Tejada of Clark Development Corporation, Linda Pamintuan, Executive Director of Subic and Clark Alliance for Development, Jonathan Defensor de Luzuriaga, President of the Philippine Software Industry Association, executives of the Cagayan Export Zone Authority as well as a representative of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority to present their selling points as investment destinations to Taiwanese businessmen.

Also invited as a major resource person to give Taiwan businessmen an overview of the Philippine economy was Jonathan Ravelas, first vice-president and chief market strategist of BDO Unibank Inc., which has been actively helping us in sponsoring such investment promotion activities.

Some 300 businessmen packed the ballroom of the Howard Plaza to listen to our major economic zones present their advantages as an investment destination.

A senior executive of the Ministry of the Office of Economic Affairs (a combined National Economic and Development Authority And Department of Trade and Industry parallel ministry), Liang-Tsai Chen spoke about the mantle of protection to Taiwanese and Filipino investors afforded by the revised Bilateral Investment Agreement which was signed in Manila last December 2017 between the Manila Economic and Cultural Office and the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office resident representatives.  The Philippines was the first Asean country to sign a new set of rules and regulations to protect investors from both economies.

This was to lay the predicate for our push to invite more businessmen to invest in our country, through our economic zones which provide incentives for foreign investments, as well as into our tourism industry which lacks adequate infrastructure and support services.

What really got the audience of hard-nosed businessmen was the testimonial of Hugh Lo, Vice-President of the New Kinpo Group, a manufacturing firm that has through less than a decade already set up five factories for various electronic and electric products in our privately owned economic zones, mostly in the Calabarzon area.

Lo spoke in lieu of New Kinpo CEO Simon Shen, a good friend of the Philippines who was on a business trip to Europe, where the company has several big clients from all over the continent. He spoke about our young and excellent labor force, especially female workers who are easy to train and show meticulous consistency in quality of work.  He also praised the forms of assistance given to their factories by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority as well as local officials of Batangas and Laguna, and pointed to the Duterte administration’s Build, Build, Build program which would enhance the competitiveness of the Philippines as an investment destination.

The forum was followed in succeeding days by visits to industry associations such as the Taiwan Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers Association, the Shin Kong Group, one of Taiwan’s biggest conglomerates, the Industrial Technology Research Institute, Taiwan Information Service Industry Association and Taiwan’s National Federation of Industries.

CNFI’s member industry associations constitute one-third of Taiwan’s GDP and employs also a third of the entire island’s work force.  There were very frank and business-like exchanges of views, where Taiwanese businessmen were able to explain their concerns and comparisons candidly drawn between the Philippine investment environment vis-à-vis other Asean countries.

Through it all, we were assisted by our hard-working Trade Representative and Director for Commercial Affairs, Michael Alfred V. Ignacio—who has had previous postings in Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Belgium and New Delhi—as well as his Mandarin-speaking staff.

The Meco recently moved to a new office in Neihu, which is the new business district of Taipei. It now houses in one floor and under one roof not only Meco staff but also our Trade, Labor and Tourism offices.  Previously, Philippine personnel were scattered in different offices, making it difficult to coordinate activities, and especially hassling for our OFW’s who had to shuttle from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (which included OWWA, SSS, even Pag-IBIG) to Meco for their consular needs.

One important assessment of these engagements, and similar such for a held last year which we intend to bring to our policy-makers in Manila and the political leadership is for a single “Philippines, Incorporated” approach in selling the country to foreign investors.

This means that while we highlight each economic zone’s comparative advantage, we do not compete, but rather promote the entire Philippine economy through targeted marketing with a unified and cohesive approach.  Ceza in Cagayan should for instance harp on proximity, proximity, proximity, while the more established economic zones like Subic and Clark can tout their ready-made infrastructure.

There are so many things we yet have to do to increase the level of FDIs coming in to our country.  Build, Build, Build intends to get our woeful infrastructure upgraded in a catch-up game with our neighbors who had the prescience and political will to develop their economic and physical infrastructure while we were playing too much politics and involving ourselves in less important pre-occupations.

Taiwan is an excellent example, along with South Korea, of economies which focused on the right things at the right time.  Their phenomenal growth through four decades is testimony to policy consistency and serious, purposive implementation.  The same can be said of China, from the time Deng Xiao Ping opened up the economy which became an astonishing powerhouse in just a little more than a generation.

We may be a late bloomer in comparison, but now our country is getting into the groove of things, and there is plenty of work to be done.

The recent business forum and the exchanges with the business community of our country’s nearest neighbor constitute building blocks towards enhanced economic relationships.  It takes plodding and concerted efforts, especially to link our small and medium-scale entrepreneurs to theirs, these SMEs being the sinews of each other’s economy.


(c)  Lito Banayo


TAIPEI — President Rodrigo Duterte may have heavily relied on mainland China for support for his “Build, Build, Build” program, but Taiwan also wants to take part in the massive infrastructure push.

The Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office, which acts as its de facto embassy, has approached several Philippine government agencies to “find out exactly what the Philippines needs.”

This was disclosed by Peter Shih, who negotiates with the Philippines for the Office of Trade Negotiations, to eight journalists from Indo-Pacific countries who were invited to Taiwan last week.

“Regarding infrastructure policies, which is ‘Build, Build, Build,’ our representative office in Manila has already approached your relevant government agencies for potential projects,” Shih said.

Still in discussion

He did not divulge specific details because “it’s still in the process of discussion and in that stage of fact-finding to try to find out exactly … what kind of Philippine needs can be best met by Taiwan’s [official development assistance (ODA)] initiatives.”

“I think it takes a little more time before both sides can get into consensus on what kind of projects we agree to look up,” Shih said.

Amelia W.J. Day, director of the First Bilateral Trade Division under the Ministry of Economic Affairs Bureau of Foreign Trade, said such ODA initiatives would form part of Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy.

Bullet trains

“We are looking forward in the future, there are some infrastructure projects, including bridges, trains, bullet trains, etc., those are the kinds of projects,” Day said.

Taiwan is known for its well-developed freeway system and a high-speed train system along its west coast that allow people to cross the entire island in as little as two hours.

The policy, an initiative of the Taiwanese government under President Tsai Ing-wen, seeks to enhance Taiwan’s economic and social cooperation with countries in South and Southeast Asia, including the Philippines. This is meant to wean Taiwan off its reliance on trade with the mainland.

But under the “One China” policy, the Philippines does not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, which mainland China considers its breakaway province.

‘Balancing game’

In a turnaround from the Aquino administration’s cold relations due to the maritime dispute in the South China Sea, Mr. Duterte has publicly professed his “love” for Chinese President Xi Jinping and his “need” for the Asian powerhouse’s support.

Shih, however, said such strong relations with mainland China should not serve as a stumbling block for Taiwan’s efforts to reach out to Indo-Pacific countries to the south.

“President Duterte has his policy to balance between the [United States], Japan and Chinese influences. Everybody’s playing the balancing game, for maximizing its own benefits,” Shih said. “It’s, I mean, natural. Everybody’s playing the game.”
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(c) Vince F. Nonato


SBMA Vows Consistency for Better Business Climate

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) vowed to continue instituting good governance measures and policy reforms to build a better business climate in this premier free port in consonance with national government efforts to keep the Philippines number one among the best countries to invest in.

SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma said that aside from stressing the need for a consistent implementation of laws and policies governing investors in the Subic Bay Freeport, the agency is streamlining its permitting system in anticipation of greater investment yields here.

“Our primary thrust now is to improve our business processes because we want to be responsive to the needs of our locators,” said Eisma.

“We have just established a One Stop Shop where business processes are fully automated, and next month we will put into effect the 3-year validity for both the Certificate of Registration (CR) and the Certificate of Registration and Tax Exemption (CRTE), which previously had to be renewed annually,” she added.

She also said that her office has taken over the approval and release of CRTEs to further speed up the issuance of this important business document.

Eisma said the drive for a more investor-friendly climate in Subic is in keeping with President Duterte’s orders for transparency and good governance.

As a result of these initiatives, business processing time has been greatly reduced as of last year by 17% for admission permits, by 22% for declaration of admission, and by 83% for export declaration.

At the same time, the SBMA waived the $200 accreditation fee for all port-related businesses from October to December last year 2017, as part of its open-window access initiative. The same offer has been revived effective April to December this year to entice more businesses at the Port of Subic.

“We have made life easier for our locators, and we continue to strive towards this goal,” Eisma said, pointing out that the SBMA Board of Directors had already approved the reduction of documentary requirements for issuance of business registration, and, at the same time, allowed the off-site processing of SBMA ID’s to better serve investor needs.

She added that the SBMA “is working towards continuous improvement of its system, and we will implement necessary changes as long as they would not be disadvantageous to the SBMA and the government.”

At the same time, the SBMA chief clarified that the Subic agency would be strictly implementing existing policies that are meant to promote productivity and opportunity for all stakeholders in the Subic Bay Freeport.

Eisma said that along this line, the SBMA has already repossessed SBMA facilities that some business locators have left idle and unimproved, revoked the lease and development contract of investors that failed to meet their obligations, and implemented a stringent policy to collect SBMA receivables, as approved by the Board of Directors.

“There may have been some laxity in the past, but change has come, and the SBMA now strives to manage Subic with transparency, impartiality, and consistency,” Eisma stressed. “These, we believe, will bring about better business, economic sustainability, and equal opportunity for all — the very reason why the Subic Bay Freeport was created.”


April 18, 2018

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—More international shipping companies are now using the Port of Subic as their shipping gateway, according to the top executive of Subic Bay International Terminal Corp. (SBITC).

SBITC President Roberto Locsin said more shipping lines have partnered with his company to expand their footprint in the Philippine market and are now finding Subic to be an “excellent alternative gateway to Manila.”

Locsin noted one of these as MCC Transport Singapore Pte. Ltd., a cargo-shipping specialist for the Maersk Group, which started to use the Subic terminals in four years ago to increase its presence in the Central and Northern Luzon market.

He said MCC Transport now provides feeder services for a wide range of regional and global beneficial cargo owners and manages all Intra-Asia containerized cargo for the Maersk Group.

Another Subic port user is Hong Kong-based SITC International Holdings Co., Ltd., a leading shipping logistics company in the intra-Asia area, which has successfully tapped the Filipino market by opening opportunities for clients from Northern Luzon to lessen costs in delivering products to their target market.

Locsin credits his firm’s “efficiency and high-quality cargo- and container-handling services” for the decision of SITC to expand its operations.

He also noted his firm’s partnership with Evergreen Marine Corp. (Taiwan) Ltd. beginning this month and which focuses on target VIP clients for use of the Subic port.

As of now, more than 20 shipping lines make regular calls at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, according to figures provided by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority. These include international shipping firms like Singapore-based American President Lines, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines of Japan, Wan Hai Lines, K Line, South Korea’s Hanjin Shipping and Maersk Line of Denmark.

The other lines using Subic for transshipment are Avega Bros. Integrated Shipping Corp., Baliwag Navigation Inc., Chealsea Shipping Corp., Eastern Shipping Corp., Fortune Sea Carrier Inc., Matsya Shipping Lines Corp., NYK Fil-Japan Shipping Corp., Ocean Tankers Corp., Petrotrade Philippines Inc., Seen Sam Shipping Inc., Shinline Sdn BhdT, Sinotrans Shipping, SITC Container Lines Philippines Inc., Swire Shipping, T. Madsen Shipping Philippines Inc., Teekay Shipping Philippines and Uni-Ship Inc.

Locsin said the SBITC strategically serves the industries within the Subic free port and those in Northern and Central Luzon. He added the company has now included interisland Philippine barge service to connect customers from Palawan, the Visayas and Mindanao with a transshipment port.

Aside from managing the Subic container terminals, SBITC offers cargo-handling services for 20-foot and 40-foot equivalent unit container vans, as well as 45-foot boxes for full container load and specialized cargo.

(c) Henry Empeño