January 28, 2018


Wilma T. Eisma speaks about the growing maritime business in Subic during a Hanjin ship completion ceremony last week. The Korean firm has invested $2.3 billion in its Subic shipyard operation.

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) is optimistic of sustained investment growth in the Subic Bay Freeport this year following a record P2.54 billion in total fresh commitments generated here in 2017.

SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma, in an upbeat tone last week, said the Subic agency expects investment projects in 2018 would top the record last year when Subic was hailed by the London-based International Finance Magazine  as the fastest-growing free-trade zone in Asia.

“We recorded a total of 176 new investment proposals and 63 expansion projects proposed by existing investor-companies last year, but we anticipate more investments this year because we’re opening new areas for development,” Eisma said.

“At the same time, we’re putting more value into existing facilities so that we could attract more takers,” she added.

Data from the SBMA Business and Investment Group (SBMA-BIG) indicated the Subic agency processed 56 new investment projects in the first quarter of 2017, 27 in the second quarter, 49 in the third and 44 in the last quarter to generate a total of P1,448,358,341 in committed investments last year.

The new investment commitments made last year also yielded a projected employment total of 2,667.

Meanwhile, the 63 expansion projects sealed last year delivered a total of P1,088,313,616 in new investments and 821 additional jobs.

Investment generation in Subic last year could also be gauged by the number of business permits processed by the SBMA: A total of 1,221 certificates of registration  and certificates of registration and tax exemption, compared to a target of 806 certificates.

These permits authorized holders to operate as business entities inside the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.

Eisma pointed out the SBMA-BIG reported actual revenue generation at P1.23 billion as of November 2017. This was P353 million more than the target of P913 million for last year.

“Compared to the actual revenue of P1.15 billion in 2016, the P1.23 billion that SBMA-BIG earned last year was higher by P83.2 million or 7.23 percent,” Eisma added.

The agency should have recorded much bigger investment commitments and projected employment had the Dynamic Konstruk project at the Redondo Peninsula pushed through, she said.

“That alone would have brought in P40 billion in investments and 50,000 new jobs, but we revoked the lease and development agreement after the project proponent failed to meet its obligations,” Eisma said.

Still, SBMA will open up the Redondo Peninsula for further development this year upon the completion of a new master plan for the area.

Eisma said they have identified 3,000 hectares at the peninsula that would be ideal for port operations, fuel storage, wind-  and solar-energy generation, as well as industrial-estate development.

“We’re also seeking to invest in new road networks to increase the value of idle land and facilities within the free port and to move away from the ‘as-is-where-is’ policy that leaves investors to develop the area they were leasing,” Eisma said.

She added the SBMA is also looking into a proposal to extend the validity of business registration here from one to three years to promote customer satisfaction, improve business operations and attract more investments.

The Subic Bay Freeport is now home to more than 1,500 investor-companies with more than $11 billion in total cumulative investments and employing a total work force of more than 124,000 employees.

(c) Henry Empeño




January 24, 2018

The Philippines’ growth rate is the fastest in the region after China’s 6.9 percent and Vietnam’s 6.8 percent. Despite the country’s GDP expansion, more Filipinos said they experienced hunger last December.

The Philippine economy, as measured by the gross domestic product (GDP), grew 6.7 percent in 2017, among the fastest in the region despite a slowdown in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry.

In the fourth quarter, GDP grew at a slower rate of 6.6 percent, a pace similar to that a year ago but slower than the 7-percent expansion in the third quarter.

GDP, the total value of goods produced and services rendered in a given period, does not measure well-being or inequality.

The economy grew last year, though slower than the 6.9 percent posted in 2016, even as more Filipinos said they experienced hunger last December, indicating that the benefits of economic expansion did not trickle down to the poor.

News of the GDP expansion also came in the wake of an Oxfam report that the richest 1 percent cornered 82 percent of the wealth generated in 2017, while the poorest half of humanity got nothing.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said the GDP growth last year was the fastest in the region after China’s 6.9 percent and Vietnam’s 6.8 percent.

“The [growth] was good but lower than expectations,” said Jonathan Ravelas, chief strategist at the country’s leading lender BDO Unibank.

Ravelas, however, said “the recovery in consumption and further improvement in government spending highlighted the underlying strength of the economy.”

Growth slightly slowed last year in the absence of election-related spending that boosted growth in 2016, according to Pernia.

He noted that GDP growth rates in 2005 and 2011—both postelection years—dove deeper to 4.8 percent from 6.7 percent in 2004 and to 3.7 percent from 7.6 percent in 2010, respectively.

“You can see that our decline is really very moderate at 0.2 percent of 1 percentage point,” he said.

Pernia acknowledged that the BPO industry, worth $23 billion and employing 1.15 million people, was a “major contributing factor to this decline.”

The sector, which has become a major pillar of the Philippine economy, includes call centers and offices that carry out such functions for overseas companies as accounting, medical and legal transcription, software design, animation and even architecture.

Growth drivers

Industry officials said investment fell 31.3 percent year-on-year in the three months to last June, with threats by US President Donald Trump to bring back jobs outsourced abroad cited as a key factor.

There was also concern in the Philippines that automation and artificial intelligence could eventually steal call-center jobs.

National Statistician Lisa Grace S. Bersales said manufacturing, trade, as well as real estate, renting and business activities were the growth drivers in the fourth quarter.

From October to December, the industry sector grew 7.3 percent year-on-year; services, 6.8 percent; and agriculture, 2.4 percent, reversing the 1.3-percent decline in the same three-month period in 2016, Bersales said.

Services contributed 3.9 percentage points to total GDP growth; industry, 2.5 percentage points; and agriculture, 0.3 percentage point, Bersales said on Tuesday.

In the fourth quarter, robust government spending on public goods and services as well as double-digit growth in external merchandise trade sustained the economic expansion—the 10th straight quarter that GDP growth was above 6 percent.


“Growth in the fourth quarter was backed by robust growth of 14.3 percent in public spending—that was really the main driver, public spending—which was an increase from 4.5 percent in the previous year,” Bersales said.

On the expenditure side, Pernia said external demand improved with growth in exports of goods bouncing back to 20.2 percent from 17.2 percent in the third quarter, offsetting the services exports sector’s slowdown to 12.6 percent from 19.9 percent.

Pernia said domestic demand growth strengthened to 7.3 percent in the fourth quarter from 6.4 percent in the third.

He said fixed investments accelerated to 9.3 percent with growth in durable equipment improving to more than 12.1 percent, indicating businesses’ continued confidence in the long-term prospects of the economy.

In line with the “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program, public construction spending jumped by a fourth in the last quarter, according to Pernia.

Slowing capital formation

April Lynn Lee-Tan, head of research at leading online stock brokerage COL Financial, said growth decelerated in the fourth quarter due to the slower increase in capital formation or investments.

In a research note, Tan noted that growth in capital formation reached 8.2 percent year-on-year in the fourth quarter, down from 8.7 percent in the third, bringing full-year capital formation growth to 9 percent, down from 23.7 percent in 2016.

This was in turn attributed to the significant drop in private sector construction growth to 3.3 percent in 2017 from 11.5 percent in 2016.

(c) Ben O. de Vera and Doris Dumlao-Abadilla


SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—To fully realize the status of the Subic Bay Freeport as a port of entry, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) is seeking the regularization of passport processing here, as well as the eventual establishment of a Philippine consular office to serve residents of the Subic Bay area and nearby communities.

SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma said she has requested the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to conduct passport processing here at least twice a year and later on, to establish full consular services at the Subic Bay Freeport.

“The plan is to start with a passport-issuance office, which will evolve into a consular-affairs office,” Eisma said in a news briefing on Monday.

“This will be among our corporate social responsibility projects to help residents of neighboring towns, as well as assist the DFA in their mission to promote and protect Philippine interests in the global community,” she added.

Eisma made this announcement after the successful conduct of a mobile-passport processing jointly conducted by the DFA and the SBMA at the Ayala Harbor Point Mall here on January 13.

She said 700 passport applications were processed by visiting DFA personnel led by Office of the Consular Affairs Regional Center Chief Bayani Sibug with assistance from the SBMA technical working group (TWG)  headed by SBMA Office Services Department chief Gerardo Hermoso Jr.

“We received an overwhelming number of requests from residents for another passport-processing project, as a lot of residents were disappointed to find out that no walk-in applicants were entertained,” Eisma said. “So we would try to make this a regular project for the benefit of local residents.”

Hermoso said the applications processed on January 13 were actually filed for prequalification last October.

The passport-processing project was reportedly intended for SBMA employees only, as part of the agency’s 25th founding anniversary program last year, but was later on extended to include immediate family members of SBMA employees to fill the 750 slots given by the DFA.

The applications and requirements accepted by the SBMA TWG were sent to the DFA office in Manila for verification to hasten processing time during the data-capturing phase of the processing here, Hermoso said.

Eisma said that, with the growing clamor from residents, the SBMA is now coordinating with the DFA for the next passport application-processing project.

“Hopefully, we will have another one by the fourth quarter, and that will be a regular event,” she said.

In August last year, President Duterte signed Republic Act 10928, which extended the validity of Philippine passports, by amending the Philippine Passport Act of 1996.

Eisma said the SBMA will announce the schedule of the next mobile-passport processing project via radio, as well as social-media announcements.

(c) Henry Empeño


January 11, 2018

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) ended the past year with P1.2 billion in revenue generated from its seaport operations, posting a 3-percent annual increase on account of a 12-percent hike in the volume of containerized cargo processed in the Subic port.

SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma said the SBMA Seaport Department collected a total of P1,173,720,042 in revenue in the January-to-December period last year, compared to the P1.137 billion it made in 2016.

Eisma also attributed the growth in seaport income to “the continuing effort of the SBMA Seaport Department to upgrade its process flow.” She said this has minimized transaction time and attracted more importers and exporters to use the Port of Subic.

SBMA seaport figures indicated the volume of containerized cargo grew to 139,980 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in 2017, from just 124,707, TEUs in 2016.

This increase in containerized cargo had reportedly offset a 6-percent decrease last year in the volume of noncontainerized cargo, which fell to only 6,646,322 metric tons as against 7,071,444 metric tons in 2016.

SBMA data also showed that its Seaport Department processed 66,172 TEUs of imported containerized products in 2017, a 9-percent increase over the 60,593 TEUs processed in 2016.

Meanwhile, the department processed 25,007 TEUs of exported containerized products last year, which was 6 percent higher than the 23,527 TEUs in 2016.

The increase in import-export volume that passed through the Port of Subic also resulted in a significant increase of containerized cargoes transshipped in the free port: 1,462 TEUs from January to December 2017 against 368 TEUs in 2016, or an increase of 297 percent.

Jerome Martinez, head of the SBMA Seaport Department, said much of the increase in revenue was due to the growth in imported products like vehicle parts by Foton Motor Philippines Inc.; paper materials by Trust International Paper Corp.; and rubber by Yokohama Tire Philippines Inc., which were all sourced from Japan.

He said an increase in export revenue could also be attributed to increased export of tires by Yokohama Tires Philippines to Japan; Juken Sangyo Philippines for veneer lumber also to Japan; and HLD Clark Steel Pipe Co. for steel pipes to the United States.

Another factor in seaport revenue growth, Martinez said, was the implementation of Republic Act 10668, also known as the Foreign Ships Co-Loading Act, which allowed arriving or departing ships to carry a foreign cargo to its Philippine port of final destination, after being cleared at its port of entry or exit.

“This law tends to decrease, in some instances, vessel activities going to the Port of Subic, particularly in the importation and exportation of goods,” Martinez said.

“However, transshipment activities also increased.”

The devaluation of the peso against the US dollar and the unstable global price of crude oil in the world market, which caused a decline of the importation of petroleum products, also buoyed Subic seaport income, Martinez added.

Eisma expressed optimism for the Port of Subic this year, pointing out that one of the world’s largest cruise ships will be arriving here in June for a 12-hour tour of the Subic Bay area.

Eisma said the cruise-vacation giant Royal Caribbean International had confirmed this development after company officials led by Dr. Zinan Liu spent a two-day assessment of the Subic Bay area last December for the purpose of including Subic in the itinerary of RCI’s Asian cruise program.

(c) Henry Empeño



The World Bank expects the Philippines to sustain robust economic growth in the next three years even as public investments are seen slowing down.

“The Philippines will continue to be the fastest-growing economy in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), despite some stabilization of investment growth,” the Washington-based multilateral lender said in its January 2018 Global Economic Prospects report released Wednesday morning (Philippine time).

The World Bank projected the Philippines’ gross domestic product (GDP) to grow 6.7 percent in 2018 and 2019, before slightly slowing to 6.5 percent in 2020.

The World Bank’s forecasts for the next three years were nonetheless below the government’s target range of 7-8 percent annual GDP growth from 2018 to 2022.

“In some Asean economies, such as Indonesia and the Philippines, supportive monetary policy had spurred investment and, hence, capital accumulation in the wake of the global financial crisis,” the World Bank said.

“Rapid capital accumulation has also reflected infrastructure upgrades. In the Philippines, improved macroeconomic policy management and the government’s public-private partnership initiative have boosted capital accumulation,” the lender added.

However, the World Bank sees a slowing pace of capital accumulation reducing potential growth in the East Asia and Pacific region.

“The steepest slowdowns in capital accumulation are expected in China, where policy efforts to rein in credit growth continue, and the Philippines, where a surge in public investment is expected to fade,” it said.

The World Bank said the Philippines could finance its sizeable infrastructure investment needs by raising additional revenues.

In December, the World Bank raised its 2017 growth forecast to 6.7 percent from the previous projection of 6.6 percent as part of its quarterly forecast exercise to reflect recent economic trends.

The revised 2017 forecast remained within the government target of 6.5-7.5 percent.

The government will announce the 2017 fourth-quarter and full-year GDP performance later this month.

The economy grew by an average of 6.7 percent in the first three quarters of last year.

“In the Philippines, growth decelerated slightly to a still-solid 6.7 percent as the impact of election-related spending in 2016 dissipated,” the World Bank noted in the report.

(c) Ben O. de Vera
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Updated December 31, 2017, 4:45 PM

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT – Around P40-million worth of liquor was seized by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) during a smuggling attempt on Christmas Eve inside this premier Freeport.

According to SBMA Chair Wilma Eisma, the SBMA Law Enforcement Department seized a total of 1,321 boxes of expensive liquor from a closed van that was about to leave Subic Bay Freeport through the 14th gate on December 24. She added that a 40-footer container van parked at the Subic Seaport Terminal was also seized as part of the smuggling attempt.

“Some unscrupulous parties wanted to take advantage of the Christmas season to try to pull away illegal activities in the Freeport, but this only proves that the SBMA Law Enforcement Department is ready at all times to do its duty,” Eisma said after receiving the report.

“This is a job well done by the SBMA and another huge failure for those who try to use Subic for their smuggling operation,” Eisma added.

According to a report by Maj. Vicente Tolentino, head of the SBMA Law Enforcement Department, the seized contraband included 54 bottles of Remy Martin Louis XIII, and eight boxes of Remy Martin Centaure De Diamant.

Tolentino said the SBMA police began the operation on Christmas Eve after a tipster informed them that a closed van and a Nissan Patrol SUV would attempt to smuggle contraband from the Freeport.

He said that operatives posted along the Argonaut Highway monitored the vehicles and tailed them to the 14th Street Gate where they were stopped by sentries.

The Fuso van, bearing File No. 036404 of BCR Trucking, was driven by 41-year old Julio Flores, along with helper Marvin Arcega, 46 years old. The two failed to present necessary documents when accosted by the police, Tolentino said.

The van contained 275 boxes of Remy Martin Cognac Champagne, 448 boxes of Martini, 66 boxes of Remy Martin XO, 17 boxes of Remy Martin Champagne, 8 boxes of Remy Martin Louis XIII, 8 boxes of Remy Martin Centaure De Diamant, 7 boxes of Remy Martin Club, and 7 boxes of Remy Martin.

A follow-up operation on Thursday led operatives to a white Isuzu Giga cab with the markings “Sinfa Logistics Inc.”, which was parked at the Subic Seaport Terminal in the Boton Wharf.

The 40-footer container van on its trailer contained the rest of the contraband: 333 boxes of Remy Martin, 196 boxes of Remy Martin XO, 1 box of Remy Martin Club, 1 box of Martini, 2 boxes of Remy Martin, and 10 boxes of Remy Martin Louis XIII.

Tolentino said the SBMA police conducted an inventory of the smuggled items last Thursday and Friday in the presence of representatives from the Bureau of Customs, the SBMA Seaport Department and members of the media.

On Friday, Tolentino formally turned over the items and the vehicles containing them to Ciriaco Ugay, OIC-Collector of the Bureau of Customs in the Port of Subic.

(c) Jonas Reyes