February 26, 2018

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—Bangkok-based Mahanakorn Partners Group Co. Ltd. will be undertaking feasibility studies of major infrastructure projects to be built here under the government’s transportation-infrastructure development program.

The Thai holding company, with interests in business consulting, legal and trade finance, as well as property management and development, signed here last week a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) to conduct the studies free of charge.

The agreement was signed by MPG managing partner Luca Bernardinetti and SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma.

Eisma said the Subic agency proposed the projects under the “Greater Subic Bay Freeport Multimodal Transport and Access and Logistics Support Projects” program, which was designed in support of President Duterte’s “10 point agenda” to accelerate infrastructure spending and pump-prime economic development through productivity, trade and investment.

The projects are expected to be funded through the P3.1-trillion allocation for transportation-infrastructure development set by the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) under the country’s P7.27-trillion infrastructure development requirements.

“The projects focus on the different infrastructure developments to be established in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone to catalyze its upgrading toward being a premier free port zone in Asia and the Pacific,” Eisma said.

“We want to help resolve congestion at the Port of Manila and ease traffic gridlock in the metropolis, while shifting the momentum of development north toward the corridor of new wealth in Subic and Clark,” she added.

Under the MOU, Mahanakorn Partners will gauge the viability of three major infrastructure projects proposed for the Subic Bay Freeport.

These are the construction of a 17.273-kilometer bypass road connecting the Subic seaport terminals directly to the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx); construction of a 17-kilometer bypass road Subic seaport to Segment 7 of the North Luzon Expressway (Nlex), a two-lane, cargo-truck expressway and railway system and a 25-kilometer bypass road from Tipo Road in Bataan to Castillejos, Zambales; and the upgrading of the Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA).

The first project is designed to provide exclusive routes for cargoes brought in and out of Subic Freeport, while the second proposal seeks to open up a 3,000 hectare new industrial site at Subic’s Redondo Peninsula near the Hanjin shipyard.

(c) Henry Empeño



February 20, 2018

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—Billionaire businessman Lucio Tan is setting his sights on Subic Bay, arriving here over the weekend for an ocular inspection of the Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA).

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma, who welcomed the mogul at the tarmac last Sunday, said the chairman and CEO of Philippine Airlines (PAL),  is looking into the establishment here of a flying school under his flagship airlines brand.

Tan, with several aides, closely inspected the SBIA passenger terminal and reportedly asked for areas that could possibly be used for restaurants or passenger lounges.

Eisma, meanwhile, briefed him of the design and purpose of the terminal and pointed out it used to accommodate local and international flights.

A rolling tour of the Freeport later brought Tan and his team to the Alava Wharf, where cruise ships are set to make port calls on a regular basis this year, as well as to the residential areas in Cubi, the district near the Subic airport.

Eisma said throughout the visit, Tan kept inquiring about the state of facilities at the airport terminal, as well as other business potentials and tourism facilities that would complement an aviation-related trade.

The business magnate also asked if there were enough hotels that could accommodate the possible influx of airline passengers in Subic.

“He was all smiles since the moment he landed at the SBIA onboard his helicopter,” Eisma recalled. “The SBMA technical working group made a presentation showing the full potential of the Subic airport and I believe he was very much impressed.”

The SBIA, which was completed in 1996 in time for Subic’s hosting of the Apec summit, boasts of a 10,000-square-meter passenger terminal that has two gates, two jet ways, a closed-circuit television system and a 9,000-foot runway.

Eisma said while the SBIA equipment are not being fully utilized, they all work properly because the agency has been keeping them in tip-top shape.

The Subic airport also has a military ramp at the southwest area, which is used by US Air Force planes under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and the United States. Meanwhile, its midway ramp is being utilized by a flight school here for aircraft parking.

Early this month, leaders of the Hong Kong-based Asian Business Aviation Association said in a forum  here the SBIA could be developed as a business and general aviation airport to help increase people mobility, as well as boost business operations in the region.

Eisma said the agency is now aggressively promoting Subic as an aviation hub and is entertaining all possible options to maximize the use of its airport facilities.

“It is a challenge to us to get SBIA running. We’re all for these suggestions to turn Subic into an aviation hub that would cater to tourists, as well as traders, because that would mean more business for the Freeport,” she added.

(c) Henry Empeño


February 15, 2018


Metropolitan Authority, signs an agreement for the staging of Ad Summit Pilipinas 2018 with (from left): 4As President Sue Ann Nolido, Ad Summit 2018 Chairman Norman Agatep and 4As Philippines Chairman Bong Pacia.

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—Ad Summit Pilipinas, the country’s biggest advertising and marketing event, will be staged at the Subic Bay Exhibition and Convention Center  in this free port from March 7 to 10, marking the return here of this biennial gathering of industry practitioners.

Organizers from the Association of Accredited Advertising Agencies (4As) said the event is expected to be a jam-packed assembly, with speakers focusing on new paradigms and innovative-creative solutions to effect financial, as well as social, impact.

On Tuesday 4As Philippines Chairman Bong Pacia, 4As President Sue Ann Nolido, Ad Summit 2018 Chairman Norman Agatep and Wilma T. Eisma, chairman and administrator of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), signed an agreement for the hosting of the convention here.

Under the signed memorandum of agreement, SBMA will provide the venue and manpower needed to stage Ad Summit Pilipinas, with the agency’s Tourism, Media Production and Law Enforcement departments providing key support to the organizers.

This will be the third time for Subic to host Ad Summit Pilipinas. The advertising and marketing convention debuted here in May 2014 under the title “Age of Enlightenment.” Two years later, Subic again hosted the event with the theme “Come Out and Play.”

Eisma said the return of Ad Summit Pilipinas “again shows just how much the Subic Bay Freeport has become the top-of-mind location for the biggest event in the local advertising industry.”

She noted the 4As convention had historically brought a record-number of visitors to Subic. This year, the expected 5,000-strong convention attendees “are set to further push tourism figures in Subic this summer,” Eisma said.

“And we will be ready for this,” she added, pointing out that Freeport establishments could accommodate the expected number of delegates, as well as their families who might want to tour the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, while the summit is going on.

Agatep, Ad Summit Pilipinas 2018 overall chairman, said this year’s event, themed “DIY Your ROI,” takes a closer look at the various impacts of one’s creative work.

To keep within the ambit of the convention theme and to make a creative play of the original meaning of ROI, topics in this year’s Ad Summit were given titles like “Return on Ideas,” “Return on Innovation” and “Return on Impact.”

“We are gathering some of the most brilliant minds in the world to enlighten attendees on how best to measure brand success in the fast-evolving marketing communication industry,” Agatep said.

“Monetary profit is no longer the only relevant metric today. It’s time to DIY your ROI.”

The speakers will include Lionel Carreon, global director for creative recruiting at the digital agency R/GA, who will talk on “Return on Identity”; Francis Flores, global brand chief marketing officer for Jollibee Foods Corp., who will handle the topic “Return on Intuition”; and Mara Binuding Lecocq, who has worked for ad agencies like AKQA, 72andSunny, Tribal DDB and BETC, for “Return on Inclusion.”

Also, among the speakers are Girish Menon, currently aiming to make the digital-service suite [m]Platform operational and relevant for the Asia-Pacific region, “Return on Impact”; Katryna Mojica, CEO of Ogilvy and Mather Hong Kong, “Return on Initiative”; Josy Paul, chairman and chief creative officer of BBDO India, “Return on Inspiration”; and Anselmo Ramos, chief creative officer of David Miami, “Return on Ideas.”

Agatep said aside from the discussions, the Ad Summit will feature the Creative Guild’s Kidlat Awards, which the group is promoting to be the country’s most prestigious creative advertising competition.

(c) Henry Empeño


February 12, 2018

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) has urged neighboring communities to help develop more industrial and commercial areas in their territory to extend the boundaries of the Subic Freeport so that they can gain bigger revenue shares from the Subic agency.

SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma made this appeal as she released last week the share of local government units (LGUs) from the 5-percent tax paid by business locators in this free port.

Eisma urged the LGUs to help the SBMA develop estates in their respective areas and to start planning for the extension of the freeport’s fenced-in areas because the SBMA is already running out of space for new locator-companies.

“The SBMA is continuously working on every possible means to attract more investors to create more jobs and increase the LGU shares,” Eisma told the local executives.

“But if we could no longer accept new investors, the LGU shares from the SBMA would not improve further, and worse, could even diminish,” she added.

“We have to find ways to extend the free-port area so that we could grow and develop more businesses and create more livelihood opportunities for local residents,” Eisma also said.

The SBMA released last week a total of P147 million to the mayors of adjacent towns in Zambales and Bataan, whose communities were contiguous to the free port and affected by activities and operations here.

The shares were personally received by Mayors Rolen Paulino of Olongapo City, Jay Khonghun of Subic, Jose Angelo Dominguez of Castillejos, Elvis Soria of San Marcelino and Estela Antipolo of San Antonio, all in Zambales, and Joseph Inton of Hermosa, Bataan.

Eisma said the revenue shares were given to help finance development projects in health, education, peace and order and livelihood programs so that the contiguous communities can keep pace with developments in the Subic Bay Freeport and Special Economic Zone.

The SBMA releases last week amounted to P34.35 million for Olongapo City, which received the biggest allocation. Subic, Zambales, followed with P22.46 million; Dinalupihan, Bataan, with P18.32 million; San Marcelino, Zambales, P17.66 million; Hermosa, Bataan, P15.31 million; Castillejos, Zambales, P13.69 million; Morong, Bataan, P12.79 million; and San Antonio, Zambales, with 12.65 million.

Eisma said the releases were LGU shares for the second half of 2017. The amount was 6.96 percent lower than the P150.46 million distributed for the same period last year.

The shares were taken from 5 percent of the gross income of locators and investors operating within the Subic Bay Freeport.

Of the 5-percent gross revenue, 3 percent goes to the national treasury, while 2 percent is distributed by the SBMA among the eight neighboring LGUs.

The LGU share is now computed based on population, 50 percent; land area, 25 percent, and equal sharing, 25 percent. However, the SBMA is proposing a new formula that would give premium to the size of land area owned by an LGU on which the free port derives income.

(c) Henry Empeño


February 11, 2018

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—A band struck up festive music while employees of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) waved flaglets here last Saturday as the Italian cruise ship Costa Atlantica slipped into the dock for what is seen to be the first of a series of port calls here.

The Italian-flagged cruise ship arrived here before 7 a.m., bringing more than 2,000 mostly Chinese passengers who toured the Subic Bay Freeport for a day and visited some tourist destinations in the nearby provinces of Zambales and Bataan.

SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma said some visitors ventured as far as the Rosa Farms in San Marcelino, Zambales, where they picked mango fruits at the 12-hectare mango orchard, and Las Casas de Acuzar in Bagac, Bataan, where authentic Filipino heritage houses are on display.

Still others joined tours of the staple Subic Freeport theme parks like Ocean Adventure, Zoobic Safari and Jest Camp.

The arrival of Costa Atlantica is expected to be the start of regular port calls by international cruise ships here in Subic, which is fashioning itself to be the next cruise-ship playground in Asia.

Jem Camba, manager of the SBMA Tourism Department, said last Saturday’s port call is expected to be the first of 15 port visits here by the Italian cruise ship.

The itinerary program of Costa Atlantica is reportedly based on cruises from Dubai, Shanghai and Singapore.

Eisma, who personally greeted the disembarking cruise-ship passengers last Saturday, said Costa Atlantica’s visit served as a litmus test for Subic, which is raring to attract more foreign tourists to its shores.

Eisma said the whole Subic community is “already very excited” about the prospects of Subic’s becoming part of the inter-island itinerary of international cruise ships.

“Subic’s time to become the next cruise-ship playground of Asia has already begun,” Eisma announced last Friday, as she briefed members of the recently-formed technical working group for SubiCruise campaign on the arrival of Costa Atlantica.

The ship, which sailed first into Manila before coming over to Subic, came almost as a surprise to the Subic community, as the SBMA expected the first cruise ship to arrive by midyear.

Eisma had earlier announced that cruise operator Royal Caribbean International will bring to Subic its cruise ship MS Ovation of the Seas in June, to be followed by the Voyager of the Seas in August.

For this, the SBMA had coordinated its offerings with tourism stakeholders in Olongapo City, Zambales and Bataan, which are expected to contribute to a more varied itinerary for the visitors.

Eisma said she is confident that the Subic Bay Freeport, as well as the nearby communities, would be able to keep its promise to offer the best tourism facilities and services for visitors from the arriving ships, as well as memorable and tailored-tourism experiences to meet their expectations.

The visiting Costa Atlantica is an 85,619-ton, 292.56-meter Spirit-class cruise ship owned and operated by Costa Crociere (Costa Cruises), an Italian cruise line based in Genoa, Italy and owned by Carnival Corp. & Plc.

The Costa Cruises brand currently operates 15 cruise ships that provide cruise holidays in the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, the Caribbean, Indian Ocean, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and South America.

Costa Atlantica is renowned for having all of its decks named after the movies of Italian movie director Federico Fellini, with each deck elegantly adorned with Italian-inspired decors of arts and furniture.

(c) Henry Empeño


Subic Bay is poised to become the next “cruise ship playground” in Asia as 15 cruise ships are set to dock at the Freeport in 2018, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) declared on Saturday.

First to arrive on Saturday at 7:00 a.m. was Italian-flagged cruise ship Costa Atlantica, carrying more than 2,000 passengers.

Wilma Eisma, SBMA chairman and administrator, led the Subic Bay community in welcoming the ship at Alava Pier.

The Costa Atlantica arrives at Alava Pier in Subic on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. (Photo courtesy of SBMA)

With Costa Atlantica’s arrival, Eisma said Subic was now raring to draw foreign tourists to various attractions on its shores.

“Subic’s time to become the next cruise ship playground of Asia has already begun,” Eisma said in a statement. “We are very excited. I hope that this will spark our dream of making Subic a part of the inter-island itinerary of international cruise ships.”

“Costa Atlantica’s visit is just the first of some 15 cruise ship visits expected in this Freeport for the year,” she bared.

MS Ovation of the Seas, a Royal Carribean cruise ship, would arrive in June, followed by Voyager of the Seas in August, Eisma said.

Subic Bay would offer “the best tourism facilities and services for tourists from the arriving ships, with memorable and tailored-tourism experiences to meet the expectation of visitors,” the SBMA chief assured./atm

(c) Julius N. Leonen

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February 7, 2018

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—With cruise-ship visits, national conferences, sports competitions, and festivals among the 18 major events slated here this year, the tourism outlook in the Subic Bay Freeport is expected to be nothing short of spectacular.

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma said the scheduled arrival of two of the biggest cruise ships in the world—the Ovation of the Seas  and Voyager of the Seas on June 3 and August 25, respectively—would headline the tourism events that the SBMA has calendared so far for this year.

“The Subic tourism industry is picking up again, just like in the early years of the Freeport when almost every tourist was looking towards visiting Subic. Now, it is happening again,” Eisma said.

She said aside from the expected blockbuster events, the SBMA, through its Tourism Department, would also be managing regular tourism projects.

With the various events on schedule, Eisma said the SBMA is expecting at least 43,000 additional local and foreign tourists, with some 10,000 foreign tourists arriving
onboard the cruise ships.

The SBMA Tourism Department said close to 8.5 million visitors arrived in Subic last year, an increase of close to 7 percent over the 7.8 million record in 2016. More than 1.5 million tourists, or those who stayed at least one night in the Freeport, were recorded last year, a slight increase of 4.3 percent over the 2016 figure.

This year, Eisma said, various special events are expected to further increase Subic’s tourism numbers.

She named the expected top-grossers as the Summer Siren Festival 2018 Year 2, which will be held here from May 11 to 13, with about 6,000 participants; Association of Accredited Advertising Agencies of the Philippines (4AsP’s) Ad Summit Pilipinas 2018 from March 7 to 10, with around 5,000 delegates; the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals’ 38thNational Anniversary Celebration and General Assembly on April 27 and 28, with 6,000 delegates; and Gold Gym’s Muscle Contest Philippines on September 8, with about 5,000 contestants and delegates.

Subic will also host the Couples for Christ’s World Youth Congress from April 20 to 22, with some 3,500 persons expected to attend the religious conference.

Jem Camba, head of the SBMA Tourism Department, said sports activities would comprise most of the events scheduled here this year. The first ones to be held were the PRUride PH 2018 by the National Bicycle Organization, PhilCycling and PRU Life UK from January  11 to 14; and the Triathlon Association of the Philippines’s (TAP) National Age Group Triathlon on January 28.

Meanwhile, Run Bike Swim Inc. is set to hold the Tri United 1 Standard Distance Triathlon on February 25, with about 1,000 participants; followed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association Beach Volleyball Championships from February 27 to March 2.

Subic will also see spectacular action with the Subic-Boracay Race organized by the Saturday Afternoon Gentlemen Sailing Club this February, as well as the Boracay Cup Regatta and Commodore’s Cup Regatta in March and April, with about 250 sailors participating in each event.

On April 21 and 22, the TAP will stage the NTT ASTC Subic Bay International Triathlon with about 1,000 participants. This will be followed by Sunrise Events Inc.’s Century Tuna Ironman Triathlon Full Distance Ironman 70.3, Superbods Run and Ironkids from June 1 to 3, with about 2,000 participants; and TAP’s Youth Olympic Games Qualifying Race for Asia/Southeast Asian Triathlon Association Championships on June 17, with 230 contestants.

In July Run Bike Swim Inc. will stage Tri United 2, with about 1,000 participants; Run Bike Swim’s Trek 100 Challenge on October 21, with 1,000 participants; Sunrise Events’ T150 Triathlon, Ironkids and Fun Run on November 3 and 4, with 1,500 participants; Xtribe Inc.’s Subic International Marathon, with 1,500 expected contestants; and the National Duathlon Championship, on November 11, with 300 participants.

(c) Henry Empeño