August 30, 2018, 7:20 pm

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) is vigorously pursuing for the implementation of the PHP10.2 billion six-year infrastructure development program to be funded under the national government’s Build-Build-Build program.

SBMA chairman and administrator Wilma T. Eisma said the projects are seen to improve the core business infrastructure here and sustain the attractiveness of the Subic Bay Freeport as a globally-competitive trade and tourism center.

“We are now bidding out six major projects to set into motion the execution of a PHP530-million program to rehabilitate, upgrade and develop roads and other public facilities in the Subic Bay Freeport,” Eisma said.

She said the six major projects form part of the SBMA’s PHP10.2-billion six-year infrastructure development program that will be funded by the national government and set for completion by 2023.

Eisma said this will be the first time for the SBMA to avail of national funding for infrastructure projects.

“But we feel justified not only because of the scope, but also because we’d like to think that these projects are investments on the part of the government,” she said.

Eisma cited the importance of the projects, saying these will help Subic sustain its position as one of the biggest revenue contributors among investment promotions agencies in the country.

The SBMA chief pointed out that since the Americans left in 1992, Subic has not seen any major investment in infrastructure rehabilitation and maintenance of basic facilities like roads and docks, which are essential to business operations here.

“Even the security fence that defined the area of the former Subic naval base has already deteriorated,” she said.

The nationally-funded projects for this year include various road rehabilitation work amounting to PHP369.7 million; Phase 2 of the Naval Supply Depot (NSD) road network project, at PHP75.8 million; installation of navigational buoys, PHP47.5 million; installation of new traffic control systems, PHP9.6 million; repair of El Kabayo Road, PHP9.3 million; and drainage improvement at Argonaut Highway, PHP18 million.

Other projects in the PHP10.2-billion infrastructure development program will be implemented in phases starting with PHP524.5 million in 2019; and then PHP573.1 million in 2020; PHP1.32 billion in 2021; PHP2.35 billion in 2022; and PHP1.4 billion in 2013.

The other components of the program are various seaport and airport development projects, road widening and extension projects, and the construction of an SBMA Corporate Center, which gets the bulk of the budget at PHP3.8 billion.

Eisma said the SBMA has scheduled the projects based on the immediacy of Subic’s needs as a maritime logistics hub, with the first projects encompassing roads, traffic controls, drainage, as well as buoys and other equipment, and to be followed by seaport and airport improvements, road expansion, bridge and overpass projects, and finally, the SBMA Corporate Center.

Meanwhile, SBMA will plow in a total of PHP781.8 million in five years under its own capital expenditure program to complement the nationally-funded infrastructure program.

One of the bigger projects under the SBMA program is the construction of a new perimeter fence in critical areas of the former U.S. military base, with PHP18 million in the first year of implementation and PHP42 million in the second year. (PNA)

(c) Malou Dungog



August 9, 2018

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ID SAMPLE A Philippine Statistics Authority employee presents at the House a sample of the ID to be issued under the national ID system. —Jam Sta. Rosa

Applying for a national ID is not mandatory, but Filipinos who opt not to get one will face inconvenience in government and business transactions, the head of the agency that will manage the national ID system said on Wednesday.

“No one will be forced to enroll in the national ID system,” Lisa Grace Bersales, national statistician and civil registrar general, said on Wednesday.

The head of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said the national ID would be a requirement for doing business.

“It’s really more about accessing benefits. But if they don’t want to access benefits from government, then they will not really need to have an ID,” she said at a press briefing in Malacañang.

The Philippine Identification System (PhilSys) Act, which President Duterte signed on Aug. 6, provides for a single national identification system called “Phil ID,” which collates citizens’ data in a centralized database.

Under the law, the PSA will store a citizen’s common reference number, biometrics, voter’s ID, Philippine passport number, taxpayer’s identification number, PhilHealth number, Professional Regulation ID number, driver’s license number and other information.

Privacy concerns

Critics are raising fears that the national ID poses risks to the privacy and data security of Filipinos.

While she acknowledged such fears, Bersales assured the public that the privacy of ID holders would be protected.

“It is very explicit in the law as to how we will use the data, manage the data,” she said, noting that information will be shared only if the Phil ID holder or the court would allow it.

Despite warnings from critics, the national ID system has popular support.

Filipinos support ID

Seven out of 10 adult Filipinos favor it, according to Social Weather Stations (SWS).

Results of a survey the opinion agency conducted from June 27 to 30 showed that 73 percent of respondents approved of the then proposal to make a single ID for the different identification cards currently used by Filipinos.

Eighteen percent disapproved of the proposal, resulting in a net agreement score (percent agree minus percent disagree) of +55 that SWS described as “extremely strong.”

The noncommissioned survey covered 1,200 respondents and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Asked if the government could be trusted to protect private information contained in the national ID, 61 percent agreed while 8 percent disagreed. Thirty percent were undecided.

The survey also found that 49 percent had “much trust” the government would not use the national ID system against those who oppose it, while 13 percent had “little trust.” Thirty-nine percent were undecided.

Consent, court order

Bersales expressed elation over the poll results, saying the national ID system “will only answer who are you and who you really say you are.”

She said the law provided that the PSA could share its data to another party only if it had the consent of the citizen and if a court ordered it.

The database of the national ID will include 11 demographic questions, such as name, birthday, birthplace, sex, blood type and address, and one’s biometrics.

She said newborns would be enrolled in the system.

Every person will get a 13-digit number and the information can be updated in a registration center.

“Eventually, you don’t need the ID card. Just memorize your number. Just go to the government agency that you need to transact with and they will capture two fingers to authenticate who you really are,” Bersales said.

The national ID will cover 33 government agencies, she said. “The vision is, after four years, there is really no need for these (33) cards.”

P2.2-B budget

To implement the system in the next four years, the government will need P30 billion. The first national ID will be free of charge.

The PSA is working on the P2.2-billion funding that Congress has allocated this year for the national ID system.

A pilot of the ID system will be launched later this year, a mass rollout in early 2019, and a target enrollment of 25 million Filipinos every year, said Assistant Finance Secretary Tony Lambino.

For this year, Lambino said the government would prioritize the enrollment of 1 million people benefiting from its unconditional cash transfer (UCT) program. Another 1.6 million getting UCT will be enrolled next year. /cbb /pdi

(c)  Christine O. AvendañoJulius N. Leonen

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August 7, 2018

NATIONAL IDENTIFICATION President Duterte describes the Philippine Identification System Act that he signed in the presence of lawmakers on Monday as a “monumental legislative measure.” —JOAN BONDOC

President Rodrigo Duterte signed the national identification system law on Monday, assuring Filipinos that their personal information would be kept secure with data privacy safeguards already in place.

Only those with illegal intentions should be afraid of the Philippine Identification System (PhilSys) Act, the President said after the signing ceremony in Malacañang.

“There is therefore no basis at all for the apprehensions about the Phil-ID, unless of course that fear is based on anything that borders on illegal,” he said.

He added: “If at all, the Phil-ID will even aid in our drive against the social menaces of poverty, corruption and criminal issues, as well as terrorism and violent extremism.”

The signing of the law coincided with the presentation and ceremonial signing of Republic Act No. 11054, or the Bangsamoro Organic Law.

PSA repository of data

Under the PhilSys Act, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) will manage the national ID system.

It will store a citizen’s common reference number, biometrics, voter’s ID, Philippine passport number, taxpayer’s identification number, Philippine Health Insurance Corp. number, Professional Regulation Commission number, driver’s license number and other information.

In his speech, the President pointed out that the information would not be different from that recorded in other agencies collecting personal data.

He said data privacy safeguards were in place to ensure that citizens’ personal data were secure against identity theft and fraud.

“The PSA will work closely with the National Privacy Commission, the Department of Information and Communications Technology, and the multiagency PhilSystem Policy and Coordination Council to address all concerns pertaining to privacy and security,” the President said.

Calling the national ID law a “monumental legislative measure,” he noted that past administrations had tried but failed to introduce a national ID.

This was “partly because of the apprehensions peddled by some groups about privacy and data security,” the President said.

An opposition lawmaker, Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin, for instance, said the passage of the law “casts a pall of gloom over privacy rights and an ominous threat to human rights.”

“The heavy hand of the state will now apply to getting a comprehensive profile of its citizens,” Villarin said in a text message to the Inquirer.

The Presidenty thought otherwise, stressing that a national ID system would, in fact, improve the delivery of services and cut down on fraud and bureaucratic red tape.

Citizens, resident aliens

He pointed out that the Phil-ID, a single ID to be issued to all citizens and resident aliens, would “dispense with the need to present multiple IDs for different government transactions.”

“This will not just enhance administrative governance but reduce corruption, curtail bureaucratic red tape, and promote the ease of doing business, but also avert fraudulent transactions, strengthen financial inclusion, and create a more secure environment for our people,” he said.

The President’s spokesperson, Harry Roque, said the implementation of a national ID would help protect Filipinos against identity theft.

Roque said the ID would help promote national security as it would become easier to verify one’s identity and single out criminals or terrorists.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, principal sponsor of the measure in the Senate, said many Filipinos could expect an easier time transacting with the government.

Lacson noted that there were 33 different forms of “functional” ID cards issued by government agencies.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon thanked the President for signing the measure and likewise gave assurance that it had enough safeguards to protect an individual’s privacy.

Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, principal author of the House measure, said the new law would benefit the poor and residents of far-flung communities who had been experiencing difficulties in securing proof of identity. —With Reports From Leila B. Salaverria and Marlon Ramos

(c) Julie M. Aurelio

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July 27, 2018, 8:08 pm

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT— With a small army of workers and volunteers, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) expects the massive landside that killed one person at the Aparri Road here to be finally cleared by next week.

SBMA chairman and administrator Wilma T. Eisma said the agency’s technical group estimated that it would take about 400 dump-truck loads to finally clear about 4,000 cubic meters of muddy soil that collapsed from a hill here early Monday.

“We are already working from both ends of the landslide to clear it faster, but at the rate the crew can go with the continuous rain, clearing operations that started last Monday may be completed only by Friday next week,” Eisma said.

“It’s good that we have enough pay-loaders, dump trucks and backhoes because a lot of locator-companies volunteered their heavy equipment, but what we lack is manpower. We need alternate operators because work continues until night time,” she explained.

She said volunteers from the SBMA, Philippine Navy, Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary and some business locators in Subic are working overtime and have produced close to 14,000 sandbags since Tuesday.

Eisma also pointed out that continuous rains have resulted in other minor landslides in other areas in the Freeport.

The multiple landslides started Sunday as heavy rains from tropical depression Josie and the southwest monsoon soaked the Subic Freeport and surrounding areas.

At least three companies in the Freeport were affected by landslides, while three others reported flooding that damaged some facilities, the SBMA Business and Investment Department said.

Meanwhile, a report from the SBMA Ecology Center indicated that the heaviest rain in Subic since January 2013 fell last Sunday, July 22.

The most amount of average precipitation, or rainfall, was also recorded this year at approximately 400.21 millimeters (mm).

One millimeter of rainfall means that one square meter of space has one liter of water in it.

Before this, the heaviest average rainfall in the Subic Freeport since 2013 was posted in 2016 at 339.48 mm, while the least amount was in 2015 at 180.17 mm.

SBMA Ecology Center manager Amethya dela Llana said that landslides hit areas where the soil composition has poor water-holding capacity.

Most areas in the Subic Freeport are considered “moderately susceptible” to rain-induced landslide, she added.

As of now, the SBMA is doing both prevention and cure—deploying sandbags to fortify erosion-prone slopes, while clearing eroded slopes of the rubble. (PNA)

(c) Ruben Veloria


July 19, 2018 03:07 PM

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Thursday launched its Electronic Gate System (E-Gate) project which aims to improve the processing time of international passengers and to lessen long queues at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said the Bureau expects to cut the processing time of passengers from the present 45 seconds to just 8 to 15 seconds.

Morente said the project will also enhance the BI’s ability to detect passengers with derogatory records, including wanted fugitives and those who are in the immigration blacklist, watch list and hold departure list.

The electronic immigration gates are provided with modern security features such as facial recognition, biometric scanning, bar code reading, and smart card recognition, Morente added.

According to OIC Deputy Commissioner Marc Red Marinas, head of the BI’s Port Operations Division, the P329 million E-Gate project was funded by the government and by the International Air Transport Association.

Marinas explained that as the project is still in its “experimental phase,” it will be first used by Filipino passengers with machine readable passports.

Marinas said children, senior citizens on wheelchairs and other handicapped travelers will still have to go through the regular counters.

Meanwhile BI Deputy Commissioner Tobias Javier described the E-Gate System as a “fast travel and accurate border clearing system” which he said can also “detect persons of interest trying to cross the country’s borders”.

According to the BI, a total of 21 E-Gates will be installed in five major international airports before the year ends. Of these, 11 will be installed at NAIA Terminal 1 and Terminal 3. Five will be installed at the Mactan international airport, three at the Clark international airport and two at the Davao international  airport.

(c) Micah Yurielle P. Atienza

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Chinese Taipei Visitors Enticed Through Bloggers

July 19, 2018, 10:52 AM

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT – With the help of bloggers, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) and the Department of Tourism (DOT) Region III are eyeing Chinese Taipei nationals to become the number one tourists to visit this premier Freeport and Central Luzon.

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Chinese Taipei bloggers take photos of an Iguana during their visit at the Zoobic Safari on Friday. The SBMA and the DOT are pushing for the increase of Taiwanese tourists in Central Luzon in an effort to make tourist spots like Subic and Clark their primary destination in the country. (Jonas Reyes/ MANILA BULLETIN)

In a day tour of the Subic Bay Freeport, well-known Taiwanese bloggers were assisted by the DOT Region 3 and the SBMA on Friday, giving them a glimpse of the many tourist spots here. SBMA Chairman Atty. Wilma T. Eisma welcomed these bloggers before boarding a yacht for a bay cruise here.

“We have been blessed with many tourist attractions in Subic Bay Freeport, we are adamant of pushing the numbers of tourist arrival in the Freeport, and we want to use every possible means to entice tourists. And having bloggers experiencing firsthand the many tourism attractions here, we hope that they would convey the message to their fellow Chinese Taipei nationals,” Eisma said.

The visitors were accompanied by Region III Tourism Officer Marilou Pangilinan, who met them at the Clark International Airport with the first Taipei to Clark flight of AirAsia Philippines.

The group first started their tour at the Subic Bay Exhibition and Convention Center (SBECC) where they met with the SBMA tourism officials. The group then went to Zoobic Safari where they had a close encounter with tigers.

After their tiger tour, the group went to Ocean Adventure Marine Theme Park to visit the marine animals that reside there. The bloggers were awed at the sea lions’ enclosure as the animals gracefully swam inside their pool.

The group had an encounter with four bottlenose dolphins and viewed the feeding of blacktip reef sharks, including some of the small marine creatures that can only be found in the bottom of the sea.

The bloggers were treated to a sumptuous lunch at the Acea Subic Bay Resort. The area, known for holding international triathlon events, provided the bloggers a tour of the area. The tour included the viewing of luxurious rooms, pristine beach, a restaurant and beautiful swimming pools.

To cap the visit, the bloggers also treated to a bay cruise by The Lighthouse Marina Resort Marketing Director Zed Avecilla. The bloggers visited the mangrove forest, the Ilanin area, a view of the Grande Island, and The Lighthouse Marina Resort on board a yacht.

Pangilinan said that Chinese Taipei tourists have often used Clark Airport as their entry point to the Philippines, frequenting areas such as Bohol, Palawan, Cebu and Benguet, but with little or no knowledge of Central Luzon’s tourist spots.

She hopes that through these bloggers, tourists who are looking for new areas would consider Subic Bay Freeport Zone as one of their stops during their stay in the country. She added that Central Luzon has so much to offer, and that one cannot enjoy Subic Bay Freeport in just one day.

(c) Jonas Reyes



July 18, 2018

Nine regional wage boards have approved increases in workers’ basic pay ahead of President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address, but labor groups found the amounts too paltry to cope with the rising prices of goods.

Beginning Aug. 1, workers in Central Luzon will enjoy a P20 increase in minimum wage, or a range of P274 to P400, labor officials said on Tuesday.

In Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon), the increase ranges from P9 to P45, bringing the new rate to P303 to P400. In Soccsksargen, it ranged P16 to P18, adjusting the rate to P290 to P311.

P15M in ARMM

The wage board in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) gave workers a P15 increase (P270 to P280), while in Eastern Visayas the increase was between P20 and P30, for a new rate of P275 to P305.

In Western Visayas, the basic pay was raised from P8.50 to P26.50, bringing the new rate to P295 to P365. The cost of living allowance was also adjusted by P5 to P15.

While the wage boards of Central Visayas, Zamboanga and Davao have yet to publish the adjustments in their regions, workers could also expect an increase in the coming weeks.

Basic pay will increase by P10 to P52 (P313 to P386) in Central Visayas; by P20 (P303 to P316) in Zamboanga, and by P56.43 (P381.43 to 396.43) in Davao.

Of the nine wage boards, five have already implemented the increase: Calabarzon on April 28, Soccsksargen on May 11, ARMM on June 15, Eastern Visayas on June 25 and Western Visayas on July 12.

Labor Undersecretary Ciriaco Lagunzad III said the increases were meant “to protect” the purchasing power of minimum wage earners.

“This would ensure that they have income above the poverty threshold,” he said.

The needs of the workers and their families, and the capacity of employers to pay were key considerations in setting the amounts of increase, Lagunzad said.

The development needs of the region, employment and inflation were considered as well, he added.

The Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) said the pay increase would hardly help minimum wage workers move out of poverty.

“The wage increases will have no impact on the downward pattern of the daily minimum wage and its falling value of purchasing power,” ALU-TUCP spokesperson Alan Tanjusay said.

Based on the group’s computation, the average daily nominal wage of workers nationwide was P330.47. But due to inflation, its value eroded to P208.38 in April.

The workers blamed the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act which, they said, “further burdened the wage earners because the government did not spare food items, fuel, electricity and water from taxes.”

Runaway prices

Labor groups in Central Luzon said the P20 increase would not help workers cope with runaway prices of basic goods and services.

“That’s a bit short of the wage increase we really needed,” said Emily Fajardo, a council member of the Workers for People’s Liberation in Central Luzon.

Fajardo said each worker should have an additional P1,200 to support a family of six, based on the estimate of the National Economic and Development Authority.

The P20 increase, she said, was “definitely not enough” to cover the price adjustments of rice (P5-P8/kilogram), sugar (P8/kg), canned goods (P3-P10), diesel (P15 cumulative) and transportation fare (additional P1 for jeepneys).

“Like a bread crumb,” Pol Viuya, chair of the Workers Alliance in Central Luzon, said of the adjustment.

The adjustments only bolstered calls for the abolition of the wage boards since they were proving to be “inutile” in addressing demands for an increase that could tide workers over the rising prices of goods, Nagkaisa labor coalition spokesperson Rene Magtubo said.

(c)  Jovic YeeTonette Orejas

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July 17, 2018

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga, July 17 (PIA) — Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board 3 (RTWPB-3) has approved the additional Php20 minimum wage in Central Luzon.

Wage Order No. RBIII-21 takes effect on August 1 or 15 days after it was published in a local leading newspaper.

RTWPB-3 Chair and Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Regional Director Zenaida Angara-Campita said the minimum wage beginning next month in the provinces of Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac and Zambales will increase from Php380 to P400/day.

“Aurora’s daily minimum wage, on the other hand, will be implemented in two tranches. From P329 to P339 by August 1 and from P339 to P349 six months later,” Angara-Campita added.

These adjustments only pertain to non-agricultural establishments with an employment size of 10 or more workers.

“The new regional minimum wage will vary across industries as indicated on the matrix specified in the order and its implementing rules,” Angara-Campita explained.

Non-agricultural firms’ rate will vary based on those employing 10 or more workers and those with less than 10 workers.

Meanwhile, minimum wages will also vary for plantation and non-plantation agri-based firms, likewise with retail or service firms with 16 or more workers and those with less than 16 workers.

The new wage order is a result of the RTWPB-3’s consultations with labor and management representatives from different industries in most parts of the region.

“After our careful review of the prevailing socio-economic conditions of the entire region, together with the results of our public consultations across sectors, we acknowledged the need to help workers cope up with the rising cost of living brought by the Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion Law implementation and fuel hikes by providing them with relief without impairing the viability of businesses and industries, taking into account the need for investment, competitiveness of the region, and job creation and preservation,” Angara-Campita said.

“RTWPB-3 deemed it best to increase the minimum wage at reasonable and equitable levels in light of the regional poverty threshold level vis-à-vis, average wage, along with the need to promote performance-based incentive schemes under the Two-Tier Wage System,” she said.

Aside from DOLE, other members of the RTWPB-3 include National Economic and Development Authority, Department of Trade and Industry and representatives from the labor and management sector.

The new minimum wage shall apply to workers receiving the minimum wage in the region regardless of their position, employment status, and how their wages are paid. (CLJD-PIA 3)

(c) Carlo Lorenzo J. Datu

SBMA Eyes Zambales Coves for Cruise-Ship Holidays

Jul 06, 2018

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT – The growing number of international cruise ships arriving in this premier Freeport is now spurring the growth of the local economy and opening up opportunities for other communities.

On Tuesday, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma met with Mayor Estela Antipolo and other officials of San Antonio, Zambales to discuss plans to utilize certain coastal areas of the municipality as high-end cruise-ship holiday destinations.

“Our plan is to make the area the next Amalfi or the next Turks and Caicos,” Eisma said, referring to the popular coastal destinations in Italy and the Bahamas.

“The project would make the area accessible to cruise ships, attract passengers who would spend a day or two in local resorts, and hence would provide viable economic opportunities to local communities and residents,” Eisma told the municipal officials.

Eisma said the SBMA is now talking with several private investors who are considering the development of the area, particularly the Nagsasa and Silanguin coves, which are located southwest of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.

According to the development plan formulated by the SBMA, what are now essentially the fishing villages of Nagsasa and Silanguin will both become port destinations with world-class resort attractions that can cater to passengers of cruise liners.

Meanwhile, a coastal road will be built to connect the coves of San Antonio without having to cut through the hills in the area.

“The winding coastal road will have a great view of the coves, just like that at the Amalfi Coast along Italy’s Sorrentine Peninsula,” Eisma said.

The Amalfi Coast is a popular holiday destination with sheer cliffs and a rugged shoreline dotted with small beaches and pastel-colored fishing villages, grand villas, terraced vineyards and cliff-side lemon groves.

Eisma said the rugged coastline of San Antonio could be developed into a similar attraction that would complement its clear, aquamarine water.

At least 20 cruise ship arrivals have been scheduled in the Subic Bay Freeport this year, with bigger vessels like the MS Ovation of the Seas, the biggest cruise ship in operation in the whole of Asia, promising more port calls. More are coming in 2019, Eisma said.

She added that cruise ship passengers have already visited local attractions to as far as the heritage site of Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Bagac, Bataan. “So we are really in need of more attractions to sustain the demand,” Eisma explained.

Town officials of San Antonio have reportedly welcomed the proposal for the development of the local coves into high-end tourist destinations. Prior to this, the local government of San Antonio passed a resolution setting aside some 9,000 hectares of land in the municipality for development under the SBMA’s expansion program.

Other communities nearby have also allotted areas for the expansion of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.

These include the towns of Subic, Castillejos, San Marcelino and Olongapo City in Zambales, and Hermosa in Bataan.

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Tourists marvel at the beauty of mountain and sea at a cove in San Antonio, Zambales


July 13, 2018 | 7:29 pm

PHILIPPINES AirAsia, Inc. said it now has international flights flying out of from Clark, Pampanga with Taipei as its first destination.

In a statement released on Friday, the budget airline said its first Clark-Taipei flight landed at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday.

“We are officially painting the skies of Clark airport with AirAsia’s iconic color. Our return to international skies via Clark hub reaffirms our commitment to travelers in Central and Northern Luzon and Metro Manila who truly deserve nothing but only the best quality service, affordable airfare and efficient connectivity,” Philippines AirAsia president and chief executive officer Dexter M. Comendador said in the statement.

He added, “It feels so good to be back where we started. From two planes in Clark in 2012 to 20 jets as of today and we expect our fleet to grow to 70 planes in the next 10 years, we are thrilled to be here again and begin another journey to serve, empower and enable every traveler to dream big and connect across ASEAN, Asia and the world.”

Philippines AirAsia will operate two Clark-Taipei flights every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Aside from Taipei, AirAsia’s hub in Pampanga also flies to local destinations, namely Iloilo, Caticlan, Davao, Cebu, and Tacloban.

In May, Mr. Comendador told reporters that they were looking to develop hubs outside of Manila to decongest the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.


(c) Denise A. Valdez