SBMA Chairman Roberto Garcia (center) discusses the proposed river dredging project with Olongapo City Mayor Rolen Paulino (right) and Vice Mayor Rodel Cerezo during a visit to Olongapo City.

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — The top official of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) has reaffirmed the agency’s commitment of support and cooperation with neighboring communities and renewed its pledge to help in promoting local development.

The reaffirmations of commitment were made by SBMA chairman Roberto Garcia recently, as he visited Mayor Rolen Paulino of Olongapo City, Mayor Jorge Estanislao of Morong, Bataan, and Mayor Jay Khonghun of Subic, Zambales, in their respective localities.

During his visits, Garcia informed the local chief executives that the SBMA is continuing with its task of generating investments that, in turn, would generate employment opportunities for local residents.  “SBMA is continuously receiving investment proposals, but the Subic Freeport has no land available for industrial parks or expansions,” Garcia told the mayors, adding that this is probably the right time for the LGUs to start discussing the prospect having the Subic Bay Freeport Zone expand into their respective areas.

Garcia explained that by virtue of Executive Order No. 675, local government units can allow SBMA to extend the Freeport beyond the “secured area,” along with the tax- and duty-free privileges as granted by the law, by having their local councils pass an enabling resolution.

In Subic, Garcia was welcomed by Mayor Khonghun, Vice Mayor Lauro Simbol and members of the Sangguniang Bayan.  Khonghun happily informed Garcia that since the shipbuilding company Hanjin Heavy Industries Inc. (HHIC)-Philippines started operations in Subic, most of the able-bodied residents have been employed.

Khonghun added that he would propose to the Sangguniang Bayan the immediate deliberation of the proposed expansion of SBMA in Barangay Cawag at the Redondo Peninsula.

In Morong, Mayor Estanislao thanked Garcia for considering his town to host a Japanese investor who is looking for some 120 hectares of land to be transformed into a commercial-industrial zone.  “We really appreciate your effort to bring investors to our municipality. It’s a big help to our efforts to generate employment and promote economic development here,” Estanislao told Garcia as he promised to open the matter of expansion to the municipal council.

Garcia also agreed to send SBMA disaster management experts to Morong to further train the town’s emergency rescue team on disaster management.  Meanwhile in Olongapo, the SBMA chairman was welcomed by newly elected City Mayor Rolen Paulino, Vice Mayor Rodel Cerezo and some members of the city council at the city hall.  Paulino assured Garcia that his administration is willing to cooperate with the SBMA in promoting tourism and investment in the area, and lauded the SBMA’s offer to broaden local cooperation in terms of development, employment generation and tourism.

Garcia also discussed with Paulino a proposed memorandum of agreement between SBMA and a Freeport investor who wants to dredge two rivers in the city for free, in exchange for the right to transport and sell the sand to Singapore.  Based on calculations of CST Bluemax Subic, Inc., about 110,000 cubic meters of lahar/sand could be dredged from the Kalaklan and the Kalalake rivers, which separate the Subic Bay Freeport from Olongapo.

The dredging operation would cost about P11 million without the exchange deal.  Paulino and Cerezo lauded Garcia for the proposal and pledged support for the project.

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