Mango's Local News and Info

Archive 2

February 2000 - March 2001

Note:  These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the Management, Staff and Employees of Mango's.

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Mango's Local News and Information Index

Marines/Navy Invade Subic
Ocean Adventure Open Despite Cease & Desist Order   
Subic Bay Freeport undergoing a massive facelift   
Arroyo sends police to dismantle barricades at Subic
Payumo hit for barring ex-Subic execs funeral
'Martilyo gang' strikes; robs Norwegian, kills caretaker
Charges of graft and corruption filed against Gordon  
Gordon describes charges as recycled trash  
Eighteen US Navy SEALs will be summoned by a local prosecutor  
War of politicos dogs Subic, stunts growth   
Calls for the resignation of Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority CHAIRMAN   
Prime locations at Subic earmarked for leisure, industrial, commercial and residential development
Stuck at Base: The future was supposed to be bright at the Clark and Subic military bases...
Former U.S. Base, Is Hit By Cronyism and Closings
Subic Freeport - Clark economic zone merger?
U.S. seeks softer stance on hookers
U.S. troops in Philippines will be 'in a fishbowl'
War games to test RP response to invasion

US Marines / Navy Invade Subic

At least 1,424 American Marines and Navy men (and woman), are arriving here Thursday (May 31) for two Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA)-related military exercises but their presence does not have anything to do with pursuit operations against Abu Sayyaf bandits who abducted three Americans in Palawan on Sunday.

"Their arrival is not connected with the operations of the Philippine government against the Abu Sayyaf even considering that three Americans were taken hostage," Elmer Cato, spokesman of the Presidential Commission on the VFA (VFACOM), told the INQUIRER yesterday.

The Mutual Defense Board of the Philippines and the American government approved last year the conduct of the Cooperation Afloat Readiness Training (Carat-01) and the Pandagat, Panlupa at Panghimpapawid (Palah-01) exercises, Cato said. According to Cato, Carat-01 and Palah-01 will be the fourth and fifth of 18 joint military exercises scheduled this year. 

At least 1,400 US troops and 1,175 Philippine soldiers are participating in Carat-01 which will be held in Subic and San Antonio towns in Zambales, and Ternate in Cavite from June 1 to 11. The US troops are arriving on board the landing ship USS Rushmore, the warships USS Curts and USS Wadsworth, the salvage vessel USS Safeguard and the EP-3 Orion aircraft, Cato said. He said 24 Sea, Air and Land Services (SEALS) forces from the US will join 16 of their Filipino counterparts in Palah-01, this year's first live fire exercises scheduled June 12-30 in this freeport and Subic.

The live firing, which is set to take place less than a year after the Toledo blast that killed two boys, will be held under stringent conditions, Cato said. The Philippine Navy, according to him, agreed to comply with the guidelines issued by the VFA Commission after the Toledo incident. Civilians, he said, will be warned not to stray in the firing site while an explosive ordnance disposal team will be assigned to account for all live ammunition and to retrieve and dispose of spent and live shells. 

On Wednesday, at least 139 US Marines participating in last month's Balikatan-01 at the Clark Special Economic Zone left for Okinawa, Japan. Twelve US planes--four F-18 Hornet fighter planes, four KC-130 Hercules and four CH53E Super Stallions--have been seen hovering over Palawan since Sunday. Cato said the aircraft were not there to help pursue Abu Sayyaf bandits. 

"Before heading back to Okinawa, they had engagements in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. From Kota Kinabalu (Malaysia), they were set to refuel in Puerto Princesa (Palawan) on Monday before they headed back to Clark," he said.

Ocean Adventure Open Despite Cease & Desist Order
March 2001

The marine park featuring a swim-with-whales-and-dolphins program, the first of its kind in the country, remains open despite a cease-and-desist order from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources last March 17, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority confirmed Tuesday.

Environmentalists, marine biologists, animal welfare advocates and veterinarians earlier called on the DENR to keep a close watch on the Ocean Adventures Park of the Subic Bay Marine Exploratorium (SBME), citing reports that the company was inclined to continue its operations despite the cease-and-desist order.

The SBME went ahead with the parks soft opening this month despite a notice of violation issued against its operation on Jan. 5.

SBME officials, who requested anonymity, confirmed that despite the order, "the whale encounter program is still going on because SBMA has not told us to stop operating."

They said Tim Desmond, SBME chief executive officer, had consulted with lawyers in Manila on Tuesday.

SBMA officials sought for comment on Tuesday were all in Manila, except for Ecology Center officer-in-charge Ameth de la Llana, who declined to comment on the issue.

The DENR has "yet to respond to such reports," according to Trixie Concepcion of Earth Island Institute, one of the more than 20 groups that lobbied for the order to protect the mammals and to protect conservation efforts in the country.

"If such reports were true, the Ocean Adventures would be looking at open defiance of Philippine environmental laws," Concepcion said in a statement e-mailed to the Inquirer.

Peter Abaya, DENR Environmental Management Bureau director, issued the order because the SBME did not obtain an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) from the agency.

The SBME only got an ECC from the SBMAs environment department in November 1999.

Desmond earlier said the project was not within the authority of the DENR and that importation permits from the Department of Agriculture and regulatory requirements and control of the SBMA were sufficient.

The SBMA said "it will not enforce the DENR order," asserting it has the authority to approve and regulate projects within the freeport. It also said the environmental implications of the marine show were "thoroughly studied."

The SBMA approved the project, saying it was in promotion of animal conservation through interactive education.

The DENR-SBMA row over the SBMEs right to operate at Subic was the first of such conflict that erupted between the two government agencies.

Among those opposing the project are the Earth Island Institute, Philippine Animal Welfare Society, Balik Kalikasan-Babilonia Wilner Foundation, Tanggol Kalikasan, Kalikasan-Peoples Network for the Environment, Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines, World Wildlife Fund-Philippines, Haribon Foundation, Earthwatch Philippines, Youth Collective for Animal Liberation and student environmental groups.

They said the company failed to also register with the animal welfare division of the Bureau of Animal Industry.

"Ocean Adventures has effectively violated two national laws, including Presidential Decree 1586 (Environmental Impact Statement System) and Republic Act 8485 (Animal Welfare Act)," Concepcion said.

She said the cease-and-desist order would pave the way for the resolution of various issues that have hounded the marine park.

Subic Bay Freeport undergoing a massive facelift
March 2001

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT--The Subic Bay Freeport is undergoing a massive facelift, with at least 10 infrastructure development projects worth P938.47 million in full swing. Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority Chair Felicito Payumo said the projects were in line with efforts to "improve or build facilities that will make Subic the engine of growth for Central Luzon and ultimately for the country." The projects, most of which began in the past six months, have generated jobs for more than 500 workers.

The biggest of these projects is the P533-million Rizal Argonaut Highway widening and extension project. The World Bank-assisted project entails the extension of the 2.4-km Rizal Highway into a 9.8-km road and the widening and extension of the Argonaut Road into a four-lane highway along a 2-km new road section of the existing Subic-Tipo Expressway.

The Rizal Highway is the freeport's main artery leading to its industrial areas. Payumo said this would make Subic "the only economic zone where the air and sea ports are connected by an internal artery" and directly linked to a major highway--the proposed Subic-Clark-Tarlac toll road. He said this would facilitate the transport of cargo "right on the doorstep of Subic's ports . . . and give our own locators the mobility, the agility needed to get their goods to the market just in time."

The road project, as well as the 94-km Subic-Clark-Tarlac tollway, which has been endorsed to Japan's Obuchi Fund for financing, is intended to complement the $215-million (P10.32 billion) port development plan. The project contractors, A.M. Oreta & Co. Inc. and IPM Construction & Development Corp., have mobilized 300 workers. Their target completion date is November this year.

Two major infrastructure projects are underway at the Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA). These are the P50-million lighting enhancement project and the P39.97-million runway pavement rehabilitation project. Payumo said the airport upgrading and expansion projects were designed to meet the requirements of Federal Express, which is expanding its Asia-Pacific fleet from 12 to 20 planes. FedEx, which opened its Asia-Pacific hub at the SBIA in 1995, has decided to bankroll the lighting enhancement project, originally lined up for World Bank funding. The project consists of the installation of centerline and touchdown zone lights and the extension of approach lights by 600 meters over the main runway. Some 50 workers of the United Technologies Inc. and the Pentagon Industrial Corp. are now working on the runway pavement rehabilitation project. The project requires upgrading of the cement and asphalt portions of the main runway and extending the smaller runway by another 700 meters for a total length of 1,400 meters.

The rehabilitation and upgrading of the P80-million Subic landfill has begun through the funding from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation. The Subic landfill is one of the 13 sites in the former US Naval Base that were recommended for environmental re-mediation work in the 1997 Woodward Clyde environmental baseline study commissioned by the SBMA to address questions on toxic waste contamination in the former US bases. Litho-Steel Construction Corp. is working on this project, under the direct supervision of Woodward Clyde Philippines Inc. The rehabilitated landfill is expected to be operational in six months. It entails the setting up of a "state-of-the-art sanitary landfill to improve collection and disposal efficiency of solid waste materials" and ensure that the present landfill, when closed in three to five years, will still be environmentally safe.

Cesar Adamos, SBMA deputy administrator for public works, said SBMA was building two power sub-stations, a P69-million project which is in line with the plan to re-configure the power distribution system in the former naval base. Roberto Feliciano, head of the SBMA foreign assisted projects office, said the SBMA has secured a $1.5-million loan from the World Bank for the installation of new transmission lines, the construction of a new power sub-station, and the purchase of new equipment, among other things. He said new power distribution system should be designed to meet not only the port requirements but also those of the other business locators. Construction has already begun for the P34-million sports center at the freeport's Remy Field, near Subic's central business district. The project involves the construction of open and covered tennis courts, bleachers, seats and railings and improvements on the existing tennis, basketball and pelota courts.

A P4-million basketball court is also under construction near the Rizal bridge. Other ongoing infrastructure projects are the P107-million preventive maintenance program for freeport roads; P8.5-million dredging of drainage channels and fleet landings; P8-million exhibit hall and covered canopy of the Subic Bay Arts Center; and P5-million pavilion and concrete walk of the Waterfront Board Walk.

Arroyo sends police to dismantle barricades at Subic
Tuesday, January 23, 2001
By Malou Dungog

President Arroyo yesterday sent former AFP chief of staff Gen. Lisandro Abadia and two police officials to Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) to check on the peace and order situation in the Freeport following reports that supporters of former SBMA chairman Richard Gordon had reportedly barricaded various entry and exit points in the area since Friday. 

Abadia, together with PNP Generals Edgar Galvante and Dominador Reyes, were briefed by resigned SBMA Chairman Felicito Payumo and the SBMA police about the incident. They said Gordon's men allegedly tried to block the freeport, which affected the operations of investors.

Abadia inspected the various gates of the economic zone and was shown the areas where the SBMA billboards were destroyed and later burned by alleged supporters of Gordon. Payumo also chided the police for not acting against the protesters. Payumo also downplayed reports of alleged smuggling of some 170 luxury vehicles at the freeport at the height of the People Power II. The vehicles, he said, were cleared by the Bureau of Customs Commissioner Renato Ampil.
"Taxes and duties of the vehicles were paid and had clearance from the BOC," Payumo added.

Payumo hit for barring ex-Subic execs funeral
By Tonette Orejas
Inquirer News Service, PDI Central Luzon Desk

Ferdinand Aristorenas, former chief operating officer of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, did not have a serene burial Thursday last week as tension sparked again between the camps of SBMA Chair Felicito Payumo and his predecessor, Richard Gordon.

The widow, Dely Aristorenas, assailed Payumo for banning the funeral march she wanted held for her husband in the freeport. Aristorenas, 39, formed the core of young volunteers who turned the former Subic Naval Base into one of the country's leading economic zones. He died Jan. 12 after a heart attack.

Payumo had allowed the Aristorenas family and the Upsilon Sigma Phi fraternity of the University of the Philippines to hold a wake at the SBMA chapel. He, however, restricted the march to specific areas. The widow cancelled the wake when the original route of the march, which was to end at the Volunteers Park, was changed.

"It was Ferdiea's last wish, Dely told the INQUIRER by phone. Payumo, according to an SBMA statement, did not allow the march to pass through industrial zones because of security concerns. The freeport was placed on red alert in the wake of protest rallies demanding the resignation of ousted President Joseph Estrada.

"We cannot comprehend how you managed to interject petty political issues in the guise of so-called security concerns (in) the occasion of the untimely demise of my husband, Dely said in a letter to Payumo Jan. 17.

'Martilyo gang' strikes; robs Norwegian, kills caretaker
By Chris Grutas
Thursday, January 4, 2001

Angeles City -- A Norwegian tourist lost at least P700,000 worth of cash andother valuables while his caretaker was killed by suspected members of the notorious "Martilyo gang," police said yesterday. Investigators identified the tourists as 48-year old Geir Dehlin, of 24 Lean St., Riverside Subdivision, Barangay Anonas here. His caretaker, 60-year old Jose Yanga Sr. died of a stab wound in the neck and a deep fracture in the skull.

Police reports said the suspects took at least P200,000 worth of cash and another P500,000 worth of household items, including a cellular phone, desktop computer, still and video cameras and assorted jewelry. In his statement, Dehlin told investigators at the Angeles City police station 4 that he came from a party in Marisol Subdivision here at dawn yesterday but did not bother to see Yanga, who was staying inside his quarters beside the main house.

Dehlin claimed that he noticed the break-in the following morning and found Yanga's body lying on the compound's garden. According to investigators, the suspects detached the air conditioning unit at the back of Dehlin's house to gain entry. The police theorized that Yanga knew the suspects prompting them to kill him. Police sources also said members of the gang have already robbed at least a dozen establishments and rented houses of foreign nationals living in this city. The group is allegedly known to use hammers and sledgehammers during their operations and have a reputation of killing their victims.

Charges of graft and corruption filed against Gordon

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — Charges of graft and corruption have been filed with the Office of the Ombudsman against Richard Gordon, former chairman of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, for "abuse of privileges and entering into contracts disadvantageous to the government."

Gordon is accused of violating Article 216 of the Revised Penal Code and Section 3 (e, g and h) of the Anti-Graft Law (RA 3019) as amended. Complainant Juan Montelibano, head of the Land and Asset Development Department, charged Gordon and Olongapo City administrator Ferdinand Aristorenas, former SBMA chief operating officer under Gordon’s administration. Aristorenas was implicated for "conspiring and confederating in violating the law" when he leased out several residential units inside the Freeport at prices and terms detrimental to the government.

In a six-page complaint filed by Montelibano with the Ombudsman, Gordon allegedly acquired two housing units at 24-A and 24-B Alpha st., Binictican, inside the Subic Bay Freeport by virtue of two residential lease agreements he executed with Aristorenas, as SBMA representative, on Aug. 18, 1997. Aside from this, 16 other choice units in the Kalayaan and Binictican residential districts were rented out to Gordon’s relatives including his wife, Olongapo City Mayor Kate Gordon, his mother Amelia, a former mayor of Olongapo and sisters Veronica Lorenzana and Barbara de los Reyes.

The law strictly bans a public officer from possessing prohibited interest and engaging in transactions unpropitious for the government. Montelibano also stressed that the two lease agreements entered into contained special provisions on rental rate and period of amortization that favored Gordon when he acquired the two houses at $54,400 each under a 25-year lease, when the rate of the other units were at least $76,800 each. 

The complaint added that while the SBMA socialized housing program mandates amortized payments for ten years, Gordon was on the contrary allowed a period of 15 years. Montelibano said that while "Dick Gordon lives in two elegant houses," he also allowed discounted rates to his wife at 188 Captain’s Circle, the best house in the Kalayaan area, and 13 others to his immediate family members. Kate Gordon’s unit at West Kalayaan was leased out for $97,000, also for 25 years. Meanwhile, the terms under several of these contracts were not fully met. The lessees have allegedly accumulated arrears in rentals and utilities, the complaint added.

Gordon describes charges as recycled trash

OLONGAPO CITY - "Recycled Trash." - This was how a spokesman of Richard Gordon described the charges filed by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority against its former administrator. Mike Pusing, city public information officer, said the charges which the SBMA's Land and Asset Development Office lodged against Gordon with the Office of the Ombudsman for alleged abuse of privileges and anomalous lease contracts of several housing units "are not new but part of incumbent chairman Felicito Payumo's smear campaign to discredit the Gordons."

"The charges are actually mere rehash of an old ejectment case which turned out to have no basis at all," Pusing said in a statement. The SBMA alleged that Gordon, during his term, appropriated for himself and his relatives a number of posh housing units in the freeport's local version of Forbes Park through alleged sweetheart deals which were disadvantageous to the government.

"All transactions involving housing units leased during Gordon's term as SBMA chairman were above board and transparent. The properties in question were duly paid for by the Gordons, pursuant to the prevailing rates at that time and in accordance with the official policies," Pusing said. Pusing accused the SBMA of deliberately omitting the fact that other houses in West Kalayaan were leased to prominent families at the same rate as the Gordons' and that the SBMA was not contesting any of the contracts.

"The Gordons paid for them with hard-earned money in contrast to current SBMA officials who enjoy housing privileges and other perks for free," Pusing said.  Pusing said Payumo himself lives in the former Admiral's house which is the most exclusive unit in West Kalayaan previously reserved for the Philippine president. The house was renovated at a cost of P2.5 million last year.

Pusing alleged that another mansion with a swimming pool and recreation area to boot is nearing completion under the name Ed Duque, but is allegedly intended for Payumo.

US Navy SEALs to be summoned
Philippine Star 12/23/00

Eighteen US Navy SEAL commandos will be summoned by a local prosecutor investigating the death of two Filipino boys after a joint military exercise by Philippine and American troops in Toledo City, Cebu last August, a Department of Foreign Affairs official said yesterday.

The 18 will be asked to submit depositions and to attend a "clarificatory hearing" of the charges filed against them and several Filipino troops, said Elmer Cato, spokesman of the Visiting Forces Agreement Commission (VFACOM), a government panel monitoring Philippine-US military exercises. He said the commission expects to receive the summons from the Toledo City prosecutor which it would then convey to the US Embassy in Manila. 

The Filipino and American troops had taken part in a live fire exercise dubbed "Flash Piston 00-7" at the Atlas Mining's firing range compound in Toledo City last Aug. 19. After the exercise, a group of children picking up firewood from the Atlas firing range recovered an unexploded grenade and tinkered with it, causing it to explode. Two of the children were killed and one was injured. Families of the victims then filed charges of homicide against the Filipino and American soldiers who took part in the joint exercise.

Cato said the names of the US Navy personnel who took part in the joint exercise were released to government prosecutors on orders of Foreign Affairs Secretary Domingo Siazon Jr. and Defense Secretary Orlando Mer-cado, co-chairmen of the commission. The list of the names, in turn, was turned over to investigating prosecutor Gabriel Trocio Jr. by a VFACOM team composed of Cato, Josel Ignacio and Raul Dado during a visit to Toledo City last Tuesday.

Cato said government prosecutors will serve the summons through the VFACOM so the 18 US Navy personnel could submit their counter-affidavits. The commission decided to release the list after it noted discrepancies in the names enumerated in two earlier summons that prosecutors wanted it to serve. The names in the earlier summons did not tally with the list of US Navy participants to the joint exercise, which the VFACOM has in its possession.

"Apparently, the names were taken from the entries in the Atlas Mining logbook. The commission decided to provide the names to allow government prosecutors to make the necessary amendments on the summons," Cato said. The VFACOM did not say when the Americans would be called to the hearings. Cato, meanwhile, belied reports that US authorities submitted fictitious names as part of an alleged cover-up.

"In fairness to the US Embassy, at no point can it be said that its officials attempted to cover things up," he said. The Philippine government earlier provided burial or hospitalization assistance to the victims or their families. Left-wing groups have seized the issue to oppose further US-Philippine defense relations.

War of politicos dogs Subic, stunts growth

By Tonette Orejas
PDI Central Luzon Desk

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT ZONE--Business appears vibrant but there definitely has been no calm here during the last two years.  Lawyer Ruel John Kabigting, labor department manager of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, has a term for it: Subic bashing. Kabigting also expressed suspicion that the beatings, which he said included the Asian Wall Street Journal's unsavory article, are coming from the camp loyal to former SBMA Chair Richard Gordon.

The ASWJ's Sept. 20 story, which described Subic as ''ground zero in the current crisis of confidence facing the Philippines,'' saw print on the second anniversary of the Subic standoff, those three months when Gordon and now SBMA Chair Felicito Payumo fiercely asserted their right over the SBMA leadership.

Equipped with an elaborate media relations office, the SBMA launched an aggressive media blitz to repair the damage wrought by the article, which Payumo said was ''bereft of objectivity and fairness.'' Until Sept. 29, reports of Subic's gains in the past two years continued to see print in major national dailies. The campaign to ''correct the misperceptions'' even included a subtle attack on Gordon and on ASWJ reporter Robert Frank.

Said columnist Ducky Paredes: ''What it seems to this media watcher is that someone handed Frank a wad of bills to do an (sic) dirty deed on SMBA and Payumo with President Estrada as the intended ultimate target.'' This ''blame-it-on-Gordon'' demeanor has exasperated lawyer Ferdinand Aristorenas, former SBMA chief operating officer and now Olongapo City administrator.

The Payumo administration, Aristorenas said, has made the Gordon administration a ''wonderful scapegoat'' and a ''cure-all'' to the issues at the zone. The rebuttals that the ASWJ has stirred were but an indication of the conflict that endures between Payumo and Gordon, according to reporters who have long covered the SBMA and Olongapo.

The conflict did not begin when President Estrada appointed Payumo to the post in June 1998 and cut short by six years the tenure of Gordon. It did not end either during the July 26, 1998 clash that saw more than 50 Gordon supporters and 27 policemen hurt. It did not cease when Gordon respected the Supreme Court's affirming of Payumo in September 1998. The conflict did not end when the two shook hands before the year closed.

''Reconciliation will never be easy for longtime political foes,'' one of the reporters observed. The conflict between Payumo and Gordon is deeply rooted. Their families, including the Romans of Bataan and the Magsaysays of Zambales, have been the political dynasties that governed the towns around the Subic Naval Base.  When the Americans still reigned in Subic in the 1980s, Gordon was Olongapo City mayor while the Harvard-educated Payumo was Bataan congressman. Hostile to the Gordons' control over the socioeconomic benefits from the base, all politicians from the old clans and their protégés gravitated toward Payumo.

Gordon, who pioneered starting November 1992 the conversion process of Subic for civilian use, has one dislike that he has publicly admitted about Payumo.  Payumo, as chair of the House committee on economic development, had opposed the concept of a freeport during deliberations on the base conversion law and on the creation of an authority to convert Subic around that concept.

Between 1992 and until early 1998, Payumo regularly called attention to the alleged rampant smuggling inside Subic. Gordon found it discomforting that his staunchest critic would be at the SBMA helm. Payumo, on the other hand, found his appointment as an opportunity to correct a base conversion program that was heavily partial to Olongapo, the city right next to the base. On the Clark-Subic alliance, Payumo said, ''Subic's enclave mentality has to change. The freeport should not just be for Olongapo or Subic but for the rest of the country.''

The freeport, he added, would ''gradually share its harbor and airport with its neighboring municipalities--Morong, Hermosa and Dinalupihan in Bataan, and Subic, San Marcelino and San Antonio in Zambales--to accommodate further the influx of business.'' To Gordon, the hiring of many Olongapo workers in Subic was necessary since the city was the most affected by the closure of the base. According to Olongapo Mayor Kate Gordon, these same workers, who first volunteered their time and effort to preserve the assets of the base, ''gave way to the success of the freeport.'' Payumo, however, has a name for volunteerism: Indentured labor.

These same realities and several more issues had been at the core of the disquiet in Subic in the last two years, newspaper reports and observations by reporters showed.

Calls for the resignation of Felicito Payumo, chair of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT ZONE - President Estrada was not the only object of resign calls and rallies in Olongapo City.  Less than a dozen streamers that have been put up here since last week have also called for the resignation of Mr. Estrada's appointee, Felicito Payumo, chair of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority.

The anti-Erap and anti-Payumo streamers, including stickers, according to Payumo supporters, have been produced by camps loyal to Richard Gordon, former SBMA chair whom President Estrada booted out through Executive Order No. 1.  The order triggered a two-month stand-off between Payumo and Gordon, ending in a violent clash that injured 27 policemen and some 90 Gordon supporters. Evidently, the calls for Mr. Estrada to resign have stirred fresh antagonism against his appointee at the SBMA.

On Friday night, Ignacio Ramos, president of the Olongapo City Tricycle Drivers and Operators Association, said they were protesting the demand of Gordon camps to stop plying their route as a form of support for the Nov. 17 rally in the city.  The rally, which he said was anti-Payumo, mobilized hundreds of residents, including drivers, vendors, senior citizens and stall owners.

Ramos said the rally organizers had warned them that should they not cooperate, their tricycles would be impounded. He said his group, and that of senior citizens, were not joining the rally and were getting a lawyer to stop the "harassment" by Gordon's camp. Another rally is planned for Nov. 24 and groups loyal to Gordon said they expected 60,000 participants.

Mike Pusing, Olongapo's Public Information Officer, said groups loyal to Gordon were not forcing city residents to attend anti-Estrada rallies. He said the Mamamayang Olongapo Laban sa Abuso sa Volunteers at Empleyado, comprised of workers laid off from the SBMA and the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, had put up the streamers.  Since last year, Molave had been staging rallies condemning Payumo and the "death of the freeport."

Prime locations at Subic earmarked for leisure, industrial, commercial and residential development

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT ­ Government is undertaking a tender offer that would open up eight prime locations at the Subic Bay Freeport, earmarked for leisure, industrial, commercial and residential development. The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) announced that it was offering eight land properties to foreign and local investors to serve as development catalysts for strategic areas within the 67,000-hectare former military reservation.

SBMA chairman Felicito Payumo told reporters that the land disposition effort would complement the planned integration of the former US naval base and the former US Air Force base at Clark in Pampanga. Payumo said two prime lots at the Subic Gateway are being offered for long-term lease for commercial development near the Tipo Expressway, the Freeport’s main access road to Metro Manila. The lots, Payumo said, are envisioned as the location for a two-module type convention center for international and domestic conferences as well as a business hotel and residential facilities.

"There are hotel facilities in the freeport but there are no real convention facilities," Payumo said. "This is an untapped market that Subic is ideal for, considering the congestion in Metro Manila." Payumo said the SBMA has also earmarked an area at the Freeport Central Area for development into a mini business park for light industries, small factories, infotech industries and so-called incubator industries. Also in the central area, the SBMA chief said 1.2-hectare lot has been set aside for mixed use site and a strategically located 8,500-square meter lot was being offered for offices along Dewey Ave. The most significant offer, according to Payumo, is the three-hectare area within the Freeport’s protected area that has been designated for development into what would be known as the Ilanin Bay Resorts.

One portion known as the Hidden Beach, Payumo said, was being offered for resort accommodations while another portion along the Camayan Wharf would be available for commercial establishments that would complement the resort such as cafes, shops, parking and clubs. Across the bay, Payumo said the SBMA is offering a vast property at the Redondo Peninsula, formerly the site of the multi-billion dollar Malampaya Natural Gas Project. The 40-hectare area, Payumo revealed, already had infrastructure on site, left by Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. following the completion of its concrete gravity structure known as the Malampaya platform.

These structures include a finger pier, a steel sheet pile retaining wall, a basin measuring 180 meters by 225 meters, existing flood and drainage canals, site perimeter fence, gates and access roads. Payumo said the SBMA has packaged all eight properties for its tender offer and the terms of reference for the long term lease would be distributed to >known property developers. "We are taking a proactive approach and aggressive marketing instead of waiting for investors to show up at our doorstep," Payumo said. "We have received very favorable initial response and we are optimistic that this effort will attract the kind of investors we want." Payumo said the tender offer would start next month.

October 19, 2000


The future was supposed to be bright at the Clark and Subic military bases once the Americans pulled out. 


Ceiling fans fail to blunt the heat of the day. At Margaritaville, the drinking has begun: Dozens of sluggish, flabby foreigners dangle from the bar, their faces raw with razor stubble and sweat. Among the drinkers, however, several stand out--they're tall and muscular, with buzz cuts. "Could you put some more bourbon in here," one of them asks, brandishing a bottle of Pepsi.

"Are you Army?" the barmaid says, giggling and batting her eyelashes. The other girls come to listen. "I don't know," the soldier replies, somewhat coyly. "Isn't everyone here Army?"

Helicopters whir overhead. The Americans have returned to Angeles City. Or a few of them, at least, since the signing last year of an agreement to resume joint U.S.-Philippine exercises and training after a nine-year gap. Outside, in the midday sun, protesters praise communist North Korea over megaphones and carry banners reading "Foreigners are Vultures Feeding on the People" and "Filipina Women You Are Not Prostitutes, You Are Revolutionary Fighters."

Everyone--leftists, soldiers and sex tourists--is here for the same reason: Clark Field, the former U.S. Air Force base at the heart of this dusty, squalid town. For Angeles, time has stood still since 1991, when the U.S. vacated its bases here and at nearby Subic Bay. At Subic, foreign investors are getting cold feet; in Angeles, they never really arrived. For devastated locals, the promised boom towns never materialized, while the memory of prosperity lingers like an amputee's phantom pain. 


It wasn't supposed to be this way. When the Philippine Senate voted to cancel the Military Base Agreement on September 16, 1991, it was supposed to be the day Filipinos took their country back. It's difficult to describe the scale of the American presence at the time. Not only were the bases huge, but the amount of money they injected into the economy was staggering--the U.S. paid $481 million in 1991 alone for the use of the bases. On top of that, the U.S. gave the Philippines $160 million a year in "multilateral assistance" and heavily supported Philippine loan applications with international lenders as part of what the Cato Institute, a U.S.-based think-tank, has described as "an implicit quid pro quo of U.S. access" to the bases. By comparison, total foreign direct investment in the Philippines in 1991 totalled $544 million. 

Nationalists wanted to use the bases to reinvent the country, liberating it from its postcolonial dependency. Ambitious plans--particularly at Subic--were laid to convert the facilities into world-class transshipment zones, tourist attractions and industrial parks. Instead, foreigners came to Angeles to invest mainly in cheap sex. The Maoist protesters may represent a lunatic fringe, but their rage reflects a wider sense of bitterness at the nation's failure to decolonize itself. Nowhere is that disappointment more palpable than in Subic Bay.

"Subic is quickly turning into a disaster," says Alex Magno, a political scientist at the University of the Philippines and president of the Foundation for Economic Freedom. "Labour is more expensive than in China or Vietnam, so we can't compete in labour-intensive industries. There is virtually no domestic or foreign tourism. Because the investors need new skills, they hire migrants, not locals--to be blunt, you can't convert a prostitute into a chip-maker. Subic's only real impact on the local population is as a source of cheap duty-free chicken." 

Magno was a member of an advisory commission created by the Philippine Senate in 1989, when the government of then-President Corazon Aquino began talks with the U.S. on the future of the bases agreement. "Our studies found the economy of Angeles 77% dependent on Clark, that of Olongapo 95% dependent on Subic," says Magno. "To terminate the agreement was not the most pragmatic of decisions. But people wanted to lash out against the Americans and against Aquino."

Arriving at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone today is like crossing from mainland China into Hong Kong 20 years ago. A narrow potholed highway cuts through roadside villages before reaching a checkpoint where guards demand passports or ID cards. The road then widens out and the landscape becomes empty and lush. After 20 minutes you arrive at the heart of the former base, a mirage of manicured lawns, steak restaurants and yacht havens. Former mayor Richard Gordon--sacked in spectacular circumstances by President Joseph Estrada after he backed a political rival of the president--wanted to preserve the infrastructure the Americans left behind. He succeeded too well: Subic feels like a deserted military base. The International Hotel looks like the officers' quarters it used to be, the Yacht Club the former naval repair facility. Few locals venture here, and the wealthy Manile-os who bought condominiums early on will tell you they rarely use them.

Aside from the Federal Express cargo hub, few foreign investments have thrived. French electronics firm Thomson pulled out of Subic last December. Chip-maker Acer was on the verge of pulling out when the earthquake in Taiwan meant it needed capacity.  "It was a nightmare when the Americans left," says Olongapo resident Ogie Galvezo, a former consultant to the Asian Development Bank. "We were not prepared. We ... just thought they could never leave." Galvezo lays out the good old days: "There were 20,000 to 25,000 employees. If you worked for the navy before 1955, you were a federal employee, you could apply for U.S. citizenship. Those who started after 1955, after 15 years they could apply as a 'special immigrant.'" In addition to regular employees, there were 50,000 to 75,000 contractors and their employees.

His views are echoed by Dominader Liwanag, 51, an Ayta tribesman who trained U.S. forces in "still secret" survival techniques in the virgin forests around Subic that are home to his people. In the old days, he recalls, there was free medicine and house calls. "Now we must go find the doctors, and we pay for medicine," says Liwanag, who now works as a forest warden. His biggest regret, though: "I miss the fruit." The navy, apparently, dumped its surplus fruit in the forest.


The road between Angeles and Subic cuts through the shadow of Mount Pinatubo, a desolate plain where abandoned houses still lie half-buried in ash after 1991's devastating eruption. The area will lie barren for decades, waiting for the ash to become a topsoil that can retain moisture. Once this was the country's rice bowl, and that abundance had made Pampanga province, of which Angeles is the capital, a centre of culture. "We consider ourselves the Greeks of the Philippines," says Randy David, director of the Third World Studies Centre at the University of the Philippines, host of the TV programme Public Life, and a proud Pampangan. "We are not, like Olongapo, purely a creation of the Americans."

The current profusion of Pampangan restaurants and carving workshops in Manila testify to the domestic diaspora in the wake of Pinatubo. Says Magno, "Angeles is a city which has lost its reason for being".  Not so, says the Clark Development Corporation, or CDC, which is in charge of redeveloping the base. Joey Punsalan, a spokesman for CDC president Rogelio Singson, lists a series of massive infrastructure projects: an expressway between Subic and Clark, a widening of the highway to Manila, an expansion of Subic's port. "With the supporting infrastructure in place," he says, "Clark will be the premier airport" in the Philippines. But frequent changes in management have badly affected the CDC's performance. Singson has only been in charge since July, and his predecessor, Sergio Naguiat, lasted a mere five months. And some wonder whether Clark is viable at all. The CDC is trying to promote hi-tech investment but, according to Magno, "you can't do electronics in Clark because of all the dust from the volcano--most of that goes on in Baguio, up in the mountains." 

Manufacturing still forms the backbone of investment, most of it garments. Just 7% of the workforce is in IT, most of them 700 software technicians answering tech-support questions from AOL's North American customers. Some have hailed AOL as a "salvation" for the Philippines in a globalizing economy. Critics say it's a low-paying cyber-sweatshop (AOL did not answer questions on how much staff are paid).

The most vibrant business in Clark, curiously, seems to be duty-free shops. Unlike those encountered in most international airports, these sell everyday items like imported frozen chicken, which locals say is tastier than domestic mass-produced birds but which they usually can't afford because of crippling tariffs. "Most of these places," says Magno, "sell a couple of bottles of liquor to cover the smuggling of millions of chickens." Residents get a $100 duty-free allowance every month, and visitors $25. But there is no system to track how much people buy. "This is the real tragedy," says Magno. "They're smuggling garlic, rice and sugar--all the things we should be producing ourselves."


Elsewhere in Clark, a more human tragedy. Three hundred people who took refuge there during the Pinatubo eruption say they were exposed to asbestos, lead, nitrate, dieldrin, mercury and benzine at the base. An organization calling itself People's Task Force for Bases Clean-up is threatening to file a $102 billion class-action suit against the U.S. government on their behalf. But at the site of CabCom (the Clark Air Base Evacuation Centre), the causes of the poisoning appear less black and white: The refugees clearly dug shallow wells--apparently without permission--tapping into groundwater polluted by seepage from nearby jet-fuel storage tanks. This scenario is supported by some staffers at the CDC (which is not being sued), but not by Manila's lurid yellow press. To them, it's just another Yankee atrocity.

In Angeles, too, there are signs of resentment towards outsiders. "A lot of people are leaving. They don't feel safe," says Josh, an American who came here months ago. "On Fridays and Saturdays, it's like a tinderbox." Still, something of the old tolerance remains. "Angeles still keeps this border-zone tolerance and discretion," says Public Life presenter David. "People are used to transients. They're not shocked to see, let's say, tattooed Australians of a certain breed walking around. People don't ask questions." "I feel more free here," says Charles Thomas, a former USAF logistics officer from Louisiana who is one of 5,000 military retirees living in Angeles. "I can ride a trike with a beer in my hand, and nobody cares. Can you say that about America?" 

At Margaritaville, six months after the joint U.S.-Philippine exercises, the waitress complains that business is slow. The situation in Mindanao, you know. But memories remain of the 2,000 soldiers who were here in February. Signs advertise for "GROs"--guest-relations officers, a euphemism for escorts--at 500 pesos ($10.80) a day, just for dancing. The sun gets lower and a plastered expat orders a round of margaritas. "There was a lot of grand rhetoric," says Magno. "But these are ex-bases. And we are just an ex-colony."

September 20, 2000

Former U.S. Base, Is Hit By Cronyism and Closings

Subic Bay, Philippines

SUBIC BAY, Philippines -- Kevin Hamdorf knew there was trouble in the neighborhood even before his watchdog was taken hostage.  As one of the pioneers of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone in the early 1990s, he had helped turn this former U.S. military base into an international business hub and a symbol of the New Philippines. Gone were the gunboats, blackouts and bar girls. In came Acer, FedEx, fiber-optic cables and business lunches at the Hollywood Steakhouse. By 1997, economic developers world-wide were trekking to Subic to study the Philippine miracle.

"So much for the miracle," sighs Mr. Hamdorf, hunched over a plate of cold French fries at the half-empty Hollywood Steakhouse. Mr. Hamdorf, a photographer from Australia, used to take pictures for Subic businesses and events. He hasn't had a corporate call in weeks. Acer Group, the Taiwanese computer giant, is cutting jobs and moving business to China, while France's Thomson SA just closed its phone factory. On Aim High Avenue, a circuit-board maker, a convenience store and a pencil plant have all moved out. The new Negritos Cyber Canteen does a brisk business in pork rice but doesn't have a computer.

A Hundred for One Dalmatian:  Brownouts, smuggling and crime have returned, residents say. Mr. Hamdorf's house, just outside the Freeport Zone, was robbed twice, despite the presence of Nikko, his Dalmatian watchdog. After the dog was grabbed last month, it took $100 in ransom to get him back.  If there's a ground zero in the sudden crisis of confidence facing the Philippines, it is here in Subic Bay, 55 miles northwest of Manila. Once a symbol of all that could go right with Asian democracy and free markets, the commercial and residential development is now a lesson in cronyism, corruption and the clumsy leadership of Philippine President Joseph "Erap" Estrada.

A former actor in local B-movies, Mr. Estrada is known for his glistening pompadour, his Average Joe image and his vigor -- he takes pride in his many illegitimate children. Since he came to power, the Philippines has become the slowest-growing economy in Asia, after Japan. Its stock market has been among the world's worst performers this year, privatization has stalled, and foreign direct investment is down more than 40% this year from 1999. Islamic rebels and Communist bandits are back in action, along with the cronies of Ferdinand Marcos. The can-do optimism of former President Fidel Ramos has been replaced by daily Erap jokes, like: How do you tell when Erap sends you a fax?...It has a stamp on it.

Not so long ago, the Philippines was being cheered as the comeback kid of Southeast Asia. While its neighbors collapsed in crisis in 1998, this country forged ahead with only minor damage. Its U.S.-built legal and accounting systems, free press and rapid reforms were proof, many said, that good institutions were more important to Asia's development than individual leadership. Progress will march on, said Gen. Jose Almonte, then national security adviser, in 1996, "even if a chimpanzee becomes president."

The picture began to darken after Mr. Estrada took office in 1998 and brought a different style to economic management. After intervening in a stock-manipulation probe on behalf of a business friend, Mr. Estrada called in to a late-night television talk show in March and told the country's top stock regulator, "May lightning strike you down!" A $1 billion tax case against Lucio Tan, the country's wealthiest man and Mr. Estrada's main campaign backer, was recently dropped because the government missed the filing deadline. This comes at a time when a tax-collection shortfall is widening the budget gap and threatening a bailout program with the International Monetary Fund that was set up before Asia's financial crisis.

"We thought our institutions were so strong that it no longer really mattered who was president," says Bernardo Villegas, dean of economics at the University of Asia and the Pacific in Manila. "Now we realize there's a limit to that."  Nowhere have the limits been tested more than at Subic Bay. On a recent afternoon, as a typhoon howls into the harbor, a group of local business leaders and workers march into a meeting hall to celebrate the second anniversary of the Subic Administration, which oversees the zone.  The anniversary used to be in November. But President Estrada changed it to September, to honor the day he ousted the administration chairman, Richard Gordon, who was appointed by President Ramos. 

In the summer of 1998, Philippine police, armed with riot gear and automatic rifles, surrounded the administration headquarters to remove Mr. Gordon, who was barricaded inside. A dynamic salesman and self-confessed autocrat, Mr. Gordon was largely responsible for Subic's $2.6 billion in investment and global success, and was slated to remain chairman until 2004. Mr. Estrada, angered that Mr. Gordon didn't support his presidential campaign, appointed his own chairman. Police clashed with more than 100 of Mr. Gordon's supporters and more than 20 people were injured during the three-month standoff before Mr. Gordon agreed to honor a court ruling and step down.

On the podium to celebrate his anniversary this month, Subic's new chairman, Felicito Payumo, sets the new tone. Mr. Gordon's anniversaries featured parades, floats, beer and evening feasts. Today Mr. Payumo -- a former congressman -- hands out boxed lunches to a small group of workers and gives a speech about Subic's new cargo crane and raises for government workers. Their salaries have more than doubled, although the Subic development is losing money for the first time.

Back in his office, Mr. Payumo stresses his achievements at Subic: more than 30 new projects, over 20,000 new jobs, more than $1 billion in exports in 1999 and rising tax collections. But local business executives refute the figures, pointing to the rash of closings and cutbacks, and add that Subic's marketing has all but vanished. Even Mr. Payumo admits some problems. Companies have stopped paying their bills, leaving him with more than $30 million in back rent. "The infrastructure needs a little work," he says, just as the electricity shuts down in his office. 

Even the bats have grown surly. Every night the sky over Subic turns black with giant columns of fruit bats, which are forced to fly farther away for food because of increased logging in the base's extensive forested areas.  "It's a little eerie," says Mr. Payumo. "But a lot of things here are better. Have you seen our new logo?"

Down the road, at the foot of a dense jungle where American soldiers once trained for Vietnam, Kenny Wang is fighting his own air war. The managing director for Acer Philippines, Mr. Wang oversees the biggest factory complex in Subic, employing 2,600 workers. The computer plants make more than one-third of Acer's personal computers and about one-third of its notebook devices, accounting for 70% of Subic's total exports. A recent decision by Mr. Estrada to help a businessman friend, however, has choked off Acer's business.

Last year, Mr. Estrada suspended an air-rights pact with Taiwan, citing accusations by Philippine Airlines that its Taiwanese rivals were poaching passengers with cheaper fares. The decision, which ended direct commercial flights between the two countries, largely benefited Mr. Tan, the majority owner of Philippine Airlines. The rest of the Philippines has suffered: Taiwanese tourists no longer flock to Philippine beaches, electronics parts can't make it to Philippine factories, and Philippine nurses and engineers have to take long and expensive routes to get to their contract jobs in Taipei. Both Philippine Airlines and the Estrada government say allegations of favoritism toward Mr. Tan are groundless. Acer has been among the hardest hit. Most of the parts and motherboards for its personal computers come from Taiwan. Without direct flights, the components take twice as long to arrive, at twice the cost, making the plant uncompetitive. Mr. Wang has moved one PC-manufacturing line to China and two notebook lines to Taipei, cutting more than 1,000 jobs here. While some employees have been absorbed into the notebook division, Acer can't move ahead with its planned expansions. The factory has so much empty space that workers have started playing soccer on the testing floor.

"We want this solved immediately," says a frustrated Mr. Wang, who is eyeing China for expansion. "The environment here has become very political, and it's not good for business."  At happy hour at the Subic Bay Yacht Club, soft piano music drifts across the lounge. Giant picture windows offer a view of the harbor that America's Seventh Fleet once called home and where, today, a cluster of leisure boats bobs in the rain. The $80 million club was part of a grand plan to turn Subic into a tourist haven. Yet now, the bar is empty, there isn't a member in sight, and the guest-services manager is asleep.  "You know what the problem is?" says Jose Mari Vargas, the club's managing director, as he rattles around the empty Skipper's Grill. "Buzz. We need more buzz."

And less terrorism. While President Ramos made peace with Islamic separatists and rural bandits, Mr. Estrada has taken a tough military stand. Last weekend, he launched an all-out war against Muslim guerrillas on the island of Jolo in an effort to rescue 19 hostages, including one American and two French journalists. The military strikes are continuing, and it isn't clear whether the hostages are alive. The rebels had been gathering strength after collecting an estimated $15 million in ransom money paid by Libya, in what was widely seen as an effort to enhance relations with Europe.

The turmoil has battered tourism. Although Subic is flooded on weekends with visitors from Manila, the big-spending foreigners have stayed away. A casino at the nearby Legenda Hotel, once one of the most profitable in Asia, is quiet, and construction ended two years ago on a new hotel down the road.  When it opened three years ago, the yacht club expected 300,000 memberships; it has gotten about half that. The club is trying special "food days," offering cuisine from, say, Mexico, and playing up its policy that members don't need to own a boat. Corporate memberships used to cost more than $30,000; an advertisement in the Subic Chamber of Commerce newsletter offers one for $12,000.

Anna Lyn Dominguez stirs a pot of rice in her cramped, concrete home in Olongapo, the town just outside the gates of Subic. Ms. Dominguez, 27 years old, used to snap together phone circuits at a Thomson plant for $80 a week. The money supported her husband and two children, her parents and her sister. Earlier this year, Thomson moved its plant to China to become more competitive and Mrs. Dominguez lost her job.  "It's getting hard to buy food," she says. Unemployment in Olongapo, once among the lowest in the country, has soared to more than 22%. Small stores are closing and shop owners report a rapid rise in crime. Political battles have made matters worse. Subic's new boss, Mr. Payumo, hails from Bataan, a poor province on Subic's southern border where he used to be a congressman. Olongapo remains the turf of Mr. Gordon, whose wife is mayor. After taking office, Mr. Payumo filled the Subic jobs center with workers from Bataan, replacing many from Olongapo. Subic companies are forced to hire first from the job center for available positions.

Stuart Allen, director of South Sea Resources, a treasure-hunting and diving company at Subic, wanted to hire a talented Web-site designer from Olongapo when he ran into trouble with Subic authorities. They required him to first consider a long list of candidates from the jobs center, including a Bataan bus driver. Although he eventually got permission to make the hire, the approval took weeks. Mr. Payumo concedes that he is trying to boost employment for Bataan, but only "to correct the favoritism of Mr. Gordon toward Olongapo." Gazing out his office window, Mr. Payumo points to another corrective measure, a marble statue honoring the 12 Philippine senators who helped drive out the U.S. military. Mr. Gordon's monument was the Volunteer's Wall, listing the names of the more than 20,000 volunteers who helped protect and nurture the Subic development throughout the 1990s. 

The new display, called "Inang Laya -- Mother Country," features a robed woman releasing a small bird and 12 handprints set in marble, representing the senators. Mr. Payumo calls it a "symbol of the Philippine spirit and persistence." Locals, however, have their own name: "The Outstretched Palms."

July 17, 2000

Subic / Clark Merger
Clark Field , Pampanga

    President Estrada has directed the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) to study the proposed merging of the Clark Special Economic Zone (CSEZ) and the Subic Bay Freeport into a "super economic zone" as a flagship project of his administration.

    "We are looking into a possible corporate vehicle to merge Clark and Subic into one asset pool," said BCDA chairman Rogelio Singson at a press briefing here yesterday.  Singson is concurrent president and chief executive officer of the state-owned Clark Development Corp. (CDC).  Singson said the President has instructed that uniform policies and lease rates be formulated for both Subic and Clark which will be linked by the proposed Clark-Subic toll road.  He said the Japan Bank of International Corporation (JBIC) has expressed intent to finance the construction of the P18.7-billion, 89.3-kilometer toll road that will link Subic's deep seaport with Clark's world-class international airport. The road will be extended to Tarlac.

    Meanwhile, Singson said he has fired some 48 consultants hired by his predecessor, Sergio Naguiat. "I have no need for consultants," he said.  Naguiat, who took over the CDC last Feb. 3, was ousted following controversies that rocked the state-run firm.  Singson said Malacañang has not yet considered any permanent replacement for Naguiat, as he denied reports that Clark International Airport Corp.  (CIAC) president Frank Puzon and one Raul Trinidad are being considered for the post.  Singson said he would pursue a four-point agenda at Clark: 

    He has junked Naguiat's earlier proposal for a budget to meet a projected deficit this year, saying the CDC could operate without any deficit and even yield a profit of about P16 million.  "I suppose that Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority chairman Felicito Payumo would do well as head of the merged Clark and Subic," Singson added.  He said the BCDA is now studying the advantages of a Subic-Clark alliance that will mold the two former US military bases as one super economic zone.  "It could be developed as our version of the New York-New Jersey port authority in the United States, and it would be promoted as a flagship project of the Estrada administration," he said.

June 7, 2000

U.S. seeks softer stance on hookers
By George Archibald

     The U.S. delegation to a United Nations Women's Conference is leading efforts to avoid condemning prostitution as a "form of abuse" of women and is attempting to weaken anti-pornography provisions.  A leading U.S. negotiator, Sharon Kotok, confirmed reports from closed-door negotiating sessions on a U.N. report being drafted this week that the Clinton administration spearheaded the move for wealthy, developed nations.

     Poorer, undeveloped nations in Africa, the Middle East and South America have strongly objected to the U.S.-European moves because of strong religious traditions.  "We [the caucus of developed nations] had agreed to drop all of these phrases," Ms. Kotok said of the anti-prostitution provision. She attributed the move to "cleaning up" the report to avoid listing specific abuses that could be broadly labeled "sexual exploitation."

     The United States wants to drop an attack on the pornography industry as an exploiter of women and simply label pornographic and obscene material as an "obstacle" to women's dignity and rights.  The provisions are part of a draft report at a conference of 10,000 female delegates from throughout the world, five years after the 1995 Beijing women's conference. The delegates are mapping an agenda for women's advancement and empowerment over the next five years.

     The United States, the European Union and wealthy, developed countries — Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea — are trying to use the report to expand homosexual rights, create new sexual rights for adolescent girls starting at age 10 and require abortion training for all health care workers.   Poorer undeveloped countries in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and South America want stronger pro-family provisions and condemnation of sexual exploitation of women through sexual promiscuity, prostitution, pornography and other abuses.  Participants in the closed-door sessions said the United States made the move to strike the prostitution provision in a section on women's migration after the Philippines delegation tried to strengthen it.

     As written, the draft report noted that while global migration of women increases their earning opportunities and self-reliance, it also exposes women and children, especially girls, to inadequate working conditions, increased health risks, the risk of trafficking, economic and sexual exploitation, forced prostitution, racism, xenophobia and other forms of abuse.  The Philippine delegation moved to drop the word "forced" so that all prostitution was labeled as an exploitative abuse. At that point, delegates said, Ms. Kotok jumped up and moved to strike any reference to prostitution, racism and xenophobia.

     This was not a paragraph calling for criminalization of prostitution, thus the Clinton administration cannot contend that it was trying to protect women from prosecution for a crime in which men go unpunished, said Kathryn Balmforth, a nongovernment organization (NGO) delegate representing Family Voice of Utah.  The maneuver was simply designed to prevent voluntary prostitution from being included in a negative context.

     Ms. Kotok said the United States and other countries in its caucus had agreed before the conference to push to delete the prostitution references.  "I suggested dropping this entire phrase," she said. "We were just trying to clean it up. That was a balanced sentence. We thought it [prostitution] was covered [as sexual exploitation]."  However, U.S. NGOs supporting positions of the Holy See, the Vatican's delegation to the U.N., and the undeveloped nations' caucus called the Group of 77, or G-77, said the administration has opposed U.N. references condemning prostitution in other negotiations.

     According to published reports in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere, in negotiations involving the U.N. Convention on Transnational Organized Crime in Vienna, the administration has supported using the phrase "forced prostitution" rather than simply "prostitution," thus placing women in the position of having to prove whether their prostitution was coerced or not.

     The administration's position in Vienna this year was spearheaded by the President's Interagency Council on Women, whose honorary chairman is first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, the reports said. The President's Interagency Council on Women also is directing the U.S. delegation's positions at the U.N. women's conference, officials said.  "I am not involved in Vienna," Ms. Kotok, a State Department official assisting the U.S. delegation, said yesterday.  "It's all in brackets," she said of the prostitution section and the pornography section that the administration wants to have modified, meaning the two sections have not been agreed to and are still under discussion.

     "We are trying to condemn the entire pornography industry as an abuse; it is one of the obstacles we are dealing with," said T. Malek-Ebrahimi, a delegate for Islamic Women Institute of Iran, an NGO group.  The U.S. words referring only to pornographic materials are diluting the actual language because it does not encompass filmmakers who exploit women and children in making pornographic movies, or other aspects of the pornography trade, she said.

     Pornography is the whole institution: filmmakers, magazines, sex shops and so forth. Pornographic and obscene materials are only one part of it.  Ms. Kotok says the U.S. proposal talks about products in a section dealing with women and media. "We thought it made more sense. We thought 'pornographic materials' was more appropriate," she said.  

     E.J. Suh, a University of Illinois college student representing World Youth Alliance, a major youth NGO group at the conference with members on five continents, said she was disappointed in the U.S.-led action.  "It doesn't make sense to me that the U.S. would loosen regulations on issues of prostitution, pornography and abortion," she said. "It is something very damaging to women physically, mentally and emotionally. As an American, I know how our society holds very dear freedom, but not freedom to do anything and everything."

Thursday May 25, 2000


ANGELES CITY -- Anxiety now reigns in this city after an improvised bomb was found on a seat of a McDonald's outlet at the four-story Saver's Mall in busy Barangay Balibago at about 6:50 p.m. last Tuesday.  

    Chief Superintendent Roberto Calinisan, Central Luzon police director, ordered the entire police force under him to work "double time and be on 24-hour alert" following the incident.  Senior Superintendent Ruben Rodriguez, city police chief, said a security guard found the bomb in a beltbag on a seat at the second floor of the McDonald's outlet.  The guard put the bag in a garbage can where he opened it. The bag contained a hand grenade without firing lever attached to some wirings and batteries. Taped around the grenade were 10 caliber .45 and M-16 bullets. Earlier, Rodriguez said an unidentified man called up a Jollibee outlet beside McDonald's to warn that a bomb would explode there. The caller also asked whether the bomb had already been found. The search that followed revealed no bomb at Jollibee, until the guard at McDonald's found the beltbag.  Hundreds of shoppers at the mall, however, were asked to leave after the bomb threat was received.

    Police sought the help of the Air Force's explosive ordnance disposal unit at Clark Field which detonated the bomb at the Astro Park in front of Clark at about 10 p.m. The explosion created a two-foot deep hole in the ground.  Calinisan, however, said the incident was not related to the Mindanao conflict, pointing out that an association of Muslims in Central Luzon recently denounced the atrocities of the Abu Sayyaf and pledged loyalty to the Estrada administration.  "This is part of the destabilization move against the administration," Calinisan said, but he declined to elaborate.  He also discounted communist rebels as those who planted the bomb, noting that the mall's owner, Dennis Uy, never received demands for "revolutionary taxes" from the rebels.

    "The perpetrators are the disgruntled elements in our society," he said.  Pandemonium also nearly broke out at the nearby Jenra Mall due to a bomb threat received shortly after the bomb at Saver's Mall was found. But bomb disposal experts found no bomb.  Rodriguez, however, said the perpetrators could merely be "riding on" the rash of bomb threats in Metro Manila.  "The suspects would not have called up to warn about the bomb if he was part of the terrorist moves in other parts of the country. He would have allowed the bomb to explode," he said.  So far, investigators have no leads on who could be behind the foiled bombing attempt. Rodriguez said employees of the McDonald's outlet will be asked to recall events before the bomb was found.

    Calinisan said he has ordered the entire regional police force to work double time, 24 hours a day, tightly guarding bus terminals, vital public facilities and frequented places in Central Luzon, particularly shopping and market areas.  At the Clark Special Economic Zone, all vehicles are thoroughly checked at entry points, creating long traffic and triggering frequent arguments between motorists and security personnel.

Saturday April 29, 2000

American submarine docks at Subic
By Franco G. Regala - Manila Post

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT -- The American Navy submarine USS Ashville docked here yesterday for a six-day stay in this former US military base which has been developed into a progressive commercial and industrial zone.  The 362-foot long USS Ashville, with a displacement capacity of 6,000 tons, docked at the Alava Pier inside the compound of the former Ship Repair Facility (SRF). It is the second submarine to visit this former Naval base after the USS Sta. Fe docked here last December. 

    758.jpg (26498 bytes)Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chairman Felicito Payumo welcomed the arrival of the US Navy submarine with about 150 military personnel who will be here not only for rest and recreation but also to help in various community projects in neighboring towns.  "We welcome the US Navy personnel as guests, and we remain hospitable to them. The big difference now is that they used to be here as part of the US military base, but now they are coming here as our guests. The SBMA would like the Ashville crew to have an enjoyable and peaceful stay here," Payumo said.

    US Navy Commander Kerry Ingalls said the goodwill visit is part of the long tradition of friendship, mutual cooperation, and understanding goodwill between the US and Philippine governments.  "We came here to enhance, support, and enjoy the traditional RP-US friendship and cooperation," Capt. Ingalls said.

    Capt. Leo McGinn, US Defense Attaché to the Philippines, said the Ashville is the 12th US military vessel to visit the country since the ratification of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) by the Philippine Senate.  The submarine crew will renovate a public school in Dinalupihan, Bataan, as part of its community project. 

   MangosUSSAsheville.jpg (220550 bytes) McGinn said the visit will include conferences and workshops with the Philippine Navy at the former San Miguel US Naval Station in San Antonio, Zambales, which has been converted into a naval training center.  US Navy officials said its servicemen would like to experience rainforest trekking guided by Aeta tribesmen who will show them techniques on jungle survival ,while others will go on scuba diving to explore coral reefs and ship wrecks.

    US Navy personnel will also see various cultural shows presented by Philstage at the newly opened Subic Bay Arts Center (SUBAC).  McGinn said that the port call is part of the VFA, adding that "any US military ship coming to the country for a port visit or training exercise is covered by the VFA".

    He added the USS Ashville is a nuclear- powered submarine of the Los Angeles class of the US Navy. "Our Constitution bans nuclear arms, but not nuclear-powered vessels," VFA Vice Consul Elmer Cato said.

    In Olongapo City and nearby towns in Zambales and Bataan, bars and nightclubs have prepared for the US visitors' rest and recreation. 

Monday, February 21, 2000

Balikatan security measures tightened
By Hector Soto - Manila Times

    CLARK Field, Pampanga—Tighter security measures have been imposed on United States military personnel participating in the Balikatan 2000 war games here in the face of mounting demonstrations by left-leaning groups near the main gate of Clark.  Col. Thomas Conant, site commander of the US personnel in Clark, said a 24-hour curfew has been enforced since Sunday night and their troops have been recalled.  In the press briefing yesterday, Conant said US armed forces personnel have been advised to stay away from demonstrations. This is standard practice for their military who are assigned all over the world, he said.

Activists protesting the on-going war games between Filipino and American soldiers as well as the Visiting Forces Agreement between Manila and Washington use an effigy of Uncle Sam astride a carabao as they storm the gates of Clark field, where the US used to maintain an air base. Photo by Luis Liwanag

Demonstrators against the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the on-going military exercises from the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) and the Kilusan para sa Pambansang De-mokrasya (KPD) escalated their tirades against the government and demanded scrapping of the VFA.  Yesterday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Domingo Siazon Jr. arrived at Clark to assess the progress of the war exercises. He viewed several types of US aircraft at the tarmac of the Clark International Airport.  Siazon also visited the school building at the Marcos Village in Mabalacat that is under construction by a joint Philippine-US construction unit. The building has four classrooms and two comfort rooms. It is expected to be completed on or before March 2.  Helen Grace Muñoz, head teacher of the Marcos Village Elementary School said that the new edifice will decongest the main building where there are 322 students.  “We would like to thank participants of Balikatan 2000 for the meaningful contribution extended to the people of our village particularly our children,” Muñoz said.  

    At the press conference, Siazon said he was satisfied at the support given by local officials and the way the military exercises are progressing. He added that the presidential commission on VFA has been monitoring the war games and sees to it that Philippine laws are not violated.  On the protest rallies, Siazon said these are minority “groups who find it more attractive hitting the most powerful nation in the world.”  The initial phase of the training here started with night flying of various aircraft including giant C-130 cargo planes and different types of jets and helicopters.¨

Monday, February 21, 2000


    SUBIC, Zambales Residents of South Nagyantok, Barangay Cawag here are overjoyed by the return of American soldiers after nine years of absence.  Two platoons of U.S. Navy S.E.A.L.S. arrived here Saturday with Philippine Marines to practice firing small arms.

    Residents interviewed by THE MANILA TIMES said the place is a former firing range of the U.S. Navy and their main livelihood during those times was gathering empty shells for sale to scrap dealers.  Most residents have set up stalls to vend food and souvenir items.  When queried about the dangers posed by the firing of live ammunitions, they said the soldiers fire on a mountain range opposite the direction of the populated area, while all animals have been gathered and put into pens to avoid being hit by stray bullets.  The main danger comes from unexploded shells, the residents said.

Sunday, February 6, 2000

U.S. troops in Philippines will be 'in a fishbowl'

Stars and Stripes

    The United States is back in the Philippines in full force for the first time in five years.  Some 2,300 service members arrive in the Pacific island nation over the next two weeks for Balikatan, a combined exercise between the U.S. military and Armed Forces of the Philippines.

    U.S. officials are releasing few details on the nature of the training, where it will take place or how many service members will be in each location.  But one thing is for sure: All eyes will be on the U.S. military and how its members behave during Balikatan.  "The American soldiers are going to be watched by the media, by the leftists, by the women's groups," Philippine Defense Secretary Orlando Mercado said.  "They are going to be in a fishbowl. It's not going to be easy."

    Women's rights groups and other opposition organizations launched several protests in recent weeks, saying the presence of U.S. military personnel will cause an increase in prostitution and other crimes, and exploit local women.  One group burned women's underwear last week in front of the U.S. Embassy in Manila. Their concerns were printed on the underwear - toxic waste, U.S. war games, AIDS, abortion and orphaned Amerasians.  Officials in the United States and the Philippines say they are doing all they can to head off bad behavior or political conflicts.

    "The crew will be briefed on force protection issues, as well as the issues we always cover before going into any port that they are basically ambassadors of the United States, guests of the Philippines, and are to act appropriately," said Lt. Lisa Brackenbury, a spokeswoman for Navy Amphibious Group One.  One of the group's ships, the USS Fort McHenry from Sasebo Naval Base, will take part in Balikatan. The ship will carry about 400 sailors from Sasebo and 400 Marines from Okinawa.  Another 300 Marines from Okinawa will also take part, as well as about 100 soldiers from Torii Station on Okinawa and Camp Zama near Tokyo, and personnel from Kadena Air Base on Okinawa.

    In all, about half of the 2,300 personnel participating will come from Far East bases. The rest of the force is made up mostly of Army units from Hawaii and Alaska.  Many are already in the Philippines or on their way.  The exercise officially started Jan. 28, but the bulk of the training takes place the last week of February.  Balikatan was an annual event from 1981 to 1995, but was canceled because of disagreements between the United States and the Philippines over U.S. troops there.

    "The most important thing is for us to be able to conduct these exercises without any incident on either side," Mercado said. "This will spell the future of our relationship."  U.S. forces are setting curfews, instituting buddy rules and taking other measures to make sure no one gets in trouble. Those measures are also to protect troops from outside threats, officials say.  Maj. Ann Freed, a spokeswoman for U.S. Army Pacific, which is leading the exercise, said that U.S. personnel would only be allowed to drink alcohol at officially sanctioned functions.  But she later clarified that statement to say it would be up to local commanders to set a drinking policy.

    "The U.S. exercise director has stated no consumption of alcohol outside of official functions unless approved by the site commander," Freed said. "Drinking is therefore by exception only."  Major Gen. James E. Donald, Deputy Commanding General of the U.S. Army Pacific, said in Manila last week there will be some restrictions.  Similar measures have been in place in other parts of the world, he said.

    "We are a value-based Army and we challenge our young men and women to be sensitive to those customs, traditions and sensitivities of the Filipino people," Donald said. "We are guests and they understand the cost and risk if they misbehave."  Capt. Tanya Murnock, a Marine Corps spokeswoman on Okinawa, said special attention is being placed on behavior on this deployment.  "Emphasis has been placed on personal conduct, as this is the first time returning to the Philippines," Murnock said. "Marines are fully aware of Philippine sensitivities and their obligation to respect both nations' laws. They understand that they are fully accountable for their behavior."  Murnock and Brackenbury said some U.S. personnel will likely have liberty in the Philippines, but exact dates and locations have not been finalized.

    The Visiting Forces Agreement, which outlines the way the United States and Philippines will conduct such exercises and allows the resumption of Balikatan, has provided an additional incentive for troops not to misbehave. Previously, American troops were charged in U.S. military courts for criminal violations. Under the VFA passed in May, they can face Philippine judges.  "The moment they are off duty - and rest and recreation activities are not part of being on duty - they come under the jurisdiction of Philippine law, and crimes will be tried in our courts," Mercado said.  The Philippine government is tasked with protecting the thousands of service members as they spread out over the vast island nation.

    For security reasons, most of the exercises will be held within military camps, and more than 500 Philippine soldiers and police officers will be deployed for guard duty.  The high security is in response to threats from opposition groups.  "There have been threats from the New People's Army, the military arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines," Mercado said. "We're preparing for any eventuality, but we think the American soldiers will be safe. It's mostly in propaganda that the Communists are quite active."  The country's leftist organizations reportedly worked aggressively in the last few weeks to establish a hostile environment for the U.S. troops. Roland Simbulan, a college professor and chairman of the Nuclear Free Philippines Coalition, has described visiting U.S. forces as invading marauders.

    "The U.S. war machine and its armed forces of global intervention will not be immune from the wrath and enmity of the Filipino people," said Simbulan. "They will be hounded by our people everywhere and anywhere they abuse our women and children, poison our harbors and destroy our forests and mountains with their shellfire."  Freed said the Armed Forces of the Philippines will provide armed escort where deemed necessary during troop movements.

    Participating forces are being briefed on personal security and force protection, but details are not being released.  Authorities from both countries are organizing sporting events in hopes of keeping American troops out of the Philippines' famous nightclubs.  "We are trying to provide alternative activities to manage the testosterone levels of the soldiers," said Mercado. "We hope they are not altogether too boring for them. We want them to do a lot of sports activities so they will get tired."

(By Floyd Whaley in the Philippines, Jan Wesner Childs on Okinawa and Greg Tyler at Sasebo Naval Base.)

War games to test RP response to invasion

    Thirty-nine fighter aircraft, 10 war vessels and about 4,000 American and Filipino soldiers will assault the shores of Ternate, Cavite on Feb. 28 to cap a month-long war preparedness exercise between the Philippines and the United States, Armed Forces chief Gen. Angelo Reyes said yesterday.

    In a briefing with senators, Reyes said the massive amphibious assault will have a defense and counter-attack scenario, where troops from the two countries will test their skills as well as their readiness to respond to external threats.  The war games will also include joint special operations, crisis management and civic-military operations, Reyes added.

    The briefing was called for by the Senate committees on foreign affairs and defense to get assurances from the military that the joint exercises are within the bounds of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).  The VFA was ratified by the Senate in May last year, reopening the door to joint military exercises of up to 2,000 troops on each side after a three-year impasse.  The agreement outlines the legal status of US troops taking part in the exercises in the Philippines. A counterpart agreement in the United States, which did not need ratification by the US Senate, will provide reciprocal treatment for visiting Philippine troops.

    Regarding the safety of visiting forces, Reyes said a contingent from the AFP and the Philippine National Police will be deployed around the "war zones" as well as at the Clark special economic zone, where most of the American troops are stationed.  Reyes said traders and other entrepreneurs have also been banned from entering sites of joint military exercises to prevent prostitutes from disguising themselves as vendors.  He said the ban on vendors is just one measure being used to prevent "conflicts" that may arise from the war games.

    Amid fears that the war games would promote prostitution, Reyes said American soldiers have also been directed not to drink alcoholic beverages during their breaks, to observe a midnight curfew and not to venture outside the sites of the exercises.  Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, a former Armed Forces chief who is chairman of the Senate committee on defense, welcomed the "more restrictive" guidelines for US servicemen and other measures being undertaken by the AFP to avoid untoward incidents during the war games.  Biazon recalled how women wearing "sexy outfits" in the past sold cigarettes and soft drinks to US servicemen, as a front for prostitution.  Defense Secretary Orlando Mercado said earlier that US soldiers would also be encouraged to play sports and other recreational activities during their breaks from the military exercises "to keep their testosterone levels down."

    As part of security, the Bureau of Immigration said it has also placed its agents on alert at international airports in Manila, Subic, Clark and other sub-ports of entry for the "possible entry of foreign terrorists who might attack American soldiers."  Meanwhile, not one American soldier came to drink or visit any of the girls working in the honky-tonk bars of this city.  "We had socials at the Holiday Inn after the first day of our seminar-workshop," said Lt. Col. Kevin Carek, spokesman for the 67 military officers staying inside the Clark special economic zone.  

    Angeles had been notorious for such bars, especially when the Clark Air Base was home to more than 10,000 American forces at the height of the Vietnam war.  The base was used as a jumping board for Americans' war materiel bound for Saigon, aside from being a rest and recreational spot for war-fatigued soldiers.  The military base, which was considered as one of the two largest outside the US, closed when the Senate voted to terminate a pact extending the Americans' lease on Clark.