Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Subic volunteers remembered

SUBIC BAY - Newly-installed officials of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) on Wednesday recognized the contribution of residents of Olongapo City and nearby areas who helped man the Subic Bay Free Port right after the former United States military base was turned over to the Philippine government in 1992.

In a program celebrating “Volunteers Day” here, SBMA Chairman Jose Licuanan III and SBMA Administrator Alfredo Antonio stressed that cooperation among various stakeholders in Subic is necessary for economic success.

Antonio and Licuanan, who took over the SBMA on October 16, joined local officials in paying tribute to Subic’s volunteers, mostly former base workers, who gave their services for free during the first few years of Subic under the Philippine-government management.

Sen. Richard Gordon, who became the first SBMA chairman, was the guest of honor during the celebration, which included a victory march from Mariquit Park in Olongapo to the free port’s central business district.

Antonio, who urged SBMA employees and former volunteers to work hand in hand to further develop Subic, stressed in his message the continuing need for individual initiative and selflessness that the Subic volunteers personified.

“You have proven what the Filipino is capable of becoming and achieving… Today, your greatest challenge is to inspire more Filipinos to become more genuinely committed to the common good,” Antonio said.

He also told the volunteers that the current SBMA administration is determined “to build upon whatever you have achieved and left here in Subic.”

Licuanan similarly praised the volunteers for helping build the foundation of the free port, adding that people working together for the common good “may be the only hope of our nation.”

Noting that the history of Subic mirrors that of the country, Licuanan said that volunteerism is necessary “if we are to dig ourselves out of this downward [economic] spiral.”

Meanwhile, Gordon recalled in an emotional speech the early days of SBMA when he called upon Olongapo residents to help him preserve the former military base.

“We have gone a long way. So many people said that it cannot be done, but here we are all today, celebrating Volunteers Day. We have gone through so much [and we have earned] the respect of the world because of our dedication and efforts,” Gordon told the volunteers.

During the program, Gordon also led the volunteers in offering flowers and prayers to former volunteer and SBMA chief operating officer Ferdinand Aristorenas who died in 2001.

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