Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The new Subic

SOMETHING new and something different are evolving in the SBMA under the new management team led by Administrator and Chief Executive Officer and banker Alfredo Antonio, Chairman of the Board and former longtime President of Ayala Land Francisco Licuanan, and AntiSmuggling Task Force Chief and PMAer Gen. Jose Calimlim (ret.)

Both locators and long-time residents of the Subic Freeport Zone have observed a new wave of enthusiasm, focus, dedication, and a no nonsense approach to problems from the newly appointed management "troika" headed by Administrator "Freddie" Antonio, a former Chairman of the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), who is well respected in the financial community for his integrity and technical competence.

For those who are not familiar with the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), or Subic for short, other than the duty-free shops, Subic, the former and largest US naval base outside continental United States, and former home of the US Navy’s 7th Fleet, has an area of 55,000 hectares of land, 12,350 hectares of water area, for a total of 67,350 hectares straddling Zambales and Bataan provinces, including Olongapo City, Subic and San Antonio towns in Zambales, and Hermosa and Morong towns in Bataan.

As a former military naval base, which was a major training facility for jungle warfare, survival training, and submarine base of the 7th Fleet, Subic has remained ecologically unspoiled and has retained one of the very few remaining rainforests in the whole of Luzon, including mangroves and marine sanctuaries.

The main thrust and focus of Administrator Freddie Antonio is to enhance further the attractiveness of Subic as an investment center, an air hub, a major maritime gateway, a tourist destination, while remaining environmentally friendly.

The marching orders of the new management team of CEO Antonio had earlier been spelled out by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, in her Inaugural speech, when she announced, "The Subic-Clark corridor will be the most competitive international service and logistic center in the Southeast Asian Region," which will indeed, be further reinforced when the Clark-Subic-Tarlac Expressway is completed by next year.

Thus far, what Administrator Antonio has accomplished, apart from reducing burglaries and housebreaking incidents which were widespread in the previous administration while dramatically reducing smuggling in close cooperation with Gen. Joey Calimlim, which rampant smuggling had given Subic a bad name, were, among others, the immediate audit of SBMA assets, costing and liabilities, stabilizing and rationalizing employee relations and middle management, better delivery efficiency, and closer rapport with locators, neighboring LGUs, media, local communities, and protecting the Aeta tribes of 150 households, or approximately 700 individuals ekeng out a subsistence existence.

The main focus of the SBMA management is to achieve a new breakthrough in additional foreign brand-name locators, substantive investors, expansion of the Japanese industrial park, entry of new Taiwanese locators, full employment, and added tourism facilities, in the pursuit of President Gloria Arroyo’s 10-point program.

These will facilitate investment and business inflows with the liberalization of telecommunications, water and power, airport, harbor expansion, roadways, industrial peace, and law and order.

The new optimism of Administrator Antonio and company is anchored on the surge in tourism worldwide which has not only been unstoppable but tourist flows are also being diverted from tsunami-devastated areas to the Philippines and others while China, on the other hand, has recently decreed that it will not entertain new investments below Fortune’s 500 largest companies, which new policy perfectly fits the Philippines’ main policy thrust which is the development and promotion of medium-size manufacturing activities and SMEs.

In the last six months since Administrator Antonio took over the helm in SBMA, the new team has generated nearly US$20 million in new investments, 39 new registrations and licenses to operate, 146 renewals, and nearly 10,000 in jobs generated, which makes Subic more attractive since the SBMA has had no labor strike since 1992 at the onset of the Ramos administration up to today under President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Thus, retooling the organization towards optimal service delivery which really means making "turnaround" ever faster, corruption-free, hasslefree, cost-competitive, and hopefully continuing investor confidence, are all that Freddie Antonio is focusing on and praying for which he does a lot.

However, from the grapevine comes the unconfirmed but persistent rumor that Mr. Antonio is being groomed for promotion elsewhere which is sad news for us long-time residents of Subic.

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