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Author Topic: ‘It’s more fun than an airport’ in Subic  (Read 862 times)
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« on: March 07, 2012, 10:57:17 AM »

This idea is certainly out of the box. Many Chamber members support it but a good number are also horrified at the idea. The Chamber will deliberate on this and will come up with our position.

From a report by Tonette Orejas on the Inquirer:

An entirely different plan for the idle Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA) is taking shape and Roberto Garcia, chair and administrator of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), sums it up simply: “It’s more fun than an airport.”

“The SBIA will cease to be an airport,” he said during an Inquirer roundtable discussion at the Subic Bay Freeport on Saturday.

Announced in his “State of the Freeport Address” earlier, the plan shocked some and excited many.

The plan is one of the “out-of-the-box” solutions proposed by Garcia to attract more investments to Subic and increase its revenue stream.

“We will convert the airport into a family-oriented, integrated, international tourist destination. Something like Sentosa in Singapore,” he says.

Over 20 million tourists visited that Singapore island resort last year, and Garcia is looking at three million visitors to come to the new Subic project, which might need some $10 billion to begin.

Here’s why SBMA is doing a drastic change of use of the SBIA land, a prime piece of real estate which spans 200 hectares and formerly the Cubi Point Air Station (Radford Field) of the US Navy.

The airport, formerly home to courier giant FedEx, has been underutilized, causing its income to drop from P255.2 million in 2005 to P36.6 million in 2011, and netting after debt servicing an average loss of P150 million since 2010.

The larger situation calls for decisive action, Garcia says.

Giving low lease rates while paying three loans worth $10 billion, the SBMA took in total losses of P7 billion over the last 20 years. It fulfilled its mandate, though, creating 88,957 jobs as of 2011 and helping the Bureau of Internal Revenue and Bureau of Customs remit taxes worth P1.1 billion and P6 billion, respectively.

Subic survival

Also, the free port has only 300 ha of land left to put on lease and these are not contiguous. The bulk of the former naval base of the United States is protected forests.

Garcia says the SBIA has “become redundant” because of the Clark International Airport at the Clark Freeport, a 40-minute drive from the Subic Bay Freeport via the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway.

The conversion of the SBIA, he says, will assure the survival of Subic.

The US Navy built the airport during the Korean War in the 1950s. It was rehabilitated when former Sen. Richard Gordon chaired the SBMA immediately after the departure of the US Navy in 1992.

“You cannot do this (idea) anywhere else. As free port, Subic will be very competitive,” Garcia says. Promoting the nearby container terminal, which is 92 percent underutilized, is going to be stepped up, he says.

He says Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. welcomed the SBIA conversion plan and described it as a “very good project.”

The plan consists of having convention centers, business process outsourcing parks, a science and technology center, casinos, theme parks, a golf course and luxury villas, among others.

“We will make Subic an iconic destination. It is going to be a secured community, which is important, especially for Chinese visitors,” he says.

“We’re offering 50-year leases. The beauty of this project is what bankers call shovel-ready because you have existing infrastructure and the runway will be the main avenue.”

With this, the job of the SBMA in converting the US base takes a new level, he adds.

« Last Edit: March 08, 2012, 11:38:23 AM by Forum Admin »

Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school. (AE)
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« Reply #1 on: March 10, 2012, 11:08:43 AM »

From a report by Jonas Reyes on the Manila Bulletin:

This free port’s international airport area is being envisioned by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) to be developed into a tourist attraction just like Sentosa in Singapore.
An SBMA official said that such endeavor would alleviate the costly maintenance and operation of the Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA), adding that this is part of the five-year strategic plan that would help sustain the economy here.
He also said that there are compelling reasons behind the idea to redevelop the SBIA, which he admitted is the most challenging concern the SBMA is facing.
“The Subic airport is superfluous because of Clark, and it is losing. And lastly, it is one of the last remaining prime real estate assets of SBMA,” he said.
“Huge problems require huge actions for huge solutions. The plan is very bold and very ambitious, but with the support of everyone, this plan will come through,” he added.
The SBMA official also noted that the agency will not spend a single peso on the project because it will be implemented through a joint venture where SBMA will use the value of the land, currently occupied by the airport, as capital.
Since the project requires a big amount of money, the SBMA is hoping to bid the project internationally to attain international standards for the plan and design, he said.
The official explained that the basic idea is to turn the airport into something like Sentosa, a popular family-oriented resort in Singapore. The redeveloped SBIA will still be accessible because Subic is now just 45 minutes away from the international airport at the Clark Freeport because of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway.
The planned leisure complex will house at least two or three international theme parks, a new golf course, duty free shops, hotels and casi no, an entertainment complex, a promenade, and a new marina and yacht club, among others.
“The opportunities that exist today are very tremendous, believe me,” he said. “And with the help of every hand, our ambition of turning our airport into a major international tourism destination will come true.”


Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school. (AE)
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« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2012, 09:28:44 AM »

Remember the majority of the sbma directors had been in office for more than one year already. Anything new?

Sentosa? dream on.
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« Reply #3 on: March 20, 2012, 12:05:22 PM »

Here's a sort of rebuttal about the airport from former senator Rene Espina in his column "Never on a Sunday" on Manila Bulletin:

This week in another paper, there was a story about Subic Freeport’s current debt which is $20 billion. There was also another item which stated that the present runway at Subic which was built by the US Navy will be converted into a commercial area/theme park. The runway would become the main street of the project. The estimated cost,  according to the report, is $20B. I met an official of the Freeport in church, and I asked him if this was true. He told me that at the time, he did not know anything about such project. I wonder whether this idea of converting this airport in Subic was just a proposal that still needed to be studied thoroughly and would still go through the approval process of the concerned authorities.
In so far as Subic is concerned, I believe that there are security aspects that need to be considered in consultation with the Department of National Defense, the Department of Foreign Affairs, and our ally, the United States. The existing Subic facility with its airport as well as the wharf, which if memory serves, is deep and big enough to accommodate even an aircraft carrier, can very well support the operations of the US Navy and Air Force in their role of assisting our armed forces under the Mutual Defense Pact, given our problems in the West Philippine Sea with the People’s Republic of China. Subic could very well be the temporary “parking lot” for US Navy and Air Force assets on the basis of our Visiting Forces Agreement.
Why not just leave the current facility in order to serve its original purpose? And why not just construct the alleged commercial area somewhere else? After all, Subic has enough space to serve the avowed purpose for a new commercial space. I do hope this is not another of those new “wild ideas” just like the irresponsible proposal to sell Mactan International Airport to one of those “mega-mall developers.”
I believe some 4 years ago during PGMA’s tenure of office the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) was downgraded from Category One to Category Two. I ask the question, why is it that until today, despite our efforts, upgrading the facilities to Category One has not happened? Is the problem one of men, money, or materials? If it is all about finances, why not appropriate the necessary funds? If it is regarding materials, with the availability of funds, why not purchase the necessary equipment  and install them? If it is about men and expertise, why not proceed to train them ASAP? And if we are short of experts, why not employ foreign talent until our own Filipino personnel can competently handle such task?. Through this procedure, we will hasten the reclassification back to Category One.
Finally, what has happened to the program to introduce improvements at the NAIA runway, which would increase its capacity to handle aircraft landings and take-offs by building more exits from the main runway to the taxiways. For the NAIA authorities... this week I went to Cebu, and our flight was ready to take off 10 minutes before the scheduled departure. We were informed by the pilot that due to heavy traffic, we did not have permission from the Tower to even start our engines. To make a long story short, our flight took off 50 minutes after the scheduled departure.


Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school. (AE)
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