Speech at Subic Chamber of Commerce General Meeting

17 September 2015


Thank you very much to the President of the Subic Chamber of Commerce, President Rose Baldeo for your kind introduction,

I would just like to greet the mayor of our host city, the Olongapo City, Mayor Paulino, my good friend who the last time we were here, was a vice mayor, so it is good to see that he has achieved his promotion.

Also a congratulatory greeting to SBMA, SBMA Chairman, after having heard he’s flowing report and his successes to the achievement that the SBMA has enjoyed in the past year or two, and it is good to see that the full potential of SBMA is finally being reached, and it is perhaps due to the fact that the SBMA leadership is now headed with one who has a clear and true record in business in the private sector and this believed some of the more important insights to the organization to allow the organization to grow as we have seen to the report he have made, the Deputy Director of SBMA, and now a good friend for a while, Mr. Step Sanyo,

The Local Executives who are present today,

Governor Cua, the Governor of Catanduanes,

The Vice-Governor of Lakbayan, Zambales,

Mayor Angelo Jose Rodriguez Castillejos is also here,

From the PMMA, Rear Admiral Richard Ritual, I think he is around,

The Board of Directors of Bay Freeport Chamber of Commerce (SBFCC),

And I see there’s a sudents here also who are apparently we have student guest who have come to join us from lyceum of Subic,

To our esteemed guests and friends from the private sector and from government,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Magandang umaga sa inyong lahat.

Allow me first of all to thank the Chamber for having invited me to this general membership meeting. I am honored to take part in this gathering of astute and influential business leaders and visionaries in this very important maritime hub of the country.

I am grateful for this opportunity, because it could not have come in a more propitious time, considering the very serious problems that now confronting our economy and our communities—not to mention, severely irritating and causing all kinds of problems our people—and whose impacts are both wide-ranging and far-reaching. In fact, the ripple effects are being felt here in Subic.

I am likewise honored because I am provided a platform to state my part and offer my humble suggestions—while at the same time trigger whatever wise insights we might get in this Subic Bay business community—this is an attempt to forge a remedy for these troubles and issues.

I am referring to the problems of massive CONGESTION that is going on in Metro Manila right now, as we speak: those of road traffic congestion; and, also connected to this, the problem of port congestion. Which although it some what relieved still remains a problem.

But actually, there is another congestion—that some people actually don’t talk about that is “NASAL CONGESTION”— why Nasal congestion, because it is the result of the worsening air pollution caused by the tons of noxious carbon emissions pumped into Metro Manila’s atmosphere. This serious respiratory ailment is so much related to the problem of heavy traffic in Metro Manila we see the effects of this congestion are not just the obvious one, but are the more settled and serious one where even our health cause being affected, maybe Sec. Jun Abaya would like to re-think his assessment and recognized immediately recognize that he made outrageous blunder and entirely change his mind about traffic not being “fatal”, asthmatic myself I feel the effects of this congestion, and I would like to correct his view that in some cases it is in fact fatal.

These twin issues of congestion in the streets and ports of Metro Manila have already been the subject of public discourse over the past few years. But now the discourse seems to have reached critical mass, after nightly torrential rains and flash floods last week had triggered monster traffic jams that set off a domino effect of inescapable and immovable steel gridlocks throughout the major thoroughfares of Metro Manila. In fact, social netizens have already come up with as usual their own term for this congestion we are suffering, it is now referred, “CAR-MAGGEDON”.

Nobody’s safe from this huge and disorganized network of detention cells with wheels trapped on the roads. Even among us Senators, we come to sessions, we are inevitably delayed, and we find our selves also sitting on our cars for four hours, with the frustrations that it brings and it’s effect in our productivity of the country as a whole.

With the same travel time, sometimes take me from Quezon City for example to the Senate I could already be instead go in the other way, and I would reached Ilocos Norte in the 6-7 that it takes sometimes to get from one end of the city to the other. When you are talking to 6-7 hour jam, there you have completely ruined your day, everything that you have scheduled for the day is not done and again this affects the productivity, the great opportunity cost that we have to pay because of this traffic jams and because of this congestion.

It’s interesting and maybe a little amusing that aside from the obvious allusion to the end-of-the-world, a seemingly unintended phonic reference to “KARMA” was created, as if to suggest that we are all to blame for these miseries that we have brought upon ourselves.

And the dual reference quiet accurate. Firstly, it is a doomsday scenario indeed, considering the projected economic loss of P2.4 billion ever single day (with projection that it will increase to P6 billion per day by the year 2030 if we do not do something about it) so we can feel that this traffic congestion that these traffic congestions entail, and the countless of hours wasted on the road, which insidiously take their toll not only on the physical body but upon important personal relationships but also on the corners of the economic activity of our economy.

It may be viewed as a likely consequence of all our past indiscretions, inactions, neglect and poor decisions as a society—a comeuppance or a just punishment meted collectively upon us all as a hapless body politic.

But who knew that the business people of Subic Bay Freeport Zone would hold the duplicate key to unlocking what is probably Metro Manila’s greatest logistical conundrum of the modern era?!

Last year, our National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) approved what is now popularly known as the “Dream Plan” for Metro Manila and its surrounding areas, which had been formulated by the Japan Agency (JICA).

The “Dream Plan” conceives of and advocates a transport-oriented development strategy and blueprint not only for Metro Manila, but for a “Greater Capital Region”, which harnesses the combined economic potentials of Regions IV-A and III. This “Greater Capital Region”, of course, includes the Province of Zambales, with Subic envisioned to play a major role in the plan.

Citing the worsening port congestions at Manila ports as “negatively affecting the overall urban traffic”, the “Dream Plan” strongly recommends the increased utilization of the Subic Bay Freeport as a primary long-term solution.

This solution is echoed, rather passionately, by all our Metro Manila mayors and to all those who examined the problems. It is also supported by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA), the Subic-Clark Alliance for Development Council (SCADC), not to mention a host of other credible very important and very supportive Filipino economists and business analysts.

Of course, the solution is not without its share of doubters. Some dismiss the plan, arguing that diverting cargoes to Subic and Batangas would only increase the costs of doing business. With a hint of confidence and bravado, they say that “let the customers decide.”

In my view however, there is indeed both sound logistical and business sense in the proffered solution of drumming up business growth in the Subic port.

First, 2013 data from NEDA show the great disparity in the utilization rate of our major ports. The utilization rate of Manila ports is 79%, compared to the very known 7.8% of the Batangas port and 6.2% utilization of Subic, both of which have existing and adequate infrastructure and facilities. I speculate that in the case of Subic port, the Japanese builders might be scratching their heads in disbelief at how the Philippine government has allowed substantial and costly investments to remain untapped and underutilized and it’s potential unrealized.

Secondly, not only are the necessary port infrastructures already in place, but they are also ably supported by a nearby airport (Clark International Airport), and a new and high-quality fast road network that links up Subic to Northern Luzon, to Metro Manila and Southern Luzon, namely the SCTEX and the TPLEX.

Thirdly, distance-wise, it is obvious that cargoes coming from, and/or intended for delivery to the North, are better off serviced at the nearest port, which is Subic.

Fourthly, recent data shows that the Subic Bay Freeport is getting more and more efficient and competitive with each every passing year, meaning to say that they are starting to attract more and more business, giving Manila ports a run their money! And I think that is part of the reason why the financial time recognized the SBMA as the best free port in Asia.

The SBMA reported that for the past year, there has been a 45% increase in its revenues, a 105% increase in imports, and 59% increase in exports. Moreover, the utilization rate of the Subic port has increase dramaticly from 6.2% to 12.7% for 2014, and equally importantly posting a 433% increase in container volume in January 2015 compared year per year.

At the rate that the Subic port is going, its 2015 of 20% utilization is not far-fetched or impossible and it’s look like quite achievable.

And so, the cavalier attitude of some as I said… when they say “Let the customers decide”, now the customers will clearly say that Subic is a good deal after all.

These prove the inherent capacity of Subic—the much-vaunted “Subic advantage”—to establish itself as a viable alternative, to provide a significant deal of relief to the urban decongestion in Metro Manila, and at the same time to ensure economic prosperity in the region and the entire country.

Moreover, these also prove that notwithstanding perceived government inaction or ambivalence, businesses can nonetheless still thrive and be steered to success, because of competent business leaders at the helm, those of you here today.

We can just imagine what Subic can still achieve, what further heights it can still reach, if only government is able to buttress it by consistently aligning its programs and policies with those of the efforts of the private sector in trying to create the favorable market conditions in the hope of enticing and attracting good and profitable business?

This is where I believe the Subic Bay Freeport Chamber of Commerce can play an important and active goal.

As the unified and unanimous voice of the business community in Subic, the SBFCC can be that primary and indefatigable promoter of the Subic Bay Freeport, while at the same time remaining loyal to its members and guaranteeing that their interests are protected. It can that serve as that essential linchpin between prospective customers, local and international (through its member-businesses hailing from at least twenty [20] different countries), and the Subic port itself.

Moreover, the SBFCC, with mutual trust and the best of intentions, can reach out to government, both national and local, in the hope of ironing out the kinks in the system and encouraging and maintaining a healthy business environment and conducive market conditions.

As a member of the Senate, I am likewise cognizant of the influence and potential of the SBFCC to lobby for the essential legislative reforms, especially in government regulation of the industry and in the ports and shipping industry in general. Certainly, these efforts can further assist and sustain what can only be describe as a bullish performance of the Subic Bay Freeport, and ensure the survival of the individual components of the port economy of Subic, and the wider community of Olongapo City and the province of Zambales.

On the part of Congress, I can say with pride that we did our share of the bargain in laying, atleast one brick at a time, a strong foundation of a healthy industrial sector and business environment for this particular industry. In fact, just recently, we passed legislation to ensure fair competition and to ease the restrictions of Philippine sabotage.

So please let me continue by calling on and exhorting the Subic Bay Freeport Chamber of Commerce to always be a strong partner of government, the strong and necessary and essential partner of government the citizenry in our common quest for national prosperity and nation-building.

So we look forward in Subic Bay Freeport sailing of on to solidify its market share, and its goodwill as the viable alternative and the port of choice for the North, ably captained and steered by the SBFCC and SBMA.

It is my sincere hope that this general membership meeting of the Chamber will prove to be a very meaningful and productive one, especially for its members and the Subic Bay Freeport as well.

Mabuhay ang Subic Bay Freeport Chamber of Commerce!

Mabuhay ang Subic Bay Freeport!

Hanggang sa susunod po nating pagkikita!

Maraming salamat po at magandang umagang muli sa inyong lahat.