Press Release
September 30, 2016


Almost 24 years after the facilities of what used to be the United States' (US) largest naval base outside of US territory was formally turned over to the Philippines, Senator Richard J. Gordon, then Olongapo City Mayor who was appointed founding chairman of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), yesterday expressed dismay that SBMA had so deteriorated that the Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA) has become an asset whose usage cannot be optimized for commercial flights and thus help the development of the country's economy - unlike in the past.

In a privilege speech, Gordon, while recounting how he and the volunteers worked day and night after the Americans left to protect and preserve the facilities to make it prosper, voiced his umbrage over the loss of the state-of-the-art equipment at SBIA, which used to be the country's best airport under his leadership, and the fact that Clark International Airport (CIA) has not been fully optimized.

"After the US withdrawal, volunteers made Subic a thriving zone. When I was still SBMA Chairman, we turned Subic into a flourishing Freeport - SBIA was a big income earner, with chartered flights coming in daily. We made sure that Subic and Clark will not go the path taken by Sangley Point. Thus, FedEx opened a hub for its Asian operation in Subic, with 18 flights coming in daily at SBIA. We also had Enron, Acer and other big companies in Subic. After I was removed as chairman of SBMA, it was as if we let grass grew under our feet after FedEx left. There was no more promotions for SBIA, there were no more chartered planes coming in. Clark was never improved," the founding SBMA chairman noted.

"They have become non-performing assets. We let the wolf near the sheep or we allowed the snake to come near the chickens. Now, we only use the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, which has come to a very sorry state that it brings constant reputational damage to our country. Flights are often delayed because of air and ground traffic which cause frayed nerves and economic losses. When we hosted the APEC last year, it would have saved us traffic woes, trade and economic losses and other problems had the government used SBIA and the CIA," he added.

Gordon pointed out that instead of spending much time investigating extra-judicial killings, and other prurient and salacious but trivial issues, the country would be better off if its officials would focus more on legislation and policies that would result in job and investment generation.

"We spend time investigating the extra-judicial killings, scandalous issues, and others. But surely we can take time for other things. Surely we can find time for policies and laws that would result in labor generation, in investment generation. Surely, we can make time for opportunity-building. Poverty is an absence of choice. We are poor because we have no choice, we don't have high-paying jobs to choose from because there are little or no investments," he said.

The senator called for an investigation on how both SBIA and CIA, considered as two of the country's crown jewels, have reached their present state of deterioration.

"We have a lot of lost opportunities in our country. We used to have the highest literacy rate in Asia, there was a time too when we were second only to Japan in terms of military power that our Air Force even had Blue Diamonds. We also lost our railways. We cannot allow this to continue," he stressed.

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