HOUSE Leaders yesterday endorsed the construction of the 65-km coastal highway from Subic Bay to Manila to dramatically unclog the premier international shipping gateway to the country and decongest traffic in the metropolis.
In separate interviews, Quezon City Rep. Winston “Winnie” Castelo, Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe, and Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone joined Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) chairman Martin Dino in seeking the approval of President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte to prioritize the project.
“Any road development towards MM is welcome due to the magnitude of the traffic problem. However, we should study further the best infrastructure available as the best alternative,” Castelo said.
“I am one hundred percent behind this proposal. However, let us start to lessen the centralization of economic activities in Metro Manila and prioritize the dispersal of industries to the provinces. And we can not start this process if we continue building structures going to Manila,” Batocabe, president of the Party-List Coalition (PLC) and chairman of the House special committee on climate change.
For his part, Evardone, who chairs the House committee on bank and financial intermediaries, said: “Any good plan that will help decongest Manila and its worsening traffic should be supported.”
Dino was referring to the new multi-modal highway for rail cargo and vehicular traffic, linking the Subic and Manila ports by the shortest route possible, dovetails with the Freeport’s planned expansion of its Container Terminals 3 and 4 to increase its handling capacity to 1.2 million TEUs or Twenty-Foot Equivalent Unit.
He said the SBMA would boost as well the handling capacity of the Naval Supply Depot Compound and Bulk Cargo Port Wharves for loose cargoes, and rehabilitate the Sattler Pier, as modernizing its port facilities and rebuilding its aging infrastructure shift to high gear.
Dino said he has also sought the help of Public Works Secretary Mark Villar to provide technical assistance for the proposed widening of the narrow Tipo Road, which links the Freeport facility to the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX), into a four-lane highway and the construction of a new tunnel and bridge to accommodate the new lanes are also among his priorities.
He stressed that these projects should be undertaken simultaneously in this “golden age of infrastructure” as the Philippines rides the momentum as the best-performing economy in the region.
Also considered a vital part of the new road network is the 17.273-km bypass road for cargo trucks that would connect the Freeport terminals directly with the SCTEX in Hermosa, Bataan to provide easy transport for goods and services at the export processing zones in the area and in nearby towns in Pampanga, he said.
The bypass road would also relieve traffic buildup at the steep Tipo Road for vehicles and heavy trucks going in and out of the Freeport.
“Our goal is to connect Subic to Manila and the economic zones in Luzon,” Dino said.
One major road that will run north all the way to the Redondo Peninsula is a 25-km expressway from Tipo in Subic passing through Castillejos in Zambales.
Redondo is where Dino has turned his sights to convert 3,000 hectares of the narrow 15-km long rugged peninsula into a new industrial park he has designated as Subic 2.
This would become Subic’s “Smart City,” which Dino envisions as the exclusive enclave of modern high-tech corporations and a hub for scientific development and innovation. “No other site in the country could match its advantage in location and accessibility,” he said.
Redondo sits in the Zambales side of SBMA and is site of the Shipyard of Hanjin Philippines, now the world’s fourth biggest shipbuilding facility, and a joint-venture 600 MW thermal energy, named RP Energy Inc., aimed at addressing the projected power-supply shortage in Luzon this decade.
On the Bataan side of SBMA to the south of Subic Bay is Morong, a picturesque town near which lies the sprawling former facility that was the final stop for processing refugees fleeing Indochina and making their way to permanent resettlement in the West.
Dino plans to build Subic 3 on this facility, which he christened “Green Zone” because it would be home to non-tech industries and, in his words, a “Mecca for commercial, financial investment and academic locators.”
The facility is a short 15-minute drive to the SBMA area of Subic. It is linked by a highway built when the Philippine Refugee Processing Center was opened in 1980 and operated like a small city capable of holding up to 18,000 refugees at any time.
“We want to take Subic Bay Freeport to the next level of development. Amid the President’s strategic pivot to China to open new paths for economic expansion, Subic will be a major contributor to the national economy,” Dino said.
His other plans include upgrading the Subic Bay International Airport to make it a regional logistics transhipment hub and air terminal for tourists, guests, investors and junket operators for tourism-and-entertainment related events.
Since taking over the SBMA in late September as President Rodrigo Duterte’s personal choice to run the agency, the charismatic Dino has busied himself preparing a blueprint with his economic team that would transform Subic into Asia’s biggest Freeport and Gateway to the Pacific in the next decade.
With the “Smart City” and “Green Zone” as centerpiece of his economic vision, Dino said Subic “would become one of the most exciting locations for business not only in the Philippines but all of Southeast Asia, and maybe Asia and the Pacific.”
He said he has brought a “frontier spirit” to Subic, very much like a courageous pioneer out to break new ground in largely unchartered territory.
“This is what our plans and our vision for Subic amount to. They constitute an audacious leap into a higher orbit of growth,” Dino said.
A lot of optimism is going for Dino following the release of Subic’s investment figure for the first three quarters of this year, which reached P111.5 billion with a potential to create 55,000 new jobs.
It is the biggest nine-month investment turnout for Subic since the early 1990s, placing SBMA firmly in a position to trumpet its new leadership style under Dino and the Freeport’s attractive business climate and service quality to all stakeholders.
Currently, it has a combined investment of some US$102.8 billion brought in by some 1,700 business locators, both foreign and local that provided jobs for 109,000 workers, since the former US naval base was turned into a special economic zone through Republic Act No. 7227.
Last month, Dino joined the President’s party on his State Visit to China and official visit to Japan, allowing the SBMA chief to work his charm and make his sales pitch to prospective investors from both countries.