The Big Future

Posted 4 months ago

Grand plans are afoot to transform the Subic Bay Freeport, Olongapo City and Zambales communities into new centers of modernity, growth, and development.

By Percy Roxas

The Big Future

The future is bright. The future is big. This, apparently, is how the government leaders and development authorities of Olongapo City, the Subic Bay Freeport Zone (SBFZ), Subic Municipality, and the rest of Zambales see the future. Grand plans are afoot to transform their communities into new centers of modernity, growth, and development.

The Subic Bay Freeport (SBFZ) has perhaps the biggest and most ambitious development plans underway, it being considered a pilot growth center that sets the pace and influence direction for the satellite communities around it.

With land available for investors in the 67,452-hectare former U.S. military base becoming scarcer, development focus in the Freeport–run by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA)–hinges largely on expanding investments and job opportunities to the outlying local government units in Olongapo, Zambales, and Bataan.

While there are plans to reclaim land to allow the Freeport to accommodate more potential investors, a dream shared to the media recently by SBMA administrator Atty. Wilma Eisma, the need to share growth and development with its neighboring communities has become more paramount. To quote Eisma, “Development in the Freeport should now spill out to the communities surrounding it.”

In a separate press briefing, SBMA chairman Martin Diño also talked about big projects like Port Expansion, Road Connectivity, and Airport Development.

Proposed development projects at SBMA totals PHP 140 million, which Diño says, should greatly improve lives at SBMA and surrounds. These include the road project that will connect Castillejos to SCTEX, the bypass road from Bataan to Cavite, and many others.

While some of these projects are still mired in controversy, still in the blueprints, or still awaiting approval, the big picture reveals that the Freeport is indeed ready for the big future now more than ever.

In his State of the City Address (SOCA) in July, Olongapo City Mayor Rolen Paulino also revealed major development plans for the future.

A highlight of his presentation was the plan to convert Kalaklan Ridge into a project that will transport it into an area that resembles the world-famous Victoria Peak in Hong Kong.

Paulino’s development focus is comprehensive, and if successful should see Olongapo folk enjoying new infrastructure, better roads, a more efficient health and hospital system, and more. The mayor sees a modernized Olongapo in the future, with transparency and governance helping fuel development.

A more modern Olongapo is concretely taking shape, as Paulino revealed in his SOCA, where he mentioned the projects of river dredging, the Gordon College oval and swimming pool, and using modern technology to provide public service more efficiently.

Several CCTVs and LED screens have been installed in strategic areas of the city to monitor criminality and provide quick response to public emergencies.

In neighboring Subic town, Mayor Jay Khonghun shared with media friends the recent developments of his thriving municipality. While aspiring to be the first municipality to receive an ISO Certification, among other things, Khonghun says there’s no stopping Subic’s journey to cityhood.

A touchstone of Khonghun’s present efforts is the transfer of the Subic Municipal Hall to a new location in Mangan Vaca. His government has also approved plans for a new hospital and has inaugurated a new market for the municipality.

Perhaps no symbol of development in Subic town is more obvious than the apparent real estate boom. Several land and property developers are zooming in to transform the former sleepy town into a thriving hub of modern residential living.

But not only Subic is gearing up for visions of growth and development. The entire Zambales is on the verge of widespread development with plans anchoring on tourism as the main fuel for growth.

Talking to some media friends, including Subic Sun, before his State of the Province address recently, Gov. Amor Deloso revealed his intention to make Zambales the No. 1 tourist attraction in the region, if not in the country.

“Tourism is the way to go for Zambales,” says the governor. “Our province is blessed with numerous natural resources. We have the most beautiful beach areas and our mountains and fauna should make the province irresistible to tourists. And our people are among the most hospitable in the country.”

In fact, multi-billion peso projects are underway in Zambales but Gov. Deloso says he won’t encourage heavy industries in the province. “Tourism is the best industry for us.”

Already several tourism projects are in the blueprint. They include efforts to make the highest mountain in the province, Mount Tapulao, Mount Pinatubo, now favorite destination for adventure-seekers; and the Hidden Shrine in San Marcelino, among others, national landmarks.

The province wants to build a cable car stretching from the summit of Mt. Tapulao to the nearby beach areas.

Infrastructure developments are also afoot. There is a plan to build in Iba the Philippine Olympic Village, which will open job and business opportunities to residents of Zambales, said the governor.

Former governor Vicente Magsaysay has donated 300 hectares of family land in Barangay Rosario for a new government center for Zambales. Once completed, all provincial buildings, including the provincial capitol, will be moved to the new government center. Meanwhile, Deloso’s family has donated 300 hectares of land in Barangay Bulawen for a new convention center as the meeting, incentives, conventions, and exhibition (MICE) market in the province grows.

Modernity is expected to speed up even more once the Botolan-Capas (Tarlac) Road is completed. Botolan is home to Mount Pinatubo, whose eruption in 1991 changed the global climate. Besides being famous for clean, powdery sand beaches, Botolan is also home to many tourist attractions including the Tukal Tukal Falls, Poon Bato, and Kainomayan.

Tourism is also growing in the heretofore relatively unknown tourism destinations of San Antonio where the coves of Anawangin and Nagsasa are drawing more and more tourists every day.

Other important projects for Zambales include the Sta Cruz – Mangatarem Pangasinan Road and the building of the Pundaquit Center for Music and Arts in Zambales.

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