“Investors” and “locators” are frequently used terms in the offices of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA). They refer to those individuals or groups who invest their time and resources in the hope of doing business in the Subic Bay Special Economic Zone. Synonymous with these investments are capital, manpower, infrastructure and the like but seldom, if ever, does it cross our minds that there is another breed of investors in Subic. These are the ones who put in neither monetary capital nor infrastructure, but their time, dedication and commitment so that Subic Bay might one day become an international business and tourism center. This breed of investors are the Volunteers.
SBMA Chairman Richard Gordon meeting his first volunteers in 1992
Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chairman, Richard J. Gordon, together with his wife, Congresswoman Katherine H. Gordon, organized a group of volunteers called “Balikatan”. This group, which started as political organization, became a successful civic machinery finding employment for its members and their children.
Today, over 8,000 Volunteers maintain the former military facility. The area comprises more than 18,000 hectares and would have cost an estimated P178 million a year to maintain. The volunteers can be seen frequently trimming the grass, cleaning the buildings and houses, and clearing the streets of fallen debris. All of these Volunteers do not get any form of monetary compensation. What seems to keep them going are their dedication to Subic’s future and their love for their country. Chairman Gordon once said that “volunteerism is what Subic is all about. Their sacrifice is the soul of this place.”
Yet there is another culture of volunteerism in Subic. Young professionals from the best schools in the country and abroad have come to Subic to dedicate their time and energy towards fulfilling a vison. That is, to develop the Subic Bay Freeport into a self-sustaining industrial commercial, financial, tourism and investment center which will then act as catalyst for social and economic development, not only for the region but for the whole Philippines. With this goal in mind, and with the dedication shown by the Volunteers, there can be no doubt that the Subic Bay Freeport will succeed.
Coastal Petroleum is one of the United States’ largest oil companies. Its Chairman, Mr. Oscar Wyatt had this to say about the Volunteers: “I don’t know how to convey to the world such overwhelming spirit of volunteerism as I have observed here in Subic. The Volunteers work 24 hours a day on houses they do not own; they work on the streets for nothing. Nowhere in the world has this thing happened.“
Reebok Managing Director Steve Brown runs a factory in Subic making athletic shoes. He calls what is happening in Subic “a miracle.” As miraculous as it may seem, it has been by no accident that the Freeport has excelled so. Subic’s progress is fueled by the enduring dedication of its miracle workers — the Volunteers.