SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — Officials of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) paid tribute on Wednesday to some 8,000 volunteers who worked without pay to kickstart operations here in early years of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.
Speaking during the 29th SBMA founding anniversary celebration, the agency’s Chief of Staff Vicente Evidente recalled that it became the special mission of the SBMA to provide livelihood opportunities to residents of Olongapo City and nearby communities that were badly affected by the withdrawal of the U.S. Navy from Subic in 1992.
“When the U.S. Navy pulled out, the whole place was devastated. Olongapo’s Magsaysay Drive, which was the center of rest and recreation for American sailors, was like a ghost town. Businesses had to close because they did not have any option,” said Evidente, who delivered the message on behalf of SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma.
“The only option left for then SBMA Chairman Richard Gordon, was to rally the people of Olongapo to come to the Freeport, to preserve the facilities left behind by Americans, and build a new future,” he added.
Evidente, who was a volunteer himself and served as an executive assistant at the Chairman’s office, said the spirit of volunteerism “mesmerized” even prospective investors and convinced them to put up businesses here.
“To this day, we commemorate the volunteers’ sacrifice and hope to continue living the culture of volunteerism that these people have started,” he added.
Evidente and SBMA Treasury Department head Agnes Cabling, who is one of the original volunteers in 1992, also offered flowers at the Volunteers Shrine, where the names of the Subic volunteers are etched on granite.
In the same ceremony, the SBMA Senior Deputy Administrator for Support Services Ramon Agregado presented outstanding employees from rank-and-file and supervisory positions with plaques of recognition, sashes and collar pins.
The finalists among the rank-and-file employees were Loreta Reforba of Planning and Development Office; Lucky Niño Baula, Business and Investment Department for Manufacturing & Maritime; Joseph Egalla Jr., Seaport Department; Tomas Dionson II, Maintenance and Transportation Department; and the eventual winner, Christian Paulo Belisario of Labor Department.
Among the supervisors, the finalists were Rolando Paloma Jr. of Planning and Development Office; Edwina Taguiam, Business and Investment Department for Logistics; John Quevedo, Seaport Department; and the winners Darwin Bitangcol of Maintenance and Transportation Department, and Rommel Aquino of Labor Department.
The celebration of the 29th SBMA anniversary was capped by the switching-on of the giant SBMA Christmas tree at the Boardwalk Park here by Agregado, Senior Deputy Administrator for Business Renato Lee II and Senior Deputy Administrator for Operations Ronnie Yambao.