SUBIC: The Next Hongkong

Article published by AsiaWeek, July 16, 1993

Transcription of the Article:

The next Hongkong

With Some of Asia’s Best Facilities, Subic Aims for the Big Time

Asiaweek, June 16, 1993 – Last November the U.S. closed its biggest overseas naval base. It idled 40,000 Filipinos employed at the 17,000-hectare facility at Subic Bay northwest of Manila. Also lost: about $1 billion a year in base-related compensation and spending. Today, Richard Gordon wants to win back every one of those jobs and more than make up for the lost American money. The feisty mayor of Olongapo, a once lively “R&R” city outside Subic, has been visiting financial capitals. His message: make money in Subic, “the Hongkong of the 21st Century.”

The Anglo-Dutch Shell group listened. This month in Subic it resumed off-shore oil trading in the Philippines after a break of nearly a century. Other investors are flocking there. “Subic” says Ray Gamboa, general manager of Shell Gas Trading Asia Pacific, “is the future international trading centre of Southeast Asia.” As Olongapo mayor, Gordon also heads the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, which administers not just the base area but his own city and six towns in two next door provinces. The SBMA area of 100,000 ha is larger than Singapore. Gordon is confident it can be developed into a bustling international port and airport and a communications, financial, warehousing and manufacturing center for Southeast Asia.

Subic has a lot going for it. Gordon cites the strategic location, full backing from the Ramos administration, an English-speaking labor force of some 40,000, many highly-skilled, and $8 billion worth of facilities inherited or purchased from the Americans. That includes some of Asia’s largest warehouses and underground depots. Subic is already attracting interest from investors in Eastern Asia and the US. By early June the bay authority had received more than 270 serious proposals and letters of intent. At least fifteen ventures have been approved (see table, next page).

Taiwan is shaping up as Subic’s biggest source of investment. Taiwan Economic Cooperation Development Foundation has leased 325 ha for some 300 manufacturing ventures which will turn out shoes, athletic equipment, toys, semiconductors, garments and computer software.

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