As the Subic Bay Freeport Zone commemorated its 27th founding anniversary, Senator Dick Gordon commended the volunteers for the successful creation of the Freeport from the ashes of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption and the departure of the United States military from Subic Bay.
Gordon said volunteers were key in making Subic what it is today – the framework for bases conversion in the country and one of the best examples of bases conversion ventures in the world, as international media described it shortly after its creation.
“We did not let our fears stop us.”
“Kung meron tayong Subic ngayon, it’s because of the people who volunteered. We were successful because of the many people who sacrificed themselves,” the veteran legislator said.
“At that time a lot of people were prejudiced against it. They didn’t think that people would come here without pay and put their future on the line and put their sacrifice as their capital so that we could have or make the future,” the seasoned lawmaker added.
“So, I congratulate you all. Twenty-seven years ago, we succeeded in turning a vision into reality. We did not let our fears stop us. We did not fear the future, instead we made the future our friend. And thus, we succeeded in showing the world that, together, we can move forward on our own and get the job done,” the senator emphasized.
“We have set out to make a difference and we have succeeded.”
“We received no salary then, but we got an excessive amount of appreciation and, more importantly, respect from the Filipino people for what we were doing in Subic,” the founding chairman and administrator of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) added.
Gordon recalled how they worked together to ensure that the base and its facilities and the equipment and furniture inside would be preserved and protected.
“That was the biggest struggle of all – to be able to win against ourselves and the temptation of bringing stuff out. And nobody took anything out. Again, my gratitude goes to all the people who answered our call 27 years ago, and to those who followed in our path to make Subic work. We have set out to make a difference and we have succeeded,” he stressed.
After the helicopter carrier USS Belleau Wood – the last U.S. Navy vessel to sail out of Subic Bay — left on November 24, 1992, Gordon, who was then mayor of Olongapo City and 8,000 volunteers took over the facility to preserve and protect the $8 billion worth of property and facilities inside. With that, they started the conversion of the military base into a freeport like Hong Kong and Singapore.