Sunday, September 30, 2012

SBMA Law Enforcers

Thanks to an enterprising young journalist at the Subic Bay News the Bugle has come across another example of how lax the law enforcement effort has become on SBMA.  When one looks at these photos one can just feel the typical attitude of "it's not my responsibility" that is all to present her in the Philippines.  Once you see the photos and the lackadaisical attitude being displayed one comes to realize that our law enforcement on the base is nothing more than rental cops in the mall.  There is no professionalism being shown whatsoever.  These types of attitudes are what one comes to expect from security guards at the local 7-11 not at the "premier" freeport of the Philippines.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Barretto Clean Up

Well sometimes things happen and we don't know why but it is good that these things happen.  While the Bugle doesn't know exactly when or who did the actual clean up in Barretto along the National Highway that was talked about in New Olongapo Landfill The Bugle did notice today that it has been cleaned up. We at the Bugle will not make any claim to being responsible for the clean up as it took three weeks to get it cleaned up.  But then again this might be an actual record in terms of the time it took for local officials to do their job,  At this rate we should be looking at getting the rivers dredged sometime in the next couple of years.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Hooray for the Navy

The below article is from the Manila Standard Newspaper and while the article is mostly true there are a few glaring mistakes.  The "passenger crew ship" referenced in the article is actually LPD-6 the USS Bonhomme Richard.  This ship is a Wasp class Amphibious Assault ship.  Last the Bugle heard they US Navy wasn't in the passenger business.  Secondly I know of quite a few Hotel/Bar/Restaurant owners that will vouch that the military presence has helped thier bottom line immeasurably, especially now that we are in the slow season over here.  Maybe the reason that they aren't spending thier dollars on the base has to do with the outragous prices that most places on the Freeport charge.

The Subic Bay Freeport will host a 10-day joint military exercises between the United States Navy and the Armed Forces of the Philippines on the second week of October, according to Freeport sources.
The passenger crew ship, USS Bonhomme Richards, which will bring the US personnel to the port, will dock at Subic Bay on the first week of October and will be the fifth US Naval assets to make use of the port facilities of Subic Bay under the non-revenue privileges granted by the Visiting Forces Agreement between the United States and the Philippines.
Although there is an increasing visit of US Navy vessels here, the state owned Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, which is beset with financial debts, does not benefit from these visits.
This is in stark contrast in Singapore, where the Singapore Port Authority charge foreign government vessels commercial rates for the use of their port facilities.
The military war games and humanitarian assistance and disaster response project will be carried out in Palawan, Zambales and Tarlac provinces.
The exercise will kick off on October 8 at this former US Naval complex and will end October 18.
More than 3,000 military personnel from the US Navy and Philippine Navy, Air force and the Army will take part in the annual exercises dubbed as Phiblex.
Participants will undergo amphibious landing maneuvers and artillery training crewmanship at the Crow Valley in Tarlac.
Since May, the Port of Subic had played host to four US Navy vessels, three Virginia class attach submarines and L-Y Spear-class submarine tender since Washington said it planned to increase its presence in the Asia-Pacific last January.
The first US vessel to dock since the start of the year was the USS North Carolina, followed by the USS Louisville, a nuclear-powered submarine.
The USS Frank Cable, an LY spear-class tender came next and was followed by another sub, the USS Hawaii.
While the US embassy in Manila termed the visit of US military assets as “highlights of the strong historic community and military connection between the US and the Philippines,” the local economy of the Freeport has not generated from their presence.
Moreover, contrary to the claim of Olongapo City Mayor James L. Gordon Jr., that the visits of US ships boost the local economy, servicemen on board the submarines were not “big spenders,” according to Freeport business operators.
The servicemen reportedly spend their rest days strolling within the confines of the Freeport and do not patronize even the entertainment places inside.

Tipo Carnage Continues

             For those of use who spend a lot of time travelling on the Tipo highway, which connects the freeport to the SCTEX highway, the rainy season has been another gruesome display of idiocy. The road is just too slick, the downward slope is too steep and drivers take the turns too quickly. About every fourth trip we take on Tipo, we see a vehicle that has slipped off the road. Some are minor but some are gruesome fatal accidents. Interestingly, we never hears anything about this from SBMA. Since this is the gateway to Subic from Manila and Clark, freeport administrators are reluctant to publicize these accidents. SBMA should consider putting up a billboard with a picture of one of these deadly accidents at the beginning of the inbound route to Subic from Tipo (that's where the accidents happen, outbound is largely uphill and vehicles generally can retain control). A billboard of an accident with the words SLOW DOWN will do wonders in cutting the Tipo highway death toll.

Friday, September 21, 2012

SBMA's Fake Stop Signs

        SBMA continues to Illustrate its incompetence at even simple management of traffic inside the freeport. But the latest example is the most embarrassingly ridiculous thing we have seen in years on the base. As we all know, the days when traffic rules were strictly enforced inside the freeport are long gone. Today, it has reverted to classic Manila-style traffic management: groups of traffic enforcers cluster at a few main intersections and look for specific violations (primarily rolling stop and seatbelt violations) and then shakedown the erring motorists for a bribe. The other intersections in the freeport are a wacky cacophony of blinking yellow lights, burned out traffic lights, random stop signs and crazy lines painted around for no apparent reason. Now, they have constructed stop signs at new crosswalks directly in front of the Harbor Point mall. These are completely fake stop signs. If you attempt to stop at these signs - which are brand new and official signs - you might be rear-ended by the car behind you. All motorists blow through these stop signs, while coming to a complete stop is mandatory and enforced at the intersections at both sides of the mall. It is this kind of chronic, longterm incompetence that illustrates why Subic is a failed freeport

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ka Freddie's in Manila

        For folks looking for a night of good music in Manila, check out Ka Freddies, Adriatico corner Pedro Gil, in Malate. It is the bar owned and operated by Freddie Aguilar, the famous folk singer who got his start singing to US Navy sailors in Olongapo in the 1970s. Freddie Aguilar performs just about every night that the bar is open. On Wednesdays, he performs with his incredibly talented kids and on the weekends with his band and some guest stars. The food is fine and the beers are cold enough, but the real attraction is Freddie Aguilar. He is the consummate professional, having played all over the world, and he delivers a solid performance even when there are only a few folks in the audience. The Aguilar family is also a famous and at time controversial clan. When multiple Aguilars are on stage, there is a strange energy in the room. They are enormously talented but there is a clear undercurrent of turbulence. And that makes it even more interesting and entertaining. The only criticism: don't order the pizza. They are comically tiny and include fake cheese. Other than that, check the place out if you want a night of great music.

Monday, September 17, 2012

New SBMA Fees

        SBMA has officially informed locators and residents that starting next month they will be charged a common usage fee. This controversial fee is an attempt to raise money for bankrupt Subic. Investors have pointed out that SBMA has been administered by a huge, inefficient bureaucracy and has been racked with corruption for decades. If it addressed its inefficiencies and corruption it could save more money than slapping a huge new fee on investors. SBMA administrator Robert Garcia has essentially said investors who don't like the huge new fees are welcome to leave and he has no plans to cut the massive SBMA bureaucracy. For residents, the hit will not be too bad. Residents now pay $10 (about 420 pesos) per unit per month to SBMA for various services. That will be increased to 1200 pesos. Most residents don't seem to mind the increase (of about $20 a month) as long as it results in improved services, such as better police protection of the housing areas. SBMA police who guard the housing areas are much better than what you would find almost anywhere else in the Philippines. They are responsive. They know their neighborhoods. They answer their phones. They respond to problems. They patrol. They generally (though not always) are not partnered with the criminals. The problem is they have dilapidated vehicles, limited money for fuel, etc. If SBMA can use the new money to get more cops on patrol in housing, residents will be big supporters of the new fee.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Book Treasures in Olongapo

Who knew Olongapo had a library? The Bugle recently discovered a surprisingly well kept facility. The library building is at the end of hospital road past the museum, convention center and Red Cross near Marikit park. This is one of the only truly tranquil, shaded streets remaining from the original Olongapo.
As libraries should be Olongapo's is run by some dedicated folks who love to read and be around people who do. They are friendly, helpful and attentive. The large one room facility has 19,000 books. The book genres are well organized into fiction and non fiction. And then further categorized into biography, fantasy, crime, adventure, horror etc. Hardcover and paperbacks reside side by side. The children and young adult section is large and varied. The timeless, ever-useful Dewey Decimal system is used at the Olongapo library.

A special section of reference material and text books are available to students and those pursuing special projects. These are securely maintained behind the counter. Three computers are available for use by the public and the day we visited they all worked. A comfortable section with couches and chairs has a reading corner with four Manila daily papers and a collection of recent publications and periodicals.

Libraries always have a unique fragrance that library rats find comfort in. It is the smell of paper in abundance that they find so pleasing. This library though reeks a bit more odoriferous than most as four feet of flood waters invaded the premises last month. A pile of ruined, reeking volumes attests to the tragedy

Friday, September 14, 2012

Barretto Restaurants

The Bugle has been out a bit lately eating at some of our local establishments and figured it was about time to pass a few words about some of the local dining scene.  First up was;  

Arizona Hotel and Restaurant:  Good food, decent menu that offers several dishes that you don't see on most menus (tuna tar tare, Rubens).  The portions were right sized for most appetites and the waitresses were most attentive.

Sit n Bull,  is one of the local favorites I think it is due to the size of the portions and the large breakfast menu.  The portions are huge but the food is rather bland.  A lot of reheating in the microwave takes place in the kitchen. 

Palm Tree Resort has probably some of the best food in the area.  The only drawback is the time it takes for your food to arrive.  The menu is varied from Lobster to Shepard's pie and the portions are generous.

West Pac Sailor (VFW) is a good place to go for a quick bite nothing really special as the menu is small but the prices are the lowest in the area.  Especially the drink prices.  One really good thing about the place though is it is air conditioned and smoke free.

Strombolis pizza has recently downsized and has lost its seating area but the pizza is still pretty good and they are currently having a special where if you order a large pizza you get a small one free.  Real good value for your money.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Olongapo's Electric Bill

           In a prior article about modernizing Olongapo Electricity in the Bugle some reader had brought up some questions on the amount of debt that Olongapo city owed.  Well it seems like not only are our readers curious about this money but it seems like the Philippine Government is concerned also.  Recently there was an article posted in the Manila Bulletin here that was talking about the same issue.  Seems like the local politicians feel they are above congress and don't have to do what Congress says.  The Bugle wonders how this will all play out in the future, or will it just become one of those things that people talk about for a week or two and then move on to the next issue du jour.  Just think about this, the numbers being thrown around are 2.3Billion Pesos.  Now the Bugle isn't a math genius by any means but even he knows that equates to a lot of San Miguel Beers. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Olongapo Traffic Study

The Bugle just read this article online the other day from the Tempo website: 

OLONGAPO CITY, Philippines – To avert future traffic problems on the heels of Olongapo’s increasing population and rapidly growing economy, the administration of City Mayor James “Bong“ Gordon, Jr. wants to implement a new and more comprehensive traffic management and public transport system.

For this purpose, the city government has tapped the University of the Philippines (UP) National Study Center for Traffic and Transportation to assess the present traffic condition in the city and make recommendations to ease road congestion and ensure the safety of commuters and pedestrians.
Gordon said there is a need to keep up with the changing times since the last comprehensive traffic study in Olongapo was done 12 years ago.

UP School of Urban and Regional Planning Professor Sheila Napalan and her group have already pin pointed the problem areas such as lack of parking spaces and the improvements that should be made such as transforming major thoroughfares into “walkable“ roads wherein pedestrians are not exposed to accidents.

They are also looking into the potential of alternative modes of transport like river crossings that will cut travel time from the city’s outskirts to downtown Olongapo.

The transport and traffic experts recently conducted a series of dialogues with motorists including jeepney, taxi and tricycle drivers to obtain additional inputs for the formulation of a sound traffic management system.

The study also includes whether there is a need to issue new franchises to tricycle cabs that will service new routes in certain streets of populous barangays and prevent the proliferation of colorum vehicles. (Franco G. Regala)

While a study is a good idea I would hope that one of the things that the Study Center looks into is the fact that there are too many franchises in existence for Jeepneys (PUJ) and tricycles already.  How often does one get into the city and watches as numerous empty and half empty Jeepneys go by.  Or how about the lack of enforcement of traffic regulations?  One just has to compare the streets of Olongapo with SBMA and you can see for yourself how proper enforcement makes your travels so much easier.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

USN Back in Subic

Well it has been a good week for our local establishments with the USS Frank Cable being in port and the good news will be continuing with the arrival of the USS Hawaii today.  Local drinking establishments and a lot of the local ladies have been seen enjoying the presence of the visiting servicemen.  It seems almost like the old days lately with the Muslim vendors out in force selling whatever they can to all the new folks.  The only problem that has been noted is the locals tourists have been getting harassed by all of the vendors walking about.  A simple no thanks isn't working with all the new vendors running around.  There has been a big uptick in business at the local beauty parlors as a lot of the local lasses are purchasing a lot of warpaint in the hopes of getting those freshly painted nails into some of the young Navy boys back pockets.  As for the Bugle he will just sit back and wait for it all to settle back into the normal routine where his older age doesn't matter just his larger wallet will have to suffice.

Sun Shines Down on the Fairways

For those golfers out there the Bugle received this report from a reader and figured that it would be worth passing on. 

    The golf was good on Thursday at San Antonio after weeks of rain. The Fairway Ramblers had their weekly golf outing under sunny skies and heavy humidity. Maintenance at San Antonio Golf Club had been busy getting tee boxes. fairways and greens ready for the return of the duffers. While they have been prioritizing their work after all the rains so not all was perfect but most holes were playable. Fairways had been cut where one is supposed to hit the ball. Outside these areas though the golf could get difficult real quick. Because of the taller rough and grass laying about in the fairways it was easy to lose golf balls. Holes 8 and 9 remain closed due to standing water. So most golfers elected to play 11 and 12 twice. It is a kick to be back playing again!

Monday, September 3, 2012

New Landfill in Olongapo

While out and about the other day the Bugle couldn't help but notice that a new landfill site has been established in Barrio Barretto.  This picture was actually taken last week and it has only got larger since then.  I wonder if the Barangay Captain has put in the proper paperwork to gain the environmental clearance certificate for a new landfill.  But in reality the Bugle realizes why this mess has yet to be cleared up.  Obviously it is because all of workers are busy clearing out the drainage ditches to prevent flooding.