It’s sad and ironic that Filipinos, who fought so hard to get the U.S. bases out of their country because of the terrible social and environmental costs, would now be bidding on contracts for the military expansion on Guam, turning their past oppression into “experience” capital.
Filipinos to bid in $15-B Guam US naval project
By Robert Gonzaga
Central Luzon Desk
First Posted 02:51:00 02/04/2010
OLONGAPO CITY—Filipino contractors will vie for lucrative contracts in a $15-billion US military expansion program in Guam that, this city’s mayor said, brought back memories of American military presence here.
Organizers said Filipino manpower and product suppliers had listed up to submit bids for contracts in Guam at the Annual Pacific Island Local Government (APILG) conference that this city would host on Feb. 18-21.
Mayor James Gordon Jr. said Filipino contractors would get to know the processes involved in bagging contracts in Guam at the APILG conference.
Dean Alegado, executive director of the APILG conference, said over 1,500 contractors had signed up for contractual bidding processes, which were earlier conducted in Washington, Honolulu and Guam.
“In those [bids and awards conferences], over 50 of the companies were Filipino-owned,” Alegado said.
“They were mostly contractors for manpower services. Hosting this conference is a major coup for Olongapo because it can provide opportunities for Filipino contractors from all over the country to meet important decision-makers (in the US military program),” he said.
It was “deja vu for all of us because this is exactly what happened when the US base began construction work here,” Gordon said.
The US military in Guam, he said, would need “lots of services that we can provide—and also products.”
“Everything is imported in Guam. For products that they don’t manufacture, maybe we can supply them,” Gordon said.
The Guam buildup project was spurred by the relocation there of the US naval base in Okinawa. It will require at least 20,000 workers, the Inquirer learned.
Major engineering work is scheduled to proceed from 2010 to 2014, while 14,200 military personnel and their 38,070 dependents will be transferred to Guam from Okinawa from 2012 to 2016.
Gordon waxed sentimental about US military presence in his city that the Philippine Senate and the eruptions of Mount Pinatubo ended in 1991.
“In three years, my father, who was the first mayor of Olongapo, was able to turn this place into a city [because of the construction of the US naval base],” he said.
End of treaty
The Philippine Senate in 1991 voted overwhelmingly to reject a treaty that would have extended the stay of two key US military bases in the Philippines—the biggest US naval base outside continental America that this city had hosted and an air force base that used to be in Clark that straddled Tarlac and Pampanga.
The eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the same year hastened the departure of US forces from their bases in Subic and Clark when ash deposits destroyed or damaged US facilities and lahar threatened sites being used by US military forces.
Aurelio Pineda, president of the Metro Olongapo Chamber of Commerce and Industries (MOCCI), said the conference should address “critical issues related to opportunities in Guam.”
“We have been getting inquiries as to how Filipino companies can reach their prospective partners, or the major contractors there,” Pineda said.
“Also, businessmen are interested about issues of labor contracting and employment, which will be tackled (in the conference),” he said.
US firms are still the Filipino contractors’ primary competitors because the Guam project “will be paid for by US taxpayers,” Alegado said.
“But there is still a huge opportunity for Filipino contractors in other areas like medical, food and training services,” he said.
Alegado added: “They will need skilled workers, medical practitioners and, eventually, also entertainment workers … and Olongapo wants to take part in this. [Right now] about 20 percent of the people [in Guam] are either from here or Zambales.”
Accredited by US Navy
Pineda said Filipino companies that plan to operate in Guam for the buildup project have to be accredited by the US Navy.
Workers who will be employed there will be hired by the contractors themselves, he said.
He said the policy was adopted to protect Filipino workers from falling prey to illegal recruiters.
Gordon said the recruitment “will be strict … because this is a military installation.”
“Workers will be recruited from all over and the US Navy will screen them thoroughly for they might be working in sensitive areas,” he said.
Since Filipinos have the experience in working in an American naval base, “we naturally have the advantage,” Gordon said.
“What is happening in Guam is nothing new to us, and we might be able to transfer our learning experiences to them,” he said.
For Olongapo, the Guam military buildup represents the “third wave of progress,” Gordon said.
“First, when the Americans built their bases here, Olongapo became a city. Second, when they left, we were able to convert their facilities into a free port zone. Now, we are going to supply most of their skilled labor,” he said.
The APILG conference is also expected to draw interested contractors from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Republic of Belau, the American Samoa, Hawaii and Guam.