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2 US ships dock in Subic; businesses hopeful

/ 05:42 AM February 18, 2016

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—Two American naval ships arrived here recently for a routine port visit and to replenish supplies.

Carrying about 500 civilian marines, USNS Carl Brashear and USNS Walter S. Diehl, a replenishment ship, docked at the Alava Pier here on Feb. 14 and will stay until Feb. 21, according to the seaport department of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).

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Local tourists flocked to the Alava Pier to take souvenir photos with the two ships in the background.

USNS Carl Brashear, a dry cargo ship, arrived on Feb. 10.

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But business owners inside and outside the free port said they have yet to benefit financially from the ships’ visit.

Bong Pineda, president of Subic Grand Harbor Hotel here, said most hotel owners in the free port are preparing for the annual bilateral military exercises “Balikatan” (shoulder-to-shoulder) between American and Filipino troops scheduled next month.

The joint training exercises are usually held in various sites in the country between March and May. This free port serves as the jump-off point for participating US servicemen.

“We’re now preparing for the arrival of US soldiers for the Balikatan. This early, some of them have already booked their rooms in various hotels here,” Pineda said.

Pineda, who is also a member of the Metro Olongapo Chamber of Commerce Inc., said local businessmen are still reeling from the economic losses resulting from the liberty ban imposed on the US servicemen.

Last year, business operators here said they lost at least P20 million in business opportunities at the height of the murder trial of US Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton.

In December last year, a regional trial court in Olongapo City convicted Pemberton of homicide for killing transgender woman Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude in a motel on Oct. 11, 2014.

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Earlier, SBMA Chair Roberto Garcia said the US Pacific Command had relaxed its regulation on its servicemen’s liberty activities by allowing them to go to restaurants and shops inside the free port.

The US Marines, however, are not allowed to go beyond the free port, Garcia said.

But citing his meetings with US Navy officers, Olongapo City Mayor Rolen Paulino said the servicemen may be allowed to leave the free port for rest and recreation by next month in time for the Balikatan. Allan Macatuno, Inquirer Central Luzon

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TAGS: Alava Pier, SBMA, Subic, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, Subic Grand Harbor Hotel, UNSN Walter S. Diehl, US ships, USNS Carl Brashear
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