Subic Bay Aims For USA Military Conversion To Cruise Ship Port

Subic Bay USA Military Port Conversion To Cruise Ship Port
Subic Bay USA Military Port Conversion To Cruise Ship Port
Subic Bay Philippines
Subic Bay Philippines

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority ( SBMA) is working to change Subic Bay, Philippines (see video below) from a military only destination to a cruise travel playground. This summer, they are awaiting the arrival of numerous cruise ships including  Costa Atlantica, MV Glory Sea, MV Superstar Gemini, Ovation of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas.

SBMA chairman and administrator Wilma T. Eisma said, “We hope that Subic would be the next cruise ship playground. And we are very excited over this prospect. Subic can offer the best tourism facilities and services for cruise passengers and crew, highly memorable and tailored tourism experiences to meet the expectations of the cruise’s clients, and a safe environment that would be very conducive to the cruise business.”

Last July, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line (RCCL) vice president for New Business Development John Tercek visited Subic to assess its readiness as a cruise ship destination. Tercek cited the potentials of Subic and advised the SBMA to step up efforts in developing the free port to address the demand.

The approved activities include visits to major theme parks in the Subic Bay Freeport, mango-fruit picking at a farm in San Narciso, Zambales, and a tour of the famous heritage houses at Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Bagac, Bataan.

World War II U.S. Military Presence

Olongapo Subic Bay Philippines

Subic Bay was designated Naval Advance Unit No. 6, and become a submarine and motor torpedo boat base shortly after the Philippines were liberated. A Naval Supply Depot was established at Maquinaya, about 3 miles (5 km) from the main base in July 1945. A new town of Olongapo was built to replace buildings burned by the retreating Japanese and provide housing for Filipino civilians employed at the base. Olongapo and its 9,000 Filipino residents remained under United States Navy administration when the remainder of the Philippines became independent on July 4, 1946.

Vietnam War U.S. Military Presence

The Vietnam War was the period of peak activity as Subic Bay became the U.S. Seventh Fleet forward base for repair and replenishment after the Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964. The average number of ships visiting the base per month rose from 98 in 1964 to 215 by 1967.

The base, with 6 wharves, 2 piers, and 160 mooring points and anchorages, had about 30 ships in port on any given day. Alava pier was extended by 600 feet (180 m) in 1967. The record of 47 ships in port was set in October 1968.

Post Vietnam War U.S. Military Presence

November 24, 1992, the American Flag was lowered in Subic for the last time and the last 1,416 Sailors and Marines at Subic Bay Naval Base left by plane from Naval Air Station Cubi Point and by USS Belleau Wood. This withdrawal marked the first time since the 16th century that no foreign military forces were present in the Philippines.

The departure of the United States Navy still left a huge clean-up to be completed. Soil and water was contaminated with lead, asbestos, PCB’s, pesticides, and possibly nuclear waste from submarines. As of 2012, clean-up estimates for Subic Bay Naval Base and Clark Air Base were $40 million each. The 1991 base closing agreement gave the Philippines billions of dollars in military infrastructure and real estate at the bases and in return cleared the United States of any responsibility for the pollution. The Department of Defense told Stars and Stripes it has no authority to undertake or pay for environmental cleanup at the closed bases.

Twenty years later, beginning in June 2012, the Philippine government said that the United States military could use the old base, as long as prior approval was granted by the Philippine government. This follows expanded military ties between the two nations, and an American pivot towards Asia. On November 20, 2012, Subic Bay hosted US ships, Marines and aircraft on a semi-permanent basis.

Now as Subic tries to recreate itself as a cruise ship destination, ice cream shops, Western-style horse ranches, hotels and public parks have sprung up on land once used by the Air Force and the Navy, built on land the Philippine government said is still polluted with asbestos, heavy metals and fuel.

On Thursday, March 9, 2018, the United States Embassy in Manila announced the arrival of Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Bremerton (SSN 698) at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone for a routine port visit during its deployment to the Indo-Pacific region. This is Bremerton’s ninth and final visit to Subic Bay in the ship’s 37 year history.

Article Resources:

Video: It’s more fun-tastic in Subic Bay