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Interesting report here on the old US bases in the Philippines, Clark Air Force Base and Subic Bay, a navy base.

Two huge former US military bases have found a new lease on life in post-Cold War Philippines, with budget airlines and cargo ships taking the place of fighter jets and destroyers.

The conversion of Subic Naval Base and Clark Air Base into tax-haven special economic zones nearly two decades ago has drawn a few thousand investors that include shipbuilders, electronic firms, airlines and tour operators.

The transition, however, has not been smooth and the vast areas, each about the size of Singapore, still do not live up to their potential with parts resembling ghost towns, officials involved in running them acknowledge.

But they now employ around 150,000 people, nearly four times the 42,000 locals when US forces gave up what were then their biggest overseas military facilities in 1992, according to Subic’s state-administrator Armand Arreza.

Though not 100% successful because of ongoing economic troubles in the Philippines, they must be happy about kicking out the US. Not only are they creating more jobs, but the work supplements other parts of the Philippine economy, encouraging tourism and manufacturing.

Among the biggest recent investors at Clark are chip-makers Texas Instruments of the United States, which arrived in 2009, and South Korean giant Samsung, which set up operations last year.

The two have so far ploughed 860 million dollars and 135 million dollars respectively out of their initial billion-dollar investment pledges.

Japanese tyre manufacturer Yokohoma, which has been one of the most enduring foreign companies at Clark after arriving in 1996, also has expansion plans.

Meanwhile, regional airline AirAsia is due to make Clark its main Philippine hub in September, joining seven other budget carriers already there.

Over at Subic, Korean shipbuilder Hanjin Heavy Industries has built one of the 10 largest yards in the world which has delivered 20 ships over the past five years.

I first visited Philippines in 1978, working on a merchant ship that was moored in Manila for eight weeks. Never visited Clark, but I did spend one weekend at Subic Bay. The industries being supported by the US presence were bars and prostitution. These days there is still plenty of that around, but no doubt it is positive that there is better diversification.


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