Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Central Luzon mission to woo US investors

By Ronnel Domingo -- Inquirer

A TEAM of local government officials from the Central Luzon region, north of Manila, is in California on a mission to drum up investment opportunities for American companies, especially in information technology-enabled services.

The weeklong sortie started Sept. 26 and will wrap up on Oct. 4.

Mission head Tomas Joson III, governor of Nueva Ecija province, said in a Sept. 19 letter to Trade and Industry Undersecretary Elmer Hernandez that the Central Luzon Investment Coordinating Council (CLIC) would meet with executives of various US firms.

The CLIC team also includes Governor Josefina de la Cruz of Bulacan province, Govenor Bellaflor Angara-Castillo of Aurora province, and representatives of the provinces of Zambales and Pampanga.

Joson said the team hoped to get insights on what American businessmen were looking for and issues that concern them.

The team also wanted to exchange ideas on how the Philippines and Central Luzon could be promoted to foreign investors.

He added that Central Luzon provinces were taking part in the 21st Philippine-American Exposition Home Show and Auto Show in Los Angeles.

Joson said CLIC had been actively promoting the region through roadshows and promotions, with the last mission sent to Hong Kong earlier this year.

He added that the Anhui Investment Mission in Hong Kong led to a visit to Clark in Pampanga of a delegation at least 300 Chinese businessmen, who also went around Central Luzon to scout for business opportunities.

Central Luzon hosts the Subic Bay Freeport as well as the Clarkfield and Poro Point investment areas, all of which were former military facilities converted into business enclaves.

A new expressway linking Clark and Subic is under construction.

The tollway is planned to extend all the way to Tarlac in the northwest and to Dingalan, Aurora in the east.

Last July, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo announced in her State of the Nation Address the creation of “super regions,” including a “Metro Luzon urban beltway” encompassing Metro Manila and Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog regions.

The other super regions are the North Luzon agribusiness quadrangle; Central Philippines covering most of the islands between Luzon and Mindanao; Mindanao and the cybercorridor that covers pockets of areas equipped with information and communication technology infrastructure.


  • How can they attract foreign investors when thye treat us like this? On the night of 26 Sep I was grabbed by the NBI inside the Angel Witch bar, goose-stepped outside to a waiting vehicle and transported to the NBI office located on Clark. I was kept there the entire night but released the next day. How, you might ask, did all this come about? Well, that night, about 10 PM I received a call from a contact that the NBI was in the Angel Witch Bar and in the process of searching for one lady which they could not find and were now detaining some of the ladies and three Managers. He indicated that the Tourist Police were not on the scene. I contacted ACTA President Rey about the raid and told him I would check it out. He asked that I keep him informed of the situation and see if I could learn the reason for the raid. Priscilla dropped me off in front of the Angel Witch and I entered the bar, met with the manager and started to interview him about what had happened and why. During the interview the NBI suddenly returned with around six to eight men, arm with weapons and ran through the bar and two went to the back stairs to check the live-in area. I approached one of the armed men and asked what the situation was and he directed me to the team chief. I went to that person and introduced myself and explained that I was the Exec. Vice President of ACTA and then had to tell him that it was the Angeles Clarkfield Tourism Association. I asked if there was a mission order issued for this raid and the reason. He explained that a mission order was not required and that it was a rescue mission to find a girl listed as a minor and employed at the Angel Witch. They were also looking for a "Scott" and at first thought it was me. They asked why I wanted this information and I told them that the ACTA President wanted to be advised so that we could monitor the situation and act accordingly. He asked me for the name of the President and when I mentioned the name "Rey Pineda" he went ballistic. He started yelling that Rey was nothing, he could not tell the NBI what to do, he could not stop anything, he is not in charge of anything, and so on with a bit of profanity thrown in as well. I thought he was going to foam at the mouth but instead he took his frustration and anger out on me by yelling, "you are under arrest for obstructing justice, call your damn Rey, have him come here" and two of the agents grabbed me and goose-stepped me out to the waiting vehicle. I was shoved into the back seat and the team chief continued his tirade, telling me to call Rey. Now, in the back seat I was trying to call Rey even as I was sitting between two agents but for some reason, my fingers would not cooperate too well. Then the "Chief" who was in the front seat, still yelling, grabbed my cell phone and smacked me in the face. The vehicle took off and proceeded to the Base and things were a bit quieter. Then we are on base heading for the NBI office and the damn car started to run out of gas. I was glad the gas stations were closed as I figured they would ask me to pay for the gas. Anyway, they went through a few stop and go motions and finally the car was able to coast to a stop in front of the NBI office. Now they gave me back my cell phone and again told me to call Rey and tell him to go to the office. It was after 11 PM now but I tried to call and there was no answer. In desperation, I called Presidential Advisor Secretary Renato Diaz and was able to reach him and tell him that I had been detained by the NBI and that I could not reach Rey for assistance. He took my information and told me he would see what could be done. When I hung up the NBI agent asked who I called. I told him I could not reach Rey, so I called Secretary Diaz. He got mad again, accused me of name calling and asked the full name of the Secretary. When I told him he responded "oh, that fat guy from Zambales, see you are name calling again, we don't like that." Shit, by this time I thought, hell, if I had a direct line to GMA (President of the Philippines) I would call her too. But they confiscated my cell phone again.
    When I entered the NBI general room with various offices I was told to sit. At that time I also saw the three Managers from the Angel Witch Club plus one door girl and three of the dancers who the NBI agents suspected of being underage. One must remember though, that the original mission was to rescue one specifically named woman who they could not find. Now, I was without any means to communicate with anyone, arrest paperwork was prepared and I was fingerprinted. They kept asking for identification papers and all I had was my drivers license and they asked why I did not have copies of my passport or visa on person. I kept telling them that they were at home and that I did not carry that kind of documentation on my person. I think, technically, I am supposed to do so but I have to check on that. Hell, none of that stuff will fit in my wallet anyway. After all the paperwork I was escorted to the back of the room, led down a hallway to a cell and placed in that. The light was turned off and it was dark as hell, but I figured I might as well try to sleep. But, within three minutes, the door opened and I was let out and suddenly, everyone was pretty nice to me. The good thing is that the team chief was no longer around and those that were still on duty were being rather decent. I was surprised at the sudden turn-a-round and did not find out the reason for many more hours. I was told that they needed my help with the ladies in custody in that the Managers, one in particular, was not cooperating and maybe if I could talk to them and convince them to cooperate in finding the lady that they were trying to "rescue". If I could help, and they were able to find the lady, then I could be released. OK, I agreed to talk to the two ladies and explained the benefits of not lying, or at the very least, getting their stories to agree with each other. In any case, the one girl indicated that a friend of (let me call her Roselle, not her real name) Roselle was still in the bar and might know where she was staying. So, they formed another team and went with them to the bar again, but, of course, were not successful in finding Roselle. Naturally, I am sure, that by this time, enough people had informed Roselle what was going on and that she was well hidden. Also, at this time, my cursing, slapping buddy popped his head in and wanted to know the last name of "Scott". When I told him I did not know it he did not believe me and asked if I thought he was dumb. Needless to say I resisted the urge to tell him what I really thought, but instead, explained that many of the people I know in town are by first name only or nicknames and that all too often I even forget those first names and rely on "Hi buddy, hi pal, hey guy" and other shortcuts to cover my bad memory.
    After all this I was now allowed to sit in the general area where there was a long table and allowed to watch TV with the three Managers trying to get some sleep in their chairs. Around 2 AM one agent, Larry, sat with me and chatted for quite some time and he allowed me access to my cell phone so I could at least call my wife who was quite worried by this time. After my conversation with her and also responding to others who had sent text messages Larry once again collected my cell phone. Again, I was incommunicado. But, I was told that I would be released in the morning once the mission was over. Believe me, it was a very long night. As I sat there, I thought of all the expats that have been guests of the NBI or Immigration officials and how they related their stories to me. I remember visiting Kevin Halloran at the station 174 jail and what a horror that was. For the rest of the evening I was treated OK but could only doze in my chair once in a while. Around 8 AM the Agents, including the Director gathered for breakfast which one of the agents prepared. I was invited to join them for sausage, scrambled eggs and rice and managed to eat enough to ease a bit of hunger I had. Once the place became active and they woke up the individual that was assigned to prepare my release paperwork I was happy to see that I would be released shortly. But, first they asked me to agree to a prepared affidavit which absolved them of any wrong doing, one of those "cover your ass" documents. Since I did not have my cell phone yet I was not able to seek advice but in retrospect I guess I should have asked to speak to the ACTA lawyer first. Instead I signed the document and finally was given my cell phone back. After another couple of hours I was officially released.
    Once I had my cell phone and was contacted by various people I found out that Secretary Diaz, after receiving my call the night before, called a contact in Manila and that person contacted the Clark NBI Director right away and was told to release me that night. It was agreed that I would be released but that information was withheld from me and I was kept the entire night. Secretary Diaz, when he learned this was upset. I also found that the Mayor was making enquiries as well as Rey Pineda. Marlon Llauder, the ACTA lawyer arrived from Manila and was instructed by the Mayor to get a list of the names of the Agents that were on duty the night before. Later in the day, I attended meetings with Rey, Sec Diaz and also the Mayor to get to the bottom of why these agents arrested me. The NBI director was summoned to the Holiday Inn as well and was questioned by the Secretary and also Rey. He was very apologetic and indicated that I could submit a complaint against the Agent who slapped me in the car. It was decided that this was not necessary but both Sec Diaz and Rey wanted to see some sort of action against the agent who assaulted me, was cussing out Rey and was disrespectful to the name of the Secretary. I was very grateful that I was able to get through to Sec Diaz the night before as I am sure that my treatment would have been far different, even to the point that they would have left me in that cell. I have no doubt that at some point they would have asked for money as they had started talking about pressing charges and notifying the American Embassy and that I could lose my military retirement pay, which of course is hogwash, but was an attempt to intimidate me.
    So, I was able to go home but what of the three Managers and the entertainers that were still being held? I thought that they would be released but found out that later in the day, the three entertainers were slapped around, knocked down and forced to sign affidavits admitting that they were involved in going out on "barfines" and with this admission, the three Managers went before the fiscal with the charge of trafficking which is a non-bailable offense. At the time I am writing this they are incarcerated at the City Jail. One of the girls that was abused reported to work and was taken to Ona Hospital for an examination and for a doctor to record her injuries. So far, she is willing to make an official statement as to the treatment she received and that she was coerced into making the affidavit that pointed to her being a prostitute. The other two have not reported to work and are fearful of the agents. Various meetings have been held with certain officials to ascertain what actions are to be taken to bring these abuses to the attention of the public.
    Well, this Horse experienced first hand what many foreigners have had to go through and I was fortunate to have had a good support base to assist me. Others have not been so lucky. I have no desire to be put in such a situation again, it definitely is no fun and it is very stressful. Possibly the ACTA and LACEM will be able to bring pressure on certain people to address certain human rights violations committed by some law enforcement officials so the ladies who are working to survive can be do so without physical abuses being heaped on them by their fellow countrymen who want to use them to facilitate extortion of foreigners. By the way, the request from the CSWD asking for the assistance of the NBI to rescue the girl Roselle, was three months old and in fact, she was rescued in June and her Aunt was arrested and charged with trafficking since she is the one that brought her to the bar and presented all the necessary legal documents. Let us hope that sometime in the near future that a new team will be assigned to the Clark NBI office, one that will work with the various agencies, including ACTA to rid the entertainment of underage girls but in a more unobtrusive and legal manner. Rifles and guns are not necessary, history has shown that there have not been any gun battles between the police and Expat Club owners so why all the firepower?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/02/2006 4:58 AM  

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