Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Olongapo mayor bent on sending local workers to Guam

OLONGAPO CITY – Call it persistence and what you will, but Olongapo City Mayor James “Bong” Gordon Jr. is not about to let go of an opportunity when he sees one.

After learning that a massive military buildup will be made in Guam starting next year, Gordon has been to Guam twice in the last two months to see how his proposal is being accepted by the island’s authorities.

“We cannot just stand by and wait. We have to work fast because the livelihoods of a lot of people depend on this,” Gordon said.

Gordon estimates that some 15,000 to 20,000 jobs would be available once the construction of a huge military complex in Guam starts.

He said that most of the initial construction projects would require carpenters, masons, electricians, heavy equipment operators, pipe fitters, painters, and welders.

And if Gordon would have his way, Filipinos – specifically those who worked at the former Subic Naval Base, should be given priority during the Guam hiring.

“This is where the former base workers could come in, because they were trained to meet the working standards of the US military,” Gordon also said.

“This is the Olongapo advantage – something that workers from other areas don’t have,” he said.

Gordon said he wants no stone left unturned in the face of the challenges relative to the rules that will govern wage rates and foreign workers.

According to Guam officials, there is now a proposal to amend the 2010 Defense Authorization Act to limit foreign worker participation in Guam’s massive military buildup to 30 percent and raise construction worker pay to roughly $26 an hour.

Guam officials said the current $21-an-hour rate now anticipated by Philippine-based workers is already considered high pay by exchange rate standards.

Guam Gov. Felix Camacho and local businessmen are said to be against this bill, which they consider bad for business.

Gordon said Olongapo and Guam officials are set to sign a sisterhood agreement to enhance goodwill and trade relations between the two communities that share a history of hosting American military facilities.

Gordon said he and Guam senator Eddie Calvo have gone through the initial steps towards the signing of a sister-city accord, including possible areas of mutual help and cooperation.

“Both parties want strong partnership ties because of our common history,” Gordon told The STAR in an interview.

By. Bebot Sison Jr. – Philippine Star

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