Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Gordon: Grab your opportunities

'Grab your opportunities:' Developing workforce important to island's success


The Guam military buildup can be a boon or a bane, and it's up to the leaders and residents of Guam to seize the opportunities that it offers, said Philippine Sen. Richard Gordon.

Gordon, who is running in the 2010 Philippine presidential race, said Guam's leaders should clearly define the host community's vision for the buildup and what is expected of Guam's residents to achieve that goal, he said.

"If you put people on vision mode ... it's so easy," he said. "You gotta grab your opportunities, make sure that you get the most of it. Don't let them run your show."

And Gordon is speaking from experience.

During his keynote address on the second day of the Guam Community and Economic Development Forum yesterday, Gordon shared the story of how he led Olongapo City from being devastated by volcanic ashes to become the thriving city--complete with an international and industrial port-- that it is today.

Olongapo was originally a "sin city" dotted with strip clubs, lacking industry, agriculture and commerce other than the former Subic U.S. Navy base, he said. While Philippine nationalists resented the American presence, Gordon said he always felt it was better to work with foreign players voluntarily rather than become a "victim" of their influence.

"To me it was a great boon," he said.

But the Subic U.S. Navy base closed there in 1992 following the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, Gordon said. As mayor of Olongapo, Gordon built a "second city," with the help of about 8,000 volunteers. He brought in billions in investments.

With the help of the volunteers and investors, his city became a magnet for international investments as a free-trade industrial port -- enticing computer and cell phone manufacturers and brand-name companies such as FedEx and Reebok, among others.

"We were able to get back on our feet fast," he said.

Similarly, Gordon said Guam should concentrate on further developing higher education, tourism and business processing industries. If that's done right, Gordon said Guam could potentially become more successful.

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