Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Guam officials studying Olongapo City

With thousands of military personnel and their families expected to create not only a population but economic boom for the island, local officials are working with a city in the Philippines that could provide invaluable insight on preparations and the impacts the buildup will have on the territory.

Today Olongapo City in the Philippines is a bustling tourist attraction with a vibrant economy that sustains its population of more than 200,000 people. As one of the largest military bases in history, Olongapo City was formerly part of the U.S. naval reservation and the adjacent Subic Bay freeport zone was a U.S. naval base until 1992. Philippine Consul General Olivia Palala says the territory has shared a tight-knit relationship with the people of the Philippines for decades.

Palala says residents here can receive a wealth of knowledge from Olongapo as Guam prepares for the buildup. She said, "It is their best interest to think of Guam of the island so they should be vigilant about the negative repercussions of having additional military personnel on the island together with the advantages of such presence. As we said earlier, any development always has its pros and cons."

Members of the Guam Legislature are also lobbying heavily to establish a sister city relationship with the city of Olongapo. Senator Eddie Baza Calvo said, "In particular to Olongapo City, we see some mutual benefits from both the military buildup as well as when the construction activity is over." Calvo introduced Resolution 170-30, which would not only establish an official sister city relationship between Olongapo and Guam but help foster a closer knit relationship.

Calvo added, "In particular to Olongapo City, we see some mutual benefits from both the military build up as well as when the construction activity is over."

Yona Mayor Pedo Terlaje is also working closely with his longtime friend and Olongapo mayor, James Gordon, to create a sister village relationship that would focus on the medical benefits that the Philippines provide the people of Guam with including a new medical facility that just opened up there.

"If any patients from Guam would go to Olongapo, they would have housing, medical housing for our people - the hospital is a lower price than what they charge at the Selud Medical Center," he said.

Guam and Olongapo should both benefit from this reciprocal arrangement, but just how closely Guam's experience with the military buildup mimics theirs still remains to be seen. by Heather Hauswirth - kuam.com

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