Cheers, jeers greet news of American troops' return to Subic
MANILA - Happy days are back in Subic Bay. Businessmen, especially bar owners, are excited at the prospect of American soldiers returning to Subic and Olongapo City as a result of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
However, not all residents are as excited. Among them is a group of former bar workers who warns against the adverse effects of the return of the Americans.
US naval ships docking again means some bars in Subic and Olongapo are coming back to life.
They died a long time ago after the Senate voted for the removal of the US military bases, including the one in Subic, in September 1991.
With the EDCA signing last April 28 that allows the US to put up its own structures inside Philippine military camps, and a portion of the former US Naval base in Subic being eyed as possible site for these new structures, businessmen expect to make a killing in Subic and Olongapo.
Bars are being spruced up. Businessmen are expecting more Americans to come soon. People now see bars posting signs that they are hiring new dancers, managers, and guest relations officers.
"Lalakas ang kita ng bar," one bar girl said.
"Lahat nag-aantay," said another. "Nag-aantay sa mga Kano."
But one group of women once lured into working for bars that catered to American soldiers during the heyday of US bases is not at all pleased.
They don’t like EDCA and they don’t like the Americans returning to Subic.
One of them is Alma Bulawan, who fell in love with an American and gave birth to his child. The American left them without even saying goodbye.
Bulawan, president of the Buklod ng Kababaihan sa Olongapo, said around 8,000 Amerasians in Olongapo City were abandoned by their American fathers.
"May discrimination po kasi kahit graduate ka, ang hirap magtrabaho," Bulawan said.
Brenda Moreno, an organizer of the Buklod ng Kababaihan sa Olongapo, is a daughter of an American soldier.
She and her mother were abandoned by her father. She has been looking for him for years.
Moreno said she last saw her father while she was young. She said her father gave her USD 5 and she never saw him again.
"Kuha sila ng mga babae dito, tapos mag-aanak lang sila. Pero wala naman silang pakialam kung anong mangyayari sa mga anak nila sa Pilipinas," Moreno said.
She said she is suffering from discrimination because of the color of her skin.
Although she wants to go to the US to find her father, Moreno said the US embassy denied her visa application.
However, a new generation of bar girls don’t care at all.
"Mayroong nagseseryoso, merong nagpi-fling lang. Eh nasa babae din naman iyon," one bar girl said.
Local officials also see more business opportunities. Aside from entertainment, tourism, food, and retail businesses are expected to boom.
"Naka-book sa mga hotel diyan. Kakain sa restaurant. Magsa-shopping sa mall. The local business, tourism establishments especially, benefit from this," Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority Chairman Roberto Garcia said.
"We will do everything para hindi naman masabi nila na maging sin city," Subic Mayor Jay Khongun said.
In the coming weeks, people expect government officials to explain EDCA further before it is finally implemented, especially in Subic and Olongapo City.