Ban on GIs’ R&R exposes Olongapo dependence
OLONGAPO CITY—The city’s business community isn’t happy about liberty (rest and recreation or R&R) restrictions imposed by the United States Pacific Command on American soldiers participating in this year’s Balikatan.
Shops and restaurants outside the Subic Bay Freeport want the US servicemen to be allowed to patronize them.
Maribelle Martinez, a teller at a money exchange outlet here, said her shop used to earn at least P5,000 a day during previous military exercises.
“That’s no longer the case. With no US Marines in the city, we’re not making any profit at all,” she said.
“We don’t understand why the businesses in the city have to suffer from the crime committed by one person,” she said. She was referring to detained US Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton, who is on trial for the murder of transgender woman Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude on Oct. 11, 2014.
Senior Insp. Julius Jimenez, Olongapo City police station 3 commander, said bars and nightclubs are off limits to US servicemen during the Balikatan as directed by the US Pacific Command.
He said stores are also not allowed to sell liquor to the US soldiers.
He said policemen have been deployed to all entry and exit points in the free port to seek out “suspicious-looking individuals who might be part of the US contingent in the Balikatan.”
“We want to make sure that nobody violates the order from the US Pacific Command,” he added.
Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) chair and administrator Roberto Garcia confirmed this.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, he said: “There’s no shore leave at all for the US Marines. Only those who belong to the US Air Force and the supply ships are allowed to go outside the free port.”
He said some US Navy officers have sought his consent to allow them to hold barbecue parties within the port area where their ships are docked.
“I [agreed] … in consideration of their situation since they are not allowed to go on shore leave,” Garcia said.
Money no more
He said owners of business establishments inside the free port and Olongapo City have lost about $3.5 million in potential revenues due to the liberty ban.
“There are about 6,000 US troops participating in the Balikatan and they are all expected to come back to Subic after their training. But due to the liberty ban, business establishments will not generate revenues from them,” Garcia said.
An owner of a nightclub here, who requested anonymity, said operators of bars and nightclubs on Magsaysay Avenue would ask the US Pacific Command to allow its servicemen to go on shore leave even for just a few hours.
“It’s a huge economic loss for all of us. But we’re helpless because it seems that we can’t do anything about it,” the club owner said.
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