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Subic Bay Freeport Zone, Formerly United States Naval Base Subic Bay

RT Cunningham | July 15, 2020 (UTC) | Locations

Subic Bay Freeport ZoneThe Subic Bay Freeport Zone is one of four economic zones (that I know of) in the Philippines where everything is tax-free and duty-free. Shopping is great. Before the Philippine government took over, it was United States Naval Base Subic Bay. Before that, it was a military base operated by the Spanish Navy.

From the air, it probably looks a lot like it did back when it was a United States military base. The picture I selected is from 1990. The changes are far more visible on the ground.

A Short History of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone

The Spanish started making most of the “island” that is now part of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone into a naval base sometime around 1884. One part of the island was the Olongapo village, which moved to another place on the other side of the river (actually, an expanded drainage canal colloquially called “sh*t river” because of the smell) after World War II. As far as I know, the only thing remaining of the village is an old church.

Around the end of the Spanish-American War, the Americans captured the base and held it until they turned it over to the Philippine government in 1991. As a United States naval base, it became a major ship-repair, supply, and rest and recreation facility. They built Naval Air Station Cubi Point on the base during the Korean War. Cubi Point had a United States Navy hospital, which is now a privately owned hospital.

After the base closed in 1991, the Philippine government turned it into the freeport zone. At first, the tax-free and duty-free incentives were for residents at the freeport zone. Later, the residents of Olongapo City were given the same incentives. Today, the incentives are available to all the residents of the Philippines. Hundreds of people are bused in from other provinces every weekend.

The Subic Bay Freeport Zone Today

I don’t do much more than go shopping and watch movies when I’m at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone. I can’t tell you everything it has to offer. There are modern hotels and dozens of restaurants, many of which I’ve dined at. There’s a marina, with various types of boats parked there. A friend of the family works on those boats. An airport is currently being upgraded from cargo to cargo and passenger. It should be open for passengers soon.

There are plenty of places to go shopping, for groceries and other consumables. Royal Subic has two stores at the freeport zone. Pure Gold has two stores as well. The Harbor Point shopping mall has a four-screen cinema on the top floor. The mall has four floors. There are places that support scuba diving and snorkeling. There are places that support parasailing.

I honestly can’t tell you much more. I prefer to spend most of my time at home, which is close enough (but not too close) to the Subic Bay Freeport Zone. My wife (Josie) and I and some of my relatives ventured out to the former Cubi Point area in 2015, and we haven’t been there since.

Originally published at one of my other websites in September 2017.

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