Sunday, September 12, 2004

Olongapo City Report

By: Mayor James Gordon, Jr.

I. Background of the City

A. History

Subic Bay was established as a naval reservation as early as 1884 by virtue of a Royal Decree issued by King Alfonso II of Spain. In 1898, the United States took over the naval facility. In 1908, an American military administration for town affairs was established to govern the area. The naval base saw massive expansion after the Second World War under the 1947 Military Bases Agreement. In the 1950’s, the town and its population was relocated from what was known as the Spanish Gate to beyond the artificial moat some 1,000 meters northeast of its original site. It was not until 1959 that Olongapo was turned over to the Philippine government and American “rule” ended. In its first years, Olongapo was governed by appointees from the central government.

In 1963, James L. Gordon, Sr. became the first duly elected Mayor of Olongapo City. In 1966, through his efforts, Olongapo became a Chartered City and an aggressive drive to rid the City of criminal elements characterized his term. In 1967, Mayor Gordon was assassinated. Mrs. Amelia Gordon was then elected Mayor and she developed the first master plan for the City including the establishment of new housing settlements. During the 1970’s and the Vietnam War era, together with Angeles City in Pampanga, Olongapo deteriorated and gained notoriety as a “Navy base town”.

In 1980, Mr. Richard J. Gordon was elected Mayor. He developed the concept of the free port in Subic Bay with a master plan drawn up together with the Development Academy of the Philippines in 1981. In 1983, Olongapo became a highly urbanized City. In the next decade, it managed to transform itself from a “sin city” to “model city” with various innovations in local governance namely color coded transport system, public markets’ expansion, integrated solid waste management program, vendors’ cooperatives, community organizations and many other public and community development programs.

In 1991, the Bases Agreement expired and despite the hard arguments initiated by Olongapo’s leaders for a phased withdrawal of the U.S. Navy to give time for Olongapo and Clark Air Base to adjust, the national government required the bases to close within a year. In the same year, Olongapo experienced the greatest volcanic cataclysm of the century when Mt. Pinatubo erupted and dumped 14 inches of wet ash on the City. The lahar that isolated it from the rest of the country wreaked havoc in Central Luzon. Clark Air Base in Angeles City was unceremoniously abandoned and thoroughly looted of all its major assets. Fortunately for Angeles City, it had a strong agricultural and small to medium-sized industries as a base in the resource-rich province of Pampanga. Unlike Olongapo, Angeles City had immediate alternatives. With these twin man-made and natural disasters, Olongapo City faced a real prospect of complete and utter ruin.

Determined not to be defeated, the citizens of Olongapo fully mobilized and lobbied for 3 months to include the free port concept into the Bases Conversion Act which hitherto had been hastily cobbled together without consulting the people directly affected. They succeeded in their first unusual act of self-empowerment and volunteerism when the special provisions for the establishment of the Subic Bay Freeport under the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) were included in R.A. 7227 in March 1992. On 24 November 1992, the U.S. Navy completed its withdrawal from the facility and its conversion for civilian and commercial use began. Volunteerism and the high civic spirit of the host community marked the pioneering efforts at conversion. The plans and visions of Olongapo City developed over the last few decades were adopted and made the main theme for the conversion of the former naval facility.

Today, Olongapo City is envisioned to be the first full-fledged Freeport City in the next decade; a dynamic interport for trade, commerce and tourism; a part of the three National Triad Growth Centers; and a sub-regional center for trading, education, health, sports and tourism. Summing up, the vision of Olongapo City is three-pronged: to become a Freeport City with trade and commerce; a Tourist City with first class facilities and a Cultural Center for the region.

B. Geographic Location

The City of Olongapo has a total land area of 18,500 hectares (185 sq. km.) with about 2,378 hectares or 13% built up area. Development is constrained by the generally rolling and rugged mountainous terrain. It is geographically located at 140-15 degrees longitude and 120-17 degrees latitude and lies 127 kilometers Northwest of Manila. It is a three-hour drive on the average, along the North Expressway and the Olongapo–Gapan Road. It is located at the southernmost portion of Zambales Province, on the western coast of Central Luzon. It is bounded on the northeast by the municipality of Subic, Zambales, on the southeast by Morong, Bataan; and Subic Bay. It is north and northwest of Dinalupihan, Bataan.

Because of the massive mountain systems that characterize the area of the City, its topography is primarily rolling to steep and rugged along mountain ranges. Of its total area, about 80% are either rolling to steep and the rest are mainly flat areas which are usually found along the coast of Subic Bay. Based on available slope maps, areas which fall under the category of 0-8 percent or areas which are relatively flat cover about 20 percent of the land, and the rest have slopes ranging from 8 to more than 50 percent. Areas with steep slopes are located on the northern and eastern parts with an aggregate coverage of about 42 percent. In terms of elevation, most of the land is less than 500 meters above sea level.

There are two major mountain ridges, the Kalaklan Ridge, and the Salimpoyo Ridge, both 1000 feet above sea level. Kalaklan Ridge is located at the northwestern part of the city and its tip flows down to Subic Bay while Salimpoyo Ridge is located at the western side of the City. About 80% of the city’s land areas have slopes of 18% and higher thus limiting land suitable for urban development.

There are 17 barangays or villages that are mostly located along the urban section of the City consisting of about 13% of its total area. The developed areas follow the general contours of the watercourses and the floodplains draining the uplands. The National Highway traverses the City and constitutes the main access road to the northern towns of Zambales Province. Boundary disputes with the neighboring municipalities resulted from the creation of the City in 1959 which expanded the town of Olongapo from Subic town, until it shared common borders with the Provinces of Bataan, Zambales and Pampanga. Boundary disputes create economic losses since the taxes and revenues due to Olongapo City are given to the neighboring towns instead.

C. Land Use

The present urban land use is typical where the majority of the commercial and institutional establishments are lined up along the major thoroughfares of the city. The inner blocks nearest the main streets basically have a mixed land use, which is either commercial or residential. The interior sections are primarily areas of residential apartments and houses.

Built Up/Developed Areas

Classification Area ==(sq. meter) ===Area(Hectare) ==Percentage

Land Area ========185,000,000= 18,500

Major Land Use

Urban Area =======23,790,100 ==2,379.01 ====13%

Residential =======10,977,300.00 =1,097.73 ===46.14 %

Commercial ======8,951,400.00 ===895.14 ====37.63 %

Industrial =======266,700.00 =====26.67 =====1.12 %

Institutional =====487,400.00 =====48.74 =====2.05 %

Miscellaneous Area =3,107,300 =====310.73 ====13.06%

(Industrial Roads, Parks, etc.)

Freeport (former Baseland)
==============9,657,000 ======965.7 =====5.22 %

Based on this table, it can be seen that as for built-up area, residential use accounts for 46.14% while Commercial use is 37.63%. However in terms of land classification, 49.68% is forest area or watershed and there is a significant amount of 32% of land area falling under disputed area.

D. Demography

Population (2000 NSO Census)
Population (2003 projected)
Growth Rate Population (2000)
Household (2000)
Population Density
Urban Density
Population structure
15 years and below 35.0%
15-64 years old 62.0%
65 years old and above

Based on the 2000 census of population conducted by the National Statistics Office, Olongapo has a total population of 194,260 excluding transients. This means an annual growth rate of 1.68% and 43,107 number of households. The projected population for 2003 is 250,710. Gross density is 13.55 persons per hectare while urban density is 106.58 persons per hectare. Per NSO Census female comprise 50.80% of total population while males constitute 49.20%. Of the city’s population 35.0% are 15 years and below; 62.3% are 15 to 64 years old and 7.2% are 65 years old and above. The city does not yet experience any problem on aging society.

E. Socio-Economic Profile

Revenue Per Capita Php3,775.75 ($68.65)
City Expenditure Per Capita Php3,745.21 ($68.09)
IRA Contribution Ratio 26.71%
Local Tax Contribution Ratio 9.14% ($68.65)
City Revenue Per
Capita (Taxes)

Php2,669.20 ($48.53)

Labor Force 123,000
Employment Rate 85%

The City Government posted an income of Php946.6Million or $17.21Million for 2003. Of this amount 26.71% comes from the contribution from the Internal Revenue Allotment of the National Government. On the other hand, Local Tax Contribution Ratio which include revenue from taxation such as taxes on Real Properties, Businesses and Licenses has 9.14% contribution to the city’s income. Revenue per Capita is Php3,775.75 ($68.65), Local Revenue per Capita is Php2,669.20 ($48.53) while City Expenditure per Capita is Php3,745.21 ($68.09).

There are 123,000 in the labor force but employment rate at 85% is still below the desired level.

Literacy Rate 99.11%
Drop Out Rate 0.40% for Elementary
8.95% for Secondary
Birth Rate 21.92 per 1000 population
Death Rate 4.54 per 1000 population
Maternal Mortality Rate 0.22 per 1000 population
Infant Mortality Rate 9.61 per 1000 population

Among social indicators we have highlighted above the literacy rate and drop out rate among students. Under health indicators we reflected the birth rate, death rate, maternal and infant mortality rate.

For the year 2003 literacy rate is 99.11% due to the existence of various schools in strategic areas in the city and the emphasis on non Formal Education Literacy Program of the City Government in close coordination with the Department of Education. Drop out rate for elementary education is 0.40% as against 8.95% in secondary education.

Problems and Issues

1. Poverty Alleviation

Numerous factors bring about poverty in the City. They can be rooted out through its natural and geographical limitations, present political climate and other factors that aggravate the situation, whose trails can only be traced to the systemic cycle of poverty.

Since time immemorial, the economic life of Olongapo relied on the activity in Subic Bay. Olongapo City had thrived, prospered and succeeded because of the economic activity during the presence of the Americans with Subic Naval Base hiring 40,000 employees. Currently, the economic activities in the Freeport Zone have not been advantageous to the City's economy and to its constituents. This is due to the existing political differences that created preference for non-Olongapo residents to get first crack in any employment opportunity.

The local business community and entrepreneurs have also suffered the brunt of loss of opportunities in the Freeport Zone. There is even steep competition because of duplication of services and businesses available in the Freeport and the city given limited local market.

Generally, the City's labor force has limited skills. The increasing number of labor force has not proportionately increased the level of their education which was mainly due to unaffordable cost of tertiary education. The City is also experiencing the national problem of "brain drain" or the migration of our labor force as in the case of former base workers. But this is more deeply felt in the city because job opportunities have been restricted in the Freeport Zone.

Creation of livelihood activities for the community has limited financial assistance from the government and NGOs financial institutions. Normally lending companies will require collateral. Local government provides very minimal capital assistance of about $100.0 for micro projects. There are few NGOs in the City that offer fund assistance for livelihood projects .

The average income for Olongapo is $202.00 per month which can hardly meet the requirements of 5 members per family.

For several decades now, the City has molded itself as a service and trade center. This has been the framework plan during and eventually after the bases era. This is a natural economic preference for a place with limited natural resources to rely on its most precious resources, the human resources. Raw material needs of local businesses are imported from nearby provinces making the products of cottage industries not competitive enough and the condition to develop cottage industries not conducive.

2. Reproductive Health

Early marriage results in larger family size, broken families, higher incidence of maternal and infant mortality. The campaign of national and local governments on education and information about this subject is hampered by limited materials. Even the current program of USAID in the city's 17 health centers is threatened by the termination of USAID support by 2005.

3. Education

Education plays a great role in developing the skills and knowledge of the City's labor force. As mentioned earlier, the high cost of tertiary education has been the limiting factor for the labor force to upgrade its skills and be competitive in the market. Though the City has 13 colleges offering tertiary education there is only one college administered by the local government which has a relatively low cost of tuition fees. But the fact is that the city-run college can only accommodate a limited number of students. Private schools have tuition fees ranging from $200 to $300 which are not affordable for most of the population.

The City's 27 public primary schools and 10 secondary schools are experiencing insufficient classrooms. The city is responsible for all capital outlays and it cannot accommodate the increasing number of students in all levels. The national government only provides salaries of teaching personnel and very limited supply of teaching aides. The public schools are serving 14,682 secondary students and 25,889 elementary students.

4. Environment

The steep, rolling and rugged topography of the City as well as land classification limit the areas for development. The City cannot implement a housing program because of unavailability of government land.

With some sections below sea level, the city is prone to flooding although discharge of rain water is fast. The current drainage system is insufficient and there is a need to address rain water on mountain slopes which cause erosion and landslides.

Water is served by a private utility company jointly with that of the Freeport. Supply of water in rolling villages or barangays are still wanting. There is an existing resettlement site for Mount Pinatubo victims which is encountering problems on water supply built by JICA in 1993.

There is no sewerage system in the city so that household wastes are discharged into the river system through septic tanks. This is also a concern among beach resort owners because they have to preserve the pristine waters of Subic Bay not only for tourism but livelihood activities for fisherfolks as well.

The present landfill site is faced with problems of funds for continued upgrading and also some encroachments by private individuals. It will be difficult to find another landfill site should the existing facility get filled up.

5. Traffic

With the presence of 1,400 public utility jeepneys, 1,800 public utility tricycles (motorized bike with side car), 160 mini buses over and above 18,805 private vehicles, traffic and transport terminal problems are now being experienced in the city. The issue of air quality may be added to this because there is no machine to test level of pollution in the air.

Strategies for Development

1. Poverty Alleviation

The City is addressing the generation of employment and livelihood through promotion of investment in the City and promotion of cooperatives and people's livelihood projects. In addition, the City is providing a welfare assistance by way of scholarship and health insurance for indigent families. At present the City has a total of 3,000 scholars in elementary and secondary level and 234 in the tertiary level. There are 14,000 families insured in health to take care of hospitalization needs within one year. To augment the strategy of employment generation, the City maintains a Labor center for job placements. To expedite job referrals the city maintains a list of the skills readily available.

There is an on-going fish port project which I initiated to support those in the fishing industry and people from nearby towns using water transport system. New programs on tourism along the coastline of Subic Bay like the construction of promenade can augment business opportunities. Possible development of mango and cashew processing techniques may create sustainable livelihood programs. This however needs extensive research activities.

2. Reproductive Health

The City is implementing an education and information campaign on reproductive health to mothers, by providing Mother's Classes. Regular Symposium on Gender and development and conduct of marriage counseling are done. As a support system, the City organized the Barangay Health Workers (BHW) in all barangays participating in the house to house information campaign aside from performing their regular functions.

Health Centers will continually be functional in all 17 barangays and 3 health stations manned by doctors, nurse, midwife, BHW and a dentist. To extend its services to the women sector, the City established a Women's Clinic at the City Hospital for a more specialized detection, prevention and treatment of women's diseases.

With the pull out of USAID support in the supply needs of the health centers, the city has to find alternative fund support so as not to jeopardize its services.

3. Education

Despite the fund limitation, the city commits itself to continuous full support to the needs of the public schools at all levels. The city's improved tax mapping program hopes to generate more revenues from real property taxes which in turn will increase the allocation under the School Board Fund. Likewise, the city shall continue tapping external funds for school building program to address classroom deficiency annually.

The city's scholarship programs will also be continued so that deserving students can get the education that they deserve.

Possible student exchange programs and youth leadership trainings will have to be pursued for additional capability building among students.

4. Environment

The provision of needed infrastructure support like roads, drainage, rip-rapping and the like will have to be continued and even improved given fund constraints. Roads and flood control master plans have to be drafted to maintain rational project programming.

To make available land for development the city should pursue its coordination with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to amend land classification and perfect the city's claim over public lands.

An extensive program in forest and coastal management has to be established to protect remaining forest areas and maintain water quality in Subic Bay for tourism and fishing activities.

Coordination with the water company shall continue to address water supply needs in outlying barangays including Iram Resettlement Area which urgently need upgrading of the JICA supported water system .

The Solid Waste Management Program which the city pioneered in 1987 and became a model program has to be enhanced to extend the landfill's lifespan and fully develop an engineered landfill. Any planned improvement will minimize potential leachate problem. On the other hand the city should also take a clear and hardline position on the issue of boundary encroachment since the area is also a health hazard.

5. Traffic

The color coded public transport system of the city which was again a model system among local governments allowed control on the number of vehicles that will ply in each designated route. This did not only control pollution but tried to lessen congestion. However, through the years the parking areas or terminals of these public vehicles are becoming a problem as well as their increasing number. Deployment of more personnel manning traffic alone can no longer solve the inconvenience to commuters.

The city plans to solve this problem through the conduct of transport study covering transport terminals, traffic lights installation, road network expansion and similar programs to improve mobility. This subject includes concern on pollution so air quality has to be regularly monitored.


Olongapo City has always been an advocate of change and innovation to try every possible solution to a given problem in city management. Given the limited resources under the City Government there have been a number of projects simultaneously implemented following the vision set in the City Development Strategy and the Comprehensive Land Use Plan. Under my administration I will adopt a policy of continuity but with additional programs especially on urban problems and issues which have not been adequately addressed. I will strongly consider the experiences and strategies of the other cities worldwide for replication of whatever will be applicable in the Olongapo setting.

On behalf of the people of Olongapo may I extend my appreciation for according our city the opportunity to share our experiences and program of government.