Curfew, nightclub ban on US troops killing businesses in Olongapo, Subic

Randy Datu

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Curfew, nightclub ban on US troops killing businesses in Olongapo, Subic
Some establishments have already closed, while others are just struggling to survive right now, according to business owners

OLONGAPO CITY, Philippines – Nightclubs and other businesses in Olongapo City and nearby Subic Bay Freeport are clamoring for the lifting of shore leave restrictions on US servicemen when their ships dock here.

The leave policy was implemented in late 2014 following the death of Filipino transgender Jennifer Laude allegedly at the hands of US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton.

Nearly 7,000 American soldiers participating in war games in the Philippines this April will have to follow the restrictions involving a 10 pm curfew and a ban on entering bars and nightclubs. It also means the movement of US troops outside official activities will be strictly limited within the vicinity of their respective hotels.

Owners and managers of nightclubs and bars and other businesses say these restrictions on shore leave has adversely affected their businesses.

No business

“No business!” replied Jim Robertson, owner of Scuba Shack bar and restaurant at the waterfront road of Subic Freeport when asked about the impact of the shore leave restriction on his business.

“We’re losing some P50,000 ($1,121.61) a night since this ban was imposed,” said Robertson, whose place is a favorite hangout of US troops because of its proximity to the pier where their ships are docked.

“There are two ships anchored at the bay right now, but their servicemen cannot leave their ships because they can’t dock. There are more ships coming because of the Balikatan exercises scheduled this year, but businesses won’t make any money from this because of the ban,” he added.

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority Chairman Roberto V. Garcia confirmed that 9 US warships are due to arrive in Subic this April.

Bayside Disco and Karaoke manager Pura Orpida lamented the loss of some 80% of their customers with the ban in place.

“If before an average of 10 customers come to the club, with the absence of US troops, it’s now down to two,” she said.

Orpida emphasized that US troops are a lot more secure when they go to bars and pubs like Bayside since the girls undergo a lot of documentation and tests before they are allowed to work.

Struggling, surviving

At the Naval Station Bar and Restaurant, its manager Catherine Click acknowledged the huge impact of the ban on their business operations.

“This business was originally started with the US troops visiting Subic as the target market,” she said. “When the ban was imposed, it really hit us hard because we’re relying on them to patronize our place,” the 28-year-old manager said.

“Where we used to make P40,000 ($897.75) to P50,000 ($1,121.61) a night, we’re now down to less than P20,000 ($448.87) a night,” she said.

One popular hangout along waterfront road reportedly lost as much as P1 million ($22,430.61) when they bought new refrigerators and chillers just before the Laude tragedy happened last year.

At the HD1 Bar and Restaurant in Olongapo City, the news of the ban came as a depressing one for its manager Erlieboy Esquivel. “We’re making P50,000 ($$1,121.61) to P60,000 ($1,346.76) a night from these US servicemen as they love to drink beers and mixed drinks and are really generous spenders but that sudden imposition of the liberty ban really hit us hard,” said Esquivel.

Because of the ban, some businesses have already closed shop while others are just struggling to survive right now, he said.

Esquivel also shared that club and bar owners and managers were invited recently by authorities and the agenda was the restriction on liberty.

“It’s not very encouraging as we have to wait for the Laude case to be resolved before the Navy authorities will make a decision on allowing liberty for their servicemen,” he said. –


$1 = P44.55


Drink on bar image from Shutterstock

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