AND so it was that on February 18, 2010, officials and delegates from Guam, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI), American Samoa, Belau (Palau), Hawaii, Federated States of Micronesia, the Philippines and the Republic of the Marshal Islands came to Subic, to tackle regional concerns and issues, particularly the impending military and business development of Guam and the Marianas Islands.

After the playing of the anthems of the participating states, complete with flags carried by Subic Bay police members, the organizers headed by Aurelio "Bong" V. Pineda, Jr., through emcees Angel Zablan and Vic Biscocho, laid out the day's activities: welcome remarks by Guam Mayor Paul McDonald and Olongapo City Mayor James "Bong" J. Gordon, Jr., and the solidarity messages of the heads of state.

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Next came the presentation from Armand Arreza, SBMA Administrator who touched on the SBMA economic development since Pinatubo 1991 and the investment opportunities prevailing and available in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.

Retired general Edgardo Aglipay of the Philippine Retirement Authority talked on the prospect of the country as a retiree's haven and gave the attendees the prospects, and benefits, of the Philippine retirement program.

Expected to speak at lunchtime was Senator Richard "Dick" J. Gordon but because of his hectic campaign schedule, his daughter-in-law Nikki subbed for him and read the prepared speech. Next came the proponents of the buildup: Guam Senator Tina Rose Muna-Barnes, an eloquent speaker, talked about the massive US military buildup on her island, a small one which measures only about eight miles wide and 32 miles long, but is the largest of the Micronesian islands.

According to the fact sheet, Guam is situated approximately 6,000 miles from San Francisco, California; 3,800 miles west of Honolulu, Hawaii; 1,500 miles south of Japan; 1,596 miles from the Philippines; 2,026 miles east of Hong Kong and some 1,922 miles east of Shanghai, China.

Other speakers included Guam Senator Edward "Eddie" J. Calvo who spoke on the political and economic significance and impact of the US military buildup in Guam and its people as well as its neighbors in the Western Pacific; Lawyer Yoel Deloso Penacho, daughter of Zambales Governor Amor Deloso, Lawyer Maricar Madrid Crost and Dr. Wilfredo Samandre.

On Saturday, February 20, the scheduled speakers were: US Navy Captain Ulysses Zalamea, Deputy Director of the Joint Guam Program Office, US Defense Department, Dr. Alfredo R. A. Bengzon, Eduargo Sahagun, San Luis, Aurora Mayor Annabelle Calderon Tangson, Theo Seiler, Mayor James Gordon, Jr., and the closing remarks of Guam Mayor Paul McDonald, the Annual Pacific Island group president.

It can be said now that the mobilization of labor, machines and other complementary units is imminent in 2010. The development involves not only the tiny island of Guam, but also the Marianas Islands and soon, the other neighboring states in the Western Pacific.

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I'd say thank you to Aurelio V. Pineda Jr., and to the hardworking and very accommodating Mayor James J. Gordon, Jr., the conference organizers and of course, to my mayor Boking P. Morales and municipal treasurer Myrna S. Ocampo and her assistant Marlyn Molina Mendiola for allowing me to participate in this very important event.

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Toast to Edpam. Welcome to the Club, Ed. To the senior citizens club, that is. Tomorrow (Tuesday), Lawyer Ed D. Pamintuan of the Agyu Tamu Kanita, Agyu Tamu Ngeni fame, will turn 61 but his looks, demeanor and charm never seem to wane or fade with age. If there is truth to the maxim that wine tastes better as it ages, then Edpam is that brand of wine: masarap, nalalasap, intoxicating even to an extent.

Some people really age gracefully and Atty. Ed is definitely one of them. A workaholic, from morn till dusk and a never a frown on his face in between jobs. Now he is bent on reclaiming an old post, that of Angeles City mayor and he is not at all cowed by the formidable task of unseating incumbent Francis L. Nepomuceno.

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On the matter of removing posters from undesignated areas, Mayor Boking P. Morales claims that, as the town's chief executive, he has to implement the Ordinance passed by the Sangguniang Bayan (Municipal Council) on the matter of removing posters and billboards on the prohibited areas. Otherwise, he says, he would be violating the law. No favors asked, no quarters spared. Still, it is dura lex, sed lex, according to the mayor.