History of Subic Bay: How It Became a Freeport

The history of Subic Bay is as rich and colourful as its wonderful beaches and forests. This enclave located in the city of Olongapo in the heart of Central Luzon is a key site where various historical events in the Philippines take place. From the time of Spanish and American rule, up to the present Philippine Republic, this place is always mentioned in the country’s history books.

From 1992, Subic became a freeport and a special economic zone that has since become an industrial, financial, commercial and investment hub. It has been a source of employment opportunities in and around the zone as well as a major destination for local and foreign tourists.

Spanish and American rule

The history Subic Bay starts when the Spaniards discovered its naturally deep waters and strategic positioning in 1885 that prompted the foreign invaders to develop it into a harbour and then a naval fortress. After Spain surrendered to the United States, the Americans turned it into a repair and supply depot for the US Navy and, afterwards, a military base because of its strategic location.

The US troops were active in preserving the natural beauty of the place even after the liberation of the Philippines from the American rule in 1945.


It was only when the Philippine Senate rejected the renewal of the lease of the base that the Americans turned over the governance of the bay to the Philippine government in 1992. This was a critical moment in the history Subic Bay. The Philippines later converted the place into a special economic zone and handed over the administration of the place to the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).

Since then, Subic has become a major contributor in the development of the Philippine economy. Many investors have been flocking the site to profit from the economic opportunities in the area. And with the present administration’s commitment to further boost business activities in major economic zones to decongest Manila, the country’s capital, the history of Subic Bay is poised to flourish further.