By Henry Empeño, May 2 2019; Business Mirror

Image Credit to Business Mirror

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority has given an ultimatum to some 88 truck trading companies here to shape up and comply with SBMA rules and policies in one month’s time, or face closure of operations.

SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma said the Subic agency has given truck traders here until June 1 to resolve issues on visa and correct violations of SBMA rules in order to keep doing business in Subic.

“I am sick and tired of businesses not following SBMA rules and regulations. I am sick and tired of businesses who think they could get away with [violating rules],” Eisma said during a meeting with vehicle trading firms at the Subic Bay Exhibition and Convention Center on Monday.

Eisma warned the business locators that the SBMA has the power to preterminate contracts, including those that govern industrial parks inside the Subic Bay Freeport, without need for court action upon any violation by an investor-firm of the terms and conditions of its lease agreement with the SBMA.

The SBMA may also revoke, suspend or cancel the registration of any company if the firm violates any of the terms and conditions of its lease with the SBMA, she added.

The SBMA chief issued the ultimatum after the Subic agency found at least 11 violations and issues committed by several truck trading firms in the free port. These included problems on working visa and royalty, as well as violation of policies on working permit, importation, use of marshalling yard, subleasing, occupancy and use of leased property, parking, and environment.

SBMA records show a total of 88 vehicle trading companies operating in Subic, the only free port in the country wherein the importation of used vehicles and heavy equipment from abroad is allowed by law.

Most of these companies are either owned by foreign nationals or employed alien workers.

During the meeting, Eisma specifically railed against the practice by some truck traders to secure only one work permit for multiple employees.

She added that some trading firms also sponsor foreign workers to secure work visa for a fee, or allow other firms to use their importation privileges also for a fee.

“It has been brought to my attention by the Bureau of Immigration that some of your employees are out here working without working visas. If your work visa is only for one company, you cannot work for another company here in Subic,” Eisma told the traders and their staff.

Eisma said that the SBMA has submitted the names of erring companies to the Bureau of Immigration. “If I were you, I will fix this problem before the investigators come,” she said.

The SBMA official also stressed that the locators’ importation privileges are provided for under their individual Certificate of Registration and Tax Exemption, and hence was not transferable.

“If you allow your importation privileges to be used by somebody else, and make it appear as yours, it is a violation of the SBMA rules and regulations. For this, I will not hesitate to preterminate your contract,” Eisma said.

Eisma also noted a huge time lapse between the issuance of admission permit for imported trucks and the actual pullout of the vehicles. This and the practice of some companies to import more than the volume allowed for their leased areas lead to the illegal parking of these imports on the side of the roads, she said.

Calling the illegally parked vehicles a bane to road users, Eisma said she would press for stiffer penalties.

“I want to make it hurt for them because they seem not to mind the small fines,” Eisma said. “If they were selling the trucks for several million apiece, then they won’t mind shelling out a bit for illegal parking. The fines should be way, way much higher.”