SUBIC BAY FREEPORT – To help business locators and residents cope with the economic crisis brought about by coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) has suspended anew the collection of penalties and fees until June 30.

SBMA chairman and administrator Wilma T. Eisma said the suspension aims to further assist companies and other stakeholders in recovering from the lockdown.

Covered are the penalties for late payment of billings, fees on deferment of deposit for maturing post-dated checks, and due dates covering payment schemes with deed of undertaking, which earlier suspended from March to May 2020.

“Following the imposition of the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) beginning March 16, we ordered majority of Subic locators to stop their day-to-day operations, and the residents to stay at home,” Eisma said in a statement.

“Given the status that we are in right now, where some companies are still closed or operating on scaled-down capacity, we find it necessary to further suspend the collection of these fees until June 30,” she said.

Prior to this, the SBMA board of directors approved the suspension of penalties and other fees as economic relief assistance to companies and other players, in support of Republic Act 11469, or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

The measures ratified by the SBMA board by way of referendum were the following: Certification No. 20-087, which suspended the imposition of penalty on late payment of billings from March to May 2020; Certification No. 20-088, which suspended fees on deferment of deposit of the maturing post-dated checks of locators and residents with written request for deferment from March to May 2020; and Certification No. 20-089, which extended the March to May 2020 due dates covering payment scheme agreements with deed of undertaking.

Eisma said the same resolutions authorized the SBMA chairman and administrator to extend the said measures for another 30 days, as needed.

“Taking note that the SBF further complied with the extension of the ECQ from April 16 to May 15, the modified ECQ from May 16 to 31, and the general community quarantine (GCQ) from June 1 to 15, local businesses really deserve some boost for them to recover,” she added.

SBMA has also extended the validity of expired IDs and access passes for SBF workers until June 30 and allowed the renewal until July 31 of vehicle decals with one-year validity issued last 2019.

The SBMA announced earlier that close to 900 companies are now operating in the Subic Bay Freeport under GCQ rules, which is about half of all the registered enterprises in the Freeport.

Under the IATF guidelines, some companies were allowed to reopen at either 100 percent operational capacity; 50 percent up to full operational capacity; or 50 percent work-on-site arrangements, work-from-home, and other alternative work arrangements. Still, others, mostly from the leisure sector, were not yet allowed to operate.

Eisma said the SBMA is expecting more reopening in the coming weeks, as additional companies complied with minimum safety protocols specified under government guidelines. (PNA)