SBMA extends grace period for rents, business fees

Business locators in the Subic Freeport received yet another relief from the effects of the coronavirus lockdown when the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) extended the suspension of rentals and other payments due since the start of Luzon's enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in March. 

SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma Eisma said the SBMA board of directors passed a resolution on Tuesday, June 30, that gave a 119-day grace period for the collection of all due accounts, thereby moving the payment date for such collectibles to October 28.  

The extended suspension period covered the March to September 2020 billings for lease rentals, common use service area fees, port charges, garbage collection fees, sublease shares, and gross revenue shares.

Eisma said the measure took off from Department of Trade and Industry's Memorandum Circular No. 20-29, which provided for a minimum 30-day grace period for the cumulative amount of residential and commercial rents that fell due during the quarantine. 

"But to better assist the businesses here in Subic, the SBMA opted for a longer time when payments could be deferred to give the local businesses enough time to recover," Eisma said.

Eisma said this is the third extension that the SBMA granted since March.

"There is really a need to cushion the impact of the lockdown and provide economic relief to Subic stakeholders in support of RA 11469, or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act," she said.

Under the approved measure, the SBMA management also allowed amortized payments of all unpaid billings from March to September 2020 in 6 monthly installments, or from October 2020 to March 2021. 

Said billings will not earn any interest or penalty until March next year if the installment is completed, Eisma added. 

Those who will benefit from the payment grace period include business locators leasing lands, buildings and other infrastructure from the SBMA, and residents paying lease on a monthly basis. 

Eisma added that while sublessees are not covered by the suspension because only sublessors have contracts with the SBMA, the latter are encouraged to extend the same benefit to their tenants. 

But the SBMA official clarified that the regular policy on credit and collection applies to billings issued prior to the March ECQ, although interest and other charges are waived for such billings for the period July 1 to October 27, 2020. 

Interests and other penalties will also be applied to installments that were not paid on time, and all unpaid bills by the end of the October 27 grace period will start earning interests, charges, and penalties the following day, Eisma added. 

Helping businesses

Subic Bay Marine Exploratorium, Inc. (SBMEI) President and CEO Robert Gonzaga said that instead of a payment scheme, the government could better help businesses if they were not required to pay rent or gross revenue shares for the duration of the lockdown.

"After all, it was the Philippine government – and by extension the SBMA – that imposed the closure of businesses. How can the government be allowed to benefit from its self-imposed closure of businesses?" he said.

Gonzaga emphasized the effects of the lockdown on tourism establishments that are "on the brink of collapse due to damage to the economy."

"The financial stimulus package now pending in Congress [must be expedited], so that tourism establishments – and other companies similarly affected – can avail of loans through government banks as conduits. This is a necessary remedy to the adverse effects of the lockdown to businesses. It will prevent more jobs being shed, speed up the recovery process, and ensure that businesses have a chance to survive," he added.

SBMEI, the biggest tourism operator in the Subic Freeport, is the parent company of Ocean Adventure, Camayan Beach Resort, and Adventure Beach Waterpark. 

According to Dea Sanqui, SBMA deputy administrator for finance, those who want to avail of the 6-month installment scheme must fill out a pro-forma promissory letter addressed to the SBMA chairman and administrator no later than September 30, 2020. 

Companies availing of the installment scheme must attach a secretary's certificate authorizing the signatory of the promissory note. Application forms may be obtained by sending an email to accounting@sbma.comtreasury@sbma.com, or oda.finance@sbma.com, or from the account offices assigned to companies registered in the Subic Bay Freeport. 

Sanqui said the SBMA Treasury Department will compute and determine the schedule of the 6 monthly installments and will notify the applicants before payment date.– Rappler.com