SBMA takes over undeveloped property of Ocean Adventure

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT, Philippines – The parent company of Ocean Adventure is warning the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) not to give the undeveloped portions of its property that the agency took over Monday, October 28, to their prospective investors while a case is still pending in court. 

Subic Bay Marine Exploratorium Inc. President and CEO Robert Gonzaga told Rappler that the SBMA implemented its pretermination order Monday and sent teams of its law enforcement department, intelligence office personnel, and forest rangers to implement the takeover. 

Earlier in October, SBMEI filed a case of illegal termination of contract against the SBMA administration of Wilma Eisma. 

In the complaint filed before the Regional Trial Court in Balanga, Bataan, on October 18, SBMEI said that "clearly, the SBMA has no basis to declare that SBMEI is in default under the lease agreement, and terminate the lease agreement and repossess the lease premises."

SBMEI said in its complaint that under its contract with SBMA, the penalty for the supposed violations would have only resulted in the payment of penalty fees, the forfeiture of the performance bond in favor of SBMA, and the payment of increased reservation fee for future sites that SBMEI had yet to develop. 

SBMEI also said in the complaint that SBMA has not approved its master plan submitted in 2009 and that "at most, the SBMA approved the master plan submitted by SBMEI only and specifically as a conceptual master plan."

"Moreover, the SBMA, despite constant following up by SBMEI, has failed and refused to act on the final amendment to the lease, which the SBMA itself declared are necessary for the approval of the development commitments," the company said. 

The company also alleged that "SBMA has been receiving and entertaining proposals from prospective investors seeking to take over the area covered by the lease agreement with SBMEI."

Gonzaga said that the takeover by the SBMA is "the beginning of their attempt to shut us down if we don't give in to their unreasonable demands."

"They say we have two years to 'slow down,' but that really means to shut us down. We've tried negotiating with them in good faith but they are clearly not interested in a negotiated settlement so we had to take them to court," he said. 

Gonzaga said that even after SBMA issued a pretermination notice, SBMEI offered to increase its minimum guaranteed rent by 56% and return 100 hectares of property. The SBMA board rejected this offer after Eisma endorsed pretermination proceedings against the company instead.  

SBMA legal department head Mike Quintos, accompanied by SBMA lawyers, spoke to Gonzaga at the Camayan Beach Resort and Hotel, one of SBMEI's operating units together with Ocean Adventure and Adventure Beach Waterpark.  

Quintos said they came to "coordinate for the implementation of the pretermination issued by the SBMA" and that SBMA had already deployed teams to repossess the undeveloped areas of SBMEI.

SBMA law enforcement personnel fanned out all throughout SBMEI property to put up signs saying "Under SBMA Control/No Tresspassing," and take pictures of their takeover. 

Earlier, Eisma gave interviews to media where she claimed to have information that SBMEI was going to stage a violent takeover in order to get a temporary restraining order. 

Gonzaga said that he was initially alarmed because "it seemed like Eisma was setting the scene to blame us for any untoward incidents that they themselves may manufacture during their takeover. I'm not sure whether she is just getting paranoid or serious, but the SBMA has a history of doing exactly that."

"A few years back, All Hands Beach's contract was preterminated after SBMA management reported to their board that they found firearms in the premises. The owners of All Hands Beach were given 5 days to vacate and it was only after they were able to get injunctive relief a few months later that they were able to come back. By that time, the SBMA had already given their facility to another investor, which the sheriff had to eject from the property," he added.

Brighterday Subic, operator of All Hands Beach, is one of the locators publicly asking the current SBMA leadership to implement the Ease of Doing Business law in the Subic Freeport, along with Subic Coastal Development Corporation, developer of Moonbay Marina.

Gonzaga said he told SBMA officials during the takeover that "SBMEI has been taking care of the Ilanin Forest and the bay under our contract and because of our advocacy."

"I hope that SBMA will show the same care for the area as much as we have while the case is still pending. Because the last thing we want to see is the forest and the part of the bay under our former care to be ruined." – Rappler.com