SubicNewsLink | Subic Bay Freeport News: SBMA, Business, Tourism, Community

17 May 2020

SBMA shifts to modified ECQ status

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) will be allowing more business operations in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone (SBFZ) but will retain border controls and restrictions on non-essential activities as it joins neighboring communities in implementing modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) until the end of this month.

SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma said the Subic agency will abide by the May 15, 2020 resolution of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) which placed transitioning high-risk areas under MECQ from May 16 to May 31.


 “This shift to MECQ will definitely not involve any major relaxation of our existing quarantine rules. We still have to wear mask, do disinfection, practice social distancing and observe curfew hours,” Eisma stressed. “The only significant difference is that we’d be allowing more business operations so that the local economy may start its rebound,” she added.

According to the IATF’s Resolution No. 37, the MECQ areas included the provinces of Bataan, Zambales, Pampanga, Bulacan, and Nueva Ecija, as well as Angeles City. These places were previously classified as moderate-risk areas and qualified for general community quarantine (GCQ).

However, Bataan, Zambales and Bulacan had filed for extension of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), while Pampanga, Nueva Ecija and Angeles City filed for modified ECQ.

Eisma said the SBMA had similarly appealed to the IATF-EID as early as April 28 to extend ECQ status over the Subic Bay Freeport due to the lack of adequate health facilities needed to contain a possible surge in Covid-19 cases in the greater Subic Bay area.



“Despite having a daytime population of around 155,000 people, the SBFZ has only one functioning hospital with only 8 ICU beds and 13 hospital rooms,” Eisma pointed out.

She also stressed that while the SBMA has put up Community Isolation Units composed of 32 beds and 45 rooms, the same are not yet fully operational. Moreover, only a small portion of the local population has been tested for Covid-19 infection, Eisma added.

The SBMA chief said that pending a separate quarantine classification by the IATF for the Subic Bay Freeport, the SBMA will adopt the MECQ status placed over Bataan and Zambales, since 65.25% of the total land area of the Freeport is located in Bataan and 24.48% is located in Zambales.

“As of now, the SBMA has started issuing guidelines and protocols to various Freeport stakeholders so that we can effectively transition from ECQ to MECQ,” Eisma added. 

The Subic Bay Freeport Zone had so far remained free of Covid-19 infection, but the SBMA has prepared care and isolation facilities open to residents of nearby communities in case of a surge in Covid-19 cases.

Eisma has also urged neighboring local government units to join a mass testing program to be implemented jointly by the Philippine Red Cross and the SBMA to detect Covid-19 infections in the locality.

The adjoining province of Bataan and Zambales have so far reported a total of 22 and 119 confirmed Covid-19 cases, respectively, while nearby Olongapo City, which has opted to remain under GCQ, has tallied 12 positive cases as of May 15.

Both Zambales and Bataan had earlier opted for an extension of ECQ, citing the continuing local transmission and the possibility of a second wave of Covid-19 infection in their areas. (MPD-SBMA)

PHOTOS:

SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma, shown here inspecting a swabbing center, has opted to retain quarantine controls and health measures in the Subic Bay Freeport, which is a major economic center in Central Luzon


03 May 2020

LGUs urged to join SBMA-Red Cross mass testing program

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) has urged local government units (LGUs) adjacent to the Subic Bay Freeport Zone (SBFZ) to join its mass testing program to detect new coronavirus disease (Covid-19) infections in the locality.

In a letter sent to LGU executives on Tuesday, April 28, SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma said the Subic agency has partnered with the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) to provide Covid-19 mass testing services at minimal cost to residents and stakeholders of SBFZ and its surrounding communities.


The letter was sent to the eight LGUs contiguous to the SBFZ: Olongapo City; Subic, Castillejos, San Marcelino and San Antonio in Zambales; and Morong, Hermosa and Dinalupihan in Bataan.

Eisma said the SBMA-PRC mass testing program will be open to the public, although priority will be given to suspected and probable Covid-19 cases, as well as frontliners in the SBFZ, SBMA employees, and SBFZ residents.

“In this regard, SBMA is offering to partner with (LGUs) for the Covid-19 mass testing of (their) constituents at a cost of P3,500 per test, inclusive of test kits,” Eisma said. Similar polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests cost from P8,000 to P9,000 when administered at private hospitals in Manila, it was learned.

Eisma said that for this project, the SBMA has retrofitted two buildings at the Subic Bay Freeport main gate to house at least six telephone booth-type swabbing centers where trained health workers will take swab samples from patients. The collected samples will then be validated and taken to the PRC Molecular Laboratory at Subic’s Naval Magazine Area for testing.

The Red Cross testing facility in the Freeport will be equipped with an automated RNA extraction machine that can run 90 samples per hour, and two PCR machines that can each process 1,000 samples a day for a daily turnout of 2,000 tests.

The mass testing project here is the brainchild of Senator Richard Gordon, who is chairman of Philippine Red Cross. Gordon had designated Subic and the nearby Clark Freeport as PRC Covid-19 testing centers for the Central Luzon region.

Gordon had earlier stressed the exclusive use of the PCR testing method because it is more reliable and accurate than the rapid testing method, which still requires a confirmatory test.

In her letter to LGUs, Eisma said that while the PRC will require an advance of P5 million that would cover an initial 1,420 tests, the LGUs can recoup their expenses, as the same will be covered by the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. in line with Philhealth Circular No. 2020-10.

She added that the SBMA is willing to explore a scheme whereby LGUs could advance the cost required by PRC from the 2% LGU shares to be collected by the SBMA from taxes paid by Subic Freeport locators. The SBMA has been releasing LGU shares twice a year since 2011, with an average release of P116.68 million each semester for the eight communities adjacent to the Subic Bay Freeport.

Eisma said the SBMA won’t impose any fee on top of the P3,500 cost that the Red Cross will charge to defray the costs of equipment, manpower and supplies needed for the mass testing program.

She added that at the moment, applications for Covid-19 mass testing will be screened through the Red Cross hotline 1158, although the SBMA may put up a similar hotline to help hasten processing.

Under Republic Act 11469, or the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act, which declared a state of national emergency in face of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Philippine Red Cross was identified as the primary humanitarian agency that is auxiliary to the government in the fight against the virus outbreak.

Eisma said the SBMA-PRC Covid-19 mass testing program will help authorities in the Greater Subic Bay-Bataan-Olongapo-Zambales area “get accurate data on the exact prevalence of Covid-19, and identify with specificity the individuals that we must treat and isolate, and the areas we have to more intensely quarantine.”

“In the same manner, this accurate and exact data will help us decide on whether we can safely ease up restrictions and implement the ‘new normal’ guidelines and protocols in order to get our local economy running again,” Eisma added. (MPD-SBMA)

PHOTOS:

Workers prepare the SBMA swabbing centers at the Subic Bay Freeport main gate for the Covid-19 mass testing program in the greater Subic Bay area

Worker found dead in barracks

A man who worked as maintenance staff at the Subic Bay Freeport Grain Terminal here was found dead beside his bed at the company barracks on Friday.

Jimmy Gonzaga Ocaña Jr., 40 years old, was found lifeless by his co-workers around 5:45 a.m. on May 1, according to initial reports by the Intelligence and Investigation Office (IIO) of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).


The victim was a resident of Marikina City, who worked for the company operating a grain terminal at the Cubi Point here.

Ocaña was staying in the barracks, as he was caught in the lockdown under the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) and could not go back to his hometown, it was learned.

The SBMA has required companies authorized to operate under the ECQ to provide accommodations inside the Freeport for their workers.

The SBMA Public Health and Safety Department (PHSD), meanwhile, ruled out that it was Covid-19 related since he did not show any symptom like fever or cough, and had no history of travel or exposure.

Ocaña had reportedly consulted a doctor about some pain in his leg, and was prescribed some pain killer before being sent home.

Co-workers said he again complained about leg pain while having dinner Thursday night and later asked for help in going up the short flight of stairs to their barracks.

They added that when they woke up the next day, they saw Ocaña lying face down beside his bed. When they tried to wake him up, the victim was no longer responding.

His co-workers then called the attention of company officials who called the SBMA Law Enforcement Department for help.

Personnel from the SBMA PHSD also arrived and checked on the victim, but the attending physician declared that Ocaña was already dead.

The Philippine National Police in Morong, Bataan has said there was no apparent foul play in the death of the victim. (MPD-SBMA)

PHOTO:

The workers’ barracks is cordoned off during an investigation into Ocaña’s death

30 April 2020

Ocean Adventure launches donation drive to keep animals alive

Ocean Adventure, the biggest tourism operator in this Freeport, is launching a donation drive to keep its animals alive and well amid the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) period.

Robert Ianne Gonzaga, president and chief executive officer of Subic Bay Marine Exploratorium Inc. (SBMEI), operator of Ocean Adventure, Adventure Beach Waterpark and Camayan Resort Hotel here, said in a statement Tuesday that the fund drive for the animals is an unprecedented but necessary step for them to do.


Gonzaga said that since the implementation of ECQ last March, their revenues have gone down to zero and will remain so for the short-term while the costs and expenses remain high due to the caring and feeding of animals and maintenance of the facilities.

“We rely only on our revenues to deliver the best of care for our animals and to ensure that they are in a safe and secure environment, with expert support available from our vets and caretakers," he said.

Ocean Adventure, which is responsible for attracting hundreds of thousands of guests and visitors to Subic Freeport every year, has been grappling with the negative impacts of the lockdown.

Last month, it retrenched more than 200 of its employees and placed the remaining 300 on forced leave.

"The disruption this pandemic has caused is unprecedented and likely to last for quite some time into the future, even after the quarantine is lifted. Our attendance numbers started plummeting in late January as concern for Covid-19 began to spread, and it got worse in February, which forced us to retrench workers in March -- days before the entire Luzon was put under lockdown. Now, all our businesses have shut down, aside from the hotel which is operating with a skeletal force. There is a lot of pain being felt across the entire tourism industry,” Gonzaga said.

SBMA chairman and administrator Wilma Eisma had earlier required manufacturing firms which continue to operate according to the guidelines of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to house their employees inside the Subic Freeport.

This enabled some hotels here to remain operational with a skeletal crew, catering to guests in essential industries -- the only source of income for the duration of the lockdown.

In a statement posted on its official website, the SBMEI said the donations that the fund drive will generate will be used to purchase animal food, medicine, and vitamins, help support the animal caretakers, divers and volunteers who maintain their enclosures, veterinarians and lab technicians who provide for the health care of the animals, and pay for utilities for pumps, freezers and other equipment for the care of the animals.

"We currently have enough food for our animals to last to the beginning of June, however, since we do not expect to generate any revenue anytime soon, we are trying to raise funds to feed and support our animals for the rest of the year 2020,” Gonzaga said.

“The path to recovery is going to be long and hard, not just for our company but for everyone else in the tourism industry. That said, our animals at Ocean Adventure cannot make it through without external support in the months ahead. But we believe that with your help, nothing is impossible,” he added. (Mahatma Datu,PNA)

PHOTO:

Dolphins and their trainer at the Ocean Adventure in Subic Bay Freeport.

https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1101329


29 April 2020

Covid-19 mass testing in Subic Freeport begins early May

A mass testing program to detect new coronavirus disease (Covid-19) infections in the greater Subic Bay Freeport area is expected to begin here early next month under a partnership between the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).

SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma said the PRC is putting up a laboratory at the Naval Magazine area in this Freeport and expects to receive testing equipment by April 29 and accreditation by the Department of Health (DOH) thereafter.


“Under this schedule we expect to begin mass testing here in the first week of May at the earliest,” Eisma said.

On Sunday, Eisma and PRC Secretary General Elizabeth Zavalla inspected the PRC Molecular Laboratory at the Naval Magazine area here, a project approved by PRC Chairman and Senator Richard Gordon at the behest of the SBMA chief.

According to Zavalla, the equipment for the state of the art laboratory will include an automated RNA extraction machine that can run 90 samples per hour, as well as two polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machines that can each process 1,000 samples a day for a daily turnout of 2,000 tests.

Zavalla said the Red Cross is only using the PCR testing method because it is more reliable and accurate.

She added that the DOH’s Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM, the government’s lead agency in the prevention and control of infectious diseases, would have to inspect the facility prior to operation.


Eisma said the mass testing program will be open to the public, but suspected and probable cases (previously known respectively as persons under monitoring, or PUMs, and persons under investigation, or PUIs) will be the priority.

“Frontline workers in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, SBMA employees, as well as Freeport residents will also be prioritized, but we will also reach out to local government units (LGUs) in the neighboring communities of Olongapo City, Zambales and Bataan so that their constituents can benefit from the program,” she added.

Eisma also pointed out that the SBMA is working out a scheme with the PRC so that the public can also use the Red Cross hotline 1158 in making appointments for testing.

To facilitate the mass testing program, the SBMA will put up swabbing centers at Freeport main gate area for the collection of samples for testing.

“Once the samples are collected, these will be validated and sent to the Red Cross laboratory for testing, and the results could be obtained in about two days,” Eisma said.

The SBMA pushed for the mass testing program the other week as the call for mass testing resounded widely.
Eisma said earlier that mass testing would provide “a good reading of the prevalence of the outbreak with the end-view of safely lifting the ECQ in order to get the Subic businesses running again.”

“If we don’t undertake mass-testing, we’d be fighting Covid-19 blindly. We have to get a better grasp of the situation so that we can act accordingly,” Eisma added.

The SBMA has been initiating solutions to protect the local community from the virus threat. Aside from the mass testing program, the Subic agency also established two care and isolation facilities at the Subic Gym and the former Leciel Hotel for use in case of a surge in Covid-19 cases. (MPD-SBMA)

PHOTOS:

[1] The Philippine Red Cross Molecular Laboratory will house the equipment for Covid-19 mass testing in the Subic Bay Freeport.

[2] SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma and PRC Secretary-General Elizabeth Zavalla inspect the Philippine Red Cross Molecular Laboratory in the Subic Bay Freeport on Sunday.

24 April 2020

Subic firm ramps up production of ventilator parts

A Japanese company in this premier free port zone is trying to cope with great demand for cooling fans used in mechanical ventilators, which are critical medical equipment used in caring for patients infected by the new coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

Sanyo Denki Philippines, Inc. (SDPI), a locator at the Subic Techno Park (STEP) here, also used to manufacture uninterruptible power supply (UPS) units, servo amplifiers and stepping motors, but has now devoted its operations to producing cooling fans, said company president Koichi Uchibori.


Uchibori and SDPI design manager Ted Yamazaki, who met with Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma on Monday when the SBMA official visited the company’s factory, said there is growing demand for cooling fans these days because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Yamazaki said that the company’s cooling fans are used by companies like Siemens, Inogen and Hitachi for various medical equipment, including mechanical ventilators that move breathable air into and out of the lungs of patients who are physically unable to breathe.

But due to the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) rules that required export-oriented businesses to house their staff within the Freeport zone, Uchibori said that company operations have been drastically reduced to 10 percent of the previous capacity.

“The number of cooling fans we produced monthly used to reach 80,000, but we can only produce from 6,000 to 10,000 units now,” Uchibori lamented.


As of last February when the ECQ was not yet in place, Sanyo Denki had a total of 4,273 as workers, including those under contract with manpower services. Uchibori said the company now operates with only 600 workers who are housed in various hotels inside the Subic Bay Freeport.

“It is expensive keeping them in hotels, and also paying them double,” Uchibori noted. “Still we are ready to take in more, but the problem now is where to house them,” he added.

Uchibori also said that despite the huge overhead for the company’s current operations, SDPI is not charging their customers any extra amount for their in-demand products.

Aside from ventilators, the firm’s cooling fans are also used in X-ray and MRI machines, virus DNA analyzers, blood analyzers, and portable oxygen concentrators.

With this, Chairman Eisma assured Sanyo Denki officials that the SBMA will help in easing up the supply chain for the company because of its vital role in the fight against Covid-19.

She also expressed gratitude to the company and its workers for continuing to produce the vital components needed for ventilators and other medical equipment.

“We will help you find ways so that shipment of your raw materials won’t be delayed, and so that you can employ more workers to step up production of this very important product,” Eisma told Uchibori and Yamazaki.

“Subic salutes you for your important role in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic,” she added. (MPD-SBMA)

PHOTOS:

Workers inspect component parts before installation in cooling fans produced by Subic firm Sanyo Denki for various medical equipment like ventilators and virus DNA analyzers.

21 April 2020

SBMA eyeing Covid-19 mass-testing facility

After putting up two care and isolation facilities to help protect the local community from the new coronavirus disease (Covid-19), the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) now seeks to establish here a mass-testing facility that can carry out up to 2,000 tests a day.

SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma said the agency will implement the mass-testing project in partnership with the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) “so that we can get a good grasp of the situation and act accordingly.”


“The testing will be open to the public, although the suspected and probable cases (previously known respectively as persons under monitoring, or PUMs, and persons under investigation, or PUIs) will be the priority,” Eisma said.

“We shall also coordinate with PhilHealth for the mechanics because they’re supposed to provide free coverage for indigent patients, but others would have to pay at cost,” she added.

Under the plan, the SBMA will put up at least two telephone booth-type swabbing centers at the Subic Bay Freeport main gate, where health workers will collect swab samples from patients.

“Once the samples are collected, these will be validated and sent to the Red Cross logistics and training center at the Naval Magazine area for testing,” Eisma said.

She added that the PRC testing facility is now being built to house testing equipment that include an automated RNA extraction machine that can run 90 samples per hour, as well as two polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machines that can complete up to a combined total of 2,000 tests a day.

Senator Richard Gordon, who is chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, said the PRC is using polymerase chain reaction-based test kits to ensure accuracy.

The SBMA sounded out this plan as public clamor for mass-testing resonated widely, with experts saying that it could further optimize the government’s quarantine strategy and prevent further loss of lives.

Locally, Eisma said that mass-testing would also help the government and the Freeport authority in particular, “to get a good reading of the prevalence of the outbreak with the end-view of safely lifting the ECQ in order to get the Subic businesses running again.”

“If we don’t undertake mass-testing, we’d be fighting Covid-19 blindly. We have to get a better grasp of the situation so that we can act accordingly,” Eisma added.

The SBMA has been initiating solutions to the growing health risks that the local community faced because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Before this, the Subic agency established two care and isolation facilities at the Subic Gym and the former Leciel Hotel using its own funds and some donations from private companies, civic organizations and concerned individuals.

These facilities will be used in the event that positive cases exceeded the capacity at the Baypointe Hospital in the Subic Freeport, which has admitted patients from Zambales, Olongapo City and Bataan.

As of April 18, Zambales has reported nine confirmed cases of Covid-19 with two recoveries, while Olongapo listed nine cases with one recovery, and Bataan province 80 cases with 15 recoveries. (MPD-SBMA)

PHOTOS:

Two Covid-19 swabbing booths are being prepared for the mass-testing program of the SBMA. The booths have glass partitions to separate the health worker who will take swab samples from the patient who will stay outside the booth.

08 April 2020

Subic Freeport ‘surge’ facilities ready next week

Two care and isolation facilities being prepared by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) for use in case of a surge in new coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases will be ready here by next week.

SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma said on Wednesday that the two facilities—the former Leciel Hotel and the Subic gymnasium here—will be properly equipped this weekend with equipment and supplies provided by corporate and individual donors.


“We now have two facilities ready in case of a surge in Covid-19 patients, and I thank the companies and individuals in Subic for their support of this SBMA initiative and their concern for the welfare of the community in general,” Eisma said.

“The SBMA provided the two locations and some basic equipment, and now various companies and stakeholder groups are pitching in with personal protection equipment (PPE), supplies, even food and transport services so that our frontliners can do their job,” she added.

Eisma on Wednesday received from PMFTC Inc. a total of 50 collapsible hospital beds, which are the latest of the major donations received by the SBMA. These will be installed at the converted Subic gym.


Eisma also said that the SBMA management is requesting the agency’s Board of Directors to approve the hiring of 34 medical personnel on a project contract basis, “so that we can fully utilize these two care and isolation facilities.”

The Subic gym, which now houses 32 isolation tents, as well as work and rest quarters for medical care personnel, was inspected also on Wednesday by medical personnel from Baypointe Hospital and Medical Center, where most local Covid-19 cases are admitted.

Dr. Erlinda Alconga, an expert in tropical and infectious diseases who runs the Coviod-19 unit at Baypointe, said the Leciel Hotel facility, which is just two blocks away from the hospital, would be an ideal place to house additional Covid-19 patients coming in from nearby areas.


“In case of a surge in the number of patients received at Baypointe, all positive patients will be moved to the Subic gym while the Leciel facility would be used to monitor cases of PUI (person under investigation),” she said.

Eisma also told Alconga and other Baypointe staff that the SBMA is now arranging living quarters for nurses and other medical staff at the Leciel facility, which will be ready for occupancy this Friday.

The SBMA chief also assured the Baypointe medical team that the SBMA would provide for all the needs of health workers who would be assigned to the two SBMA isolation facilities.

“SBMA will be here with you because the Subic Bay Freeport cannot turn its back and will not turn its back to its neighbors in Zambales and Olongapo and other areas. Laban nating lahat ito,” Eisma said.

Meanwhile, the SBMA acknowledged donors of materials for its care and isolation facilities. These include the International Recreation Corp. (IREC); National Bookstore; Tong Lung (Phils) Metal Industry; JC Salas Builders and Design Services Inc.; DML Subic Freeport Corp.; and Polarmarine, Inc.

The SBMA also thanked donors of supplies, equipment and services like: Apollo Subic Int’l Trading; Coldwater Creek and Marketing; Datian Subic Shoes; EPEE Corp.; Fashion Institute of Subic; GrainPro Philippines Inc.; HHIC-Phil Inc. (Mr. Nack Young Kim); Juken Sangyo; Lino Khan Trading; M Bernardino Culinary Institute; Oscar Santos; MSK Group of Companies; Nichol Bento; PacTec Subic Inc.; Philippines Easpal; and Royal Duty free Shops.

Other donors are: Sakura Restaurant; SBMA EWMPC; Seafood By The Bay; Skipper Pineda; Subic Auto Trucks & Machinery, Ltd.; Subic Bay Freeport Grains Terminal; Subic Bay Multi-purpose Cooperative; Subic Boardwalk Inc.; Subic Line Foods (Chowking Petron); Sweet Finale; Tele Empire Inc.; Tong Lung (Phils) Metal Industry; United Auctioneers Inc.; Upsilon Sigma Phi; Asian Dragon; Econest Waste Management Corp.; Ekxinum Inc.; Great Empire Gaming & amusement Corp.; International Freeport Exchange Trader Inc.-Subic; Northfolk Int’l Technology Inc.; and the Subic Korean community. (MPD-SBMA)

PHOTOS:

[1] SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma (right) discusses facility requirements with infectious diseases expert Dr. Erlinda Alconga and other Baypointe Hospital medical staff during an inspection of the SBMA care and isolation facility at the Subic gym on Wednesday.

[2] SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma (left) discusses facility requirements with Dr. Erlinda Alconga, tropical and infectious diseases expert, and other Baypointe medical staff during an inspection of the SBMA care and isolation facility at the Subic gym on Wednesday.

[3] Dr. Erlinda Alconga, tropical and infectious diseases expert at Baypointe Hospital in the Subic Bay Freeport (right), gestures as she discusses health protocols with SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma (second from left) during an inspection of the SBMA care and isolation facility at the Subic gym on Wednesday.


06 April 2020

Subic chapel masses go live streaming for Holy Week

In face of quarantine rules that prohibit mass gatherings to prevent transmission of the new coronavirus (Covid-19), masses and other religious activities at the San Roque Chapel here will be streamed live on the Internet during the Holy Week.

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chairman and Administrator Wilma Eisma said the first live streaming, which involved the simultaneous recording and broadcasting of the event in real time, covered the Palm Sunday mass celebrated at 9:00 a.m. today, April 5, by Fr. Audie Mozo Jr.


It was simultaneously broadcast live on the facebook pages of 89.5 Subic Bay Radio, an FM channel operated by the SBMA, and FUNtastic Subic Bay, the agency’s official tourism page, Eisma said.

The online broadcast of the holy mass here was the response of the SBMA and St. Columban Parish to the directive of Bishop Bartolome Santos, Jr. of the Diocese of Iba that “all celebrations shall be done on live stream so that people can virtually participate.”

The directive, dated the March 21, also indicated that the religious activities were to be programmed “so that we make our celebrations in the diocese simultaneously.”

To make the live streaming of religious activities here possible, Eisma said the SBMA Tourism Department consulted with Fr. Mozo, the parish priest of the Columban Church in Olongapo City, and came up with the following schedule for the San Roque Chapel:

• April 5 and 12: Sunday masses — live streaming at 9:00 AM;
• April 9: Evening mass of the Lord’s Supper — live streaming at 5:00 PM; and
• April 11: Easter vigil mass — live streaming at 7:00 PM.

Meanwhile, the directive from the Diocese of Iba also indicated that the processions on Holy Thursday and Good Friday may be undertaken with the public observing social distancing.

“After the Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion, without the faithful, the presider rides a pick up vehicle as he carries a Crucifix and goes to all the streets of the parish (and) people with lighted candles shall wait in front of their homes to venerate the Cross by kneeling down,” the directive said.

It added that because of the enforced curfew hours, the traditional “Salubong” will be omitted this year and may transferred to one of the Sundays of May.

Bishop Santos also said that the Chrism mass will be celebrated on April 30, Thursday, “to give our people the chance to participate in this joyful gathering.” He said the Vatican has given bishops the authority to change the date of the Chrism mass to a more suitable schedule. (MPD/SBMA)

PHOTO:

Schedule of Holy Week masses at the San Roque Chapel to be streamed live over SBMA's social media accounts.

01 April 2020

SBMA seeks help in tracing contacts of Subic PUI

Authorities in this Freeport on Tuesday (March 31) said they are reaching out for help in tracing the contacts of a government diver here who recently tested positive for the new coronavirus (Covid-19) infection.

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma said the agency will seek assistance from officials of Olongapo City and other areas where the patient had recently traveled in order to avert further virus transmission among his contacts.


“We are in a bind here because while the PUI (person under investigation) is a crew member of one of the NAMRIA ships berthed in Subic Bay, we have learned that he has relatives and a family in two Olongapo barangays and that he has visited them recently,” Eisma said.

“What also compounds the problem is that in the intervening period between his confinement and possible date of infection, he had travelled to Mindoro via Manila and Batangas to visit his family and friends there,” Eisma added.

According to information gathered by the SBMA Incident Management Team (IMT), the PUI is a crewmember of one of the four survey ships of the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) berthed in Subic Bay. The agency is under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The patient first complained of fever and body pains on March 10, after cleaning the ship’s hull with fellow divers near Grande Island.

Thereafter he consulted doctors at Baypointe Hospital on March 12, and again on March 13. In the afternoon of March 13, he picked up his sister in Olongapo and, with her, consulted again at St. Jude’s Hospital in the City.

In the next two days he stayed on his ship, the hydrographer BRP Palma, which was docked at Subic’s Bravo Wharf.

On March 16, he consulted doctors at the Our Lady of Lourdes International Medical Center in Olongapo but denied history of travel and, thus, was admitted on suspicion that he had dengue fever.

When dengue tests proved negative the following day, he finally admitted travel but denied going out of his vehicle. Swab samples taken on March 21 yielded positive results of Covid-19 infection on March 29.

According to the PUI’s ship commander, his subordinate has been regularly taking “ship liberties” during evenings ever since their ship returned to Subic in December last year until March 7. But he denied knowing his subordinate’s whereabouts during those nights out because the latter did not sleep on the ship.

It was also ascertained that before he fell ill, the PUI travelled to Mindoro on March 6, stayed with friends and family in Mindoro on March 7 and 8, then went back to his ship in Subic on March 9.

Eisma said that while personal information about PUIs are normally withheld for privacy reasons, this particular case needs the attention of concerned agencies and local government units because it could potentially increase local virus transmission.

“There should not be any quarrel about whether to classify the PUI as a resident of the Subic Bay Freeport or Olongapo City, or even of Mindoro because that doesn’t matter at all,” Eisma said. “What matters is that we know he has been in all these areas and we might have an outbreak in our hands if we don’t act immediately to identify his contacts.”

Eisma said that the PUI has been described as in stable condition, has good appetite, and took phone calls from the SBMA-IMT for pertinent information.

Meanwhile, his ship was quarantined on March 16 and was eventually brought to anchorage farther out on the bay on March 29. His fellow crewmembers aboard BRP Palma are currently in stable condition and do not show any symptom, Eisma added. (MPD-SBMA)

30 March 2020

SBMA takes over hotel for Covid-19 isolation

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) took over a six-storey hotel building here in the Subic Bay Freeport for use as additional care and isolation facility in the fight against the new coronavirus (Covid-19).

SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma inspected the former Leciel Hotel here on Monday following its turnover on a temporary agreement with the Philippine Veterans Bank, which controls the property.


Eisma said the hotel has 81 rooms, mostly with their own toilet, bath and kitchen, which can be converted into care and isolation rooms. Utility companies here also restored power and water supplies to the hotel on Monday at the behest of the SBMA.

“We don’t want to be caught unprepared in case more patients of Covid-19 turn up. We must be ready for any eventuality because in a pandemic situation we should expect the normal health care system to be overwhelmed,” Eisma explained.

“We pray that eventually this won’t have to be used, but right now our duty is to find all means possible to be able to respond to this health emergency,” she added.

Aside from Leciel Hotel, the SBMA is converting the Subic Gym into a care and isolation facility for PUIs with mild to moderate symptoms. This will enable the Baypointe Hospital and Medical Center in the Subic Freeport to serve PUIs with severe symptoms, those with comorbidities or existing medical conditions, and COVID-19 positive patients, Eisma said.


Baypointe, which is just two blocks away from Leciel Hotel, has a limited room capacity, and has admitted several PUIs from various Zambales towns and the nearby Olongapo City.

“With increased capacity, we will be able to provide for the needs of the local Freeport population and, should the need arise, to accommodate as well referrals by the Department of Health (DOH) from other areas.” Eisma explained. She added that under government protocol, the DOH can assign and apportion PUIs among different hospitals in order to manage overall capacity.

The SBMA chief said that as early as last month, the Subic agency has been eyeing the former Hanjin condominium at Subic’s Naval Magazine area for conversion into an isolation facility, but said venue was scrapped because it was too far.

As care and isolation facilities, both Leciel Hotel and the Subic Gym will be under the supervision of experts from the DOH-Regional Epidemiology Surveillance Unit (RESU) and Baypointe Hospital, Eisma said.

At the same time, the SBMA chief revealed that the Subic agency is exploring ways to outsource a complete diagnostics Covid-19 test system from South Korea. This will allow the SBMA to operate a remote dedicated center for Covid-19 tests in partnership with a DOH-accredited public laboratory or testing center.

“The overall plan for the SBFZ response is to strengthen local capacity to hunker down and withstand the worst, which is the possibility of a surge in local infections—while, at the same time, instituting tougher measures to suppress the virus and deprive its means of acquiring more targets,” Eisma said.

“It’s essentially a combination of defensive and offensive measures that presuppose a community that strictly observes quarantine and social distancing as the first line of defense, and then backed by a capable and reliable health care system,” she added.

Eisma also said that effective April 1, Subic Bay Freeport residents who shall exit the Freeport shall be required to surrender their SBMA ID and Quarantine Pass, thereby preventing their re-entry into the SBFZ. This is designed to prevent residents from freely moving in and out of the zone, which is a violation of the Luzon-wide quarantine declared by Malacañang, she added. (MPD-SBMA)

PHOTOS:

SBMA Chairman Wilma T. Eisma inspects the six-story former Leciel Hotel in the Subic Bay Freeport, which will be converted temporarily into a care and isolation facility for Covid-19 patients.

LOOK: Locator donates PPEs; Training on CoVid Testing; SBF streets amidst ECQ

[1] Dr. Arceli Layson of the SBMA Public Health and Safety Department (PHSD) try donning a face shield donated by Tong Lung Phils. Metal Industry Co., a Taiwanese locator in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.


The company donated 11 face shields and 19 goggles for the use of the SBMA Incident Management Team (IMT) a 24/7 task force and response team mobilized for the Covid-19 emergency.


[2] Health workers from the Subic Bay Freeport and Olongapo City undergo training on Covid-19 testing at the SBMA gym on Tuesday.


The training focused on the proper procedures when taking swabs of specimen from potential Covid-19 patients, as well as the correct donning and doffing of personal protective equipment (PPE) for the test procedure.



[3] A lone ground maintenance worker in the Subic Bay Freeport sweep clean the sidewalks of an empty parking area near the Subic Gym as the Luzon-wide Enhanced Community Quarantine reaches its ninth day on Wednesday, March 25.


Photos by MPD/SBMA


26 March 2020

DOH-RESU train Subic health workers on Covid-19 response

Doctors and other medical personnel in the Subic Bay Freeport area received training from the Department of Health’s Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (DOH-RESU) on Tuesday to acquaint them with proper medical protocols when responding to potential Covid-19 patients.

The training held at the Subic gymnasium involved personnel from the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority’s Public Health and Safety Department (SBMA-PHSD), Baypointe Hospital and Medical Center in the Subic Freeport, and James L. Gordon Memorial Hospital and ZMMG Coop Hospital in Olongapo City.


SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma said the training was a capacity-building exercise to boost the competence of local health workers, and establish cooperation procedures among local hospitals during the Covid-19 emergency.

The training focused on the proper procedures when taking swabs of specimen from potential Covid-19 patients, as well as on the correct donning and doffing of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the test procedure.

It also included a demonstration on the sanitary disposal of said PPE items like masks, gloves and goggles after use, as well as a discussion of the DOH-prepared algorithm for detecting and diagnosing categories of patients.

“This is very important because the medical personnel need to have the knowledge and skills on how to properly respond to Covid-related incidents and emergencies,” said Dr. Solomon R. Jacalne, head of the SBM- PHSD and commander of the SBMA’s Incident Management Team (IMT).

“The training we have attended is part of our preparations for the mobilization of our IMT,” he said.


Jacalne assured the public, however, that at the moment the Subic Bay Freeport Zone remains a zero-Covid-19 area, and urged the public to cooperate to keep the virus at bay.

“The main challenge we are now facing here is keeping the people inside their homes. Some, we observe, are not yet taking this (Covid-19 threat) seriously. That is why we don’t stop with our information campaign,” Jacalne said.

He said the strict implementation of home quarantine is vital, as well as the regulated entry and exit and curfew hours imposed by the SBMA. “These should be obeyed for the safety of us all,” he added.

Meanwhile, SBMA Deputy Administrator for Public health and Safety Ronnie Yambao pointed out that the DOH training on Covid testing had integrated both public and private hospitals in a unified approach to equip and prepare health workers and the local community for any Covid-19 case.

“We are preparing our medical workers as part of the strategic program of the SBMA because only DOH Covid Test Centers have the capability to generate and validate results like the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and San Lazaro Hospital,” he added. (MPD/SBMA)

PHOTOS:

Health workers from the Subic Bay Freeport and Olongapo City undergo training on Covid-19 testing at the SBMA gym on Tuesday

23 March 2020

INTER-AGENCY TASK FORCE ON EMERGING INFECTIOUS DISEASES (IATF) RESOLUTION NO. 14: SALIENT POINTS RELEVANT TO THE FREEPORT

1. The IATF organized the Response Cluster and Incident Management Team at the national, regional and local levels, designating the DOH to lead the response clusters and the Department of Interior and Local Government to lead the incident management teams.

LGUs must coordinate with the Regional Response Clusters headed by the Regional Directors of the DOH.


2. The IATF allowed the accommodation of distressed or stranded overseas Filipino workers in hotels, which ceased operations since the imposition of the enhanced community quarantine. OWWA shall provide certifications for distressed OFWs.

3. It immediately suspended the issuance of visas to all foreign nationals, as well as visa-free privileges based on visa waiver agreements, holders of Hong Kong, Macau, Macau-Portuguese passports and British national overseas passports. Foreign spouses and children of Filipinos are exempted from the above suspension.

Foreign nationals with visas previously issued by foreign service posts will not be allowed entry into the country, except for accredited foreign government and international organization officials and their dependents

4. Business process outsourcing and export-oriented establishments were given until March 22 to prepare alternative work arrangements, such as temporary accommodations for their workers, the need to shuttle employees and the transfer of necessary equipment to facilitate work from home arrangements.

5. Exempted from the quarantine are the following government officials and their skeleton workforce:

a. Media entities/personnel provided that only the 50% (maximum) of their workforce are allowed.
b. Members of Congress and their chiefs of staffs
c. Department Secretaries, undersecretaries, assistant secretaries
d. Bureau Directors of the different government agencies under executive branch
e. Ombudsman and deputy ombudsman
f. Justice of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Court of Tax Appeals, and the Sandiganbayan
g. Judges of regional, metropolitan, and municipal circuit trial courts, and prosecutors
h. Local chief executives and close-in staffs

6. Exempted from the quarantine are the following private entities/individuals and/or their skeleton workforce:
a. Cargo vehicles (maximum of three personnel)
b. Delivery services (food, medicine, water, and other basic necessities
c. Employees of manufacturing plants (food, medicine, medical supplies, and other essential products)
d. Employees of retail establishments (groceries, supermarkets, convenience stores, public markets, pharmacies, drug stores)
e. Logistic Services (cargo handling, warehousing, trucking, freight forwarding, and shipping lines)
f. Hospital and medical clinics
g. Food preparations
h. Water refilling stations
i. Banks and capital markets
j. Power, energy, water, IT, and telecommunications
k. Waste disposal services
l. Export and BPO companies
m. Airline and aircraft maintenance employees (including pilots and crews)
n. Ship captain and crew
o. Hotels that have bookings as of March 17
p. Energy companies and their third-party contractors
q. Pastors, priests, imam (for funeral services)

7. Manufacturing, BPOs and export oriented companies must have able to arrange accommodations and shuttle services for their employees. The deadline is extended until MARCH 26, 2020.

/SNL

18 March 2020

1st Subic PUI negative; second one recorded

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) announced on Wednesday that the first Person Under Investigation (PUI) in this Freeport has tested negative for infection of the new coronavirus (Covid-19).

The first PUI, who was identified as a Briton with recent travel in the United Kingdom, exhibited symptoms like fever, cough, colds and diarrhea and was treated at the Medical City in the nearby Clark Freeport.

However, SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma said that a second PUI has just been recorded on Wednesday and admitted to an isolation facility here to start treatment for Covid-19 symptoms.

Eisma said the patient is a 50-year old Filipino who has traveled to Manila last week.

The patient is currently in an intensive care unit (ICU), has fever, but is reported to be stable, she added.

With this development, the SBMA chief urged all Subic Freeport stakeholders to stay at home and heed the government’s enhanced community quarantine protocols.

“I beg each and every one of you, please stay at home. Covid is highly contagious and can cause death,” Eisma said in a social media post.

“Between the hospitals at the Subic Bay Freeport and Olongapo City, we have only around 20 isolation rooms. The reality is we do not have enough resources to handle a contagion of any magnitude,” Eisma emphasized.

The SBMA had earlier shut down most of its offices in compliance with Malacañang’s declaration of enhanced quarantine all over Luzon starting Tuesday.

Eisma said only the agency’s Public Health and Safety Department, Law Enforcement Department, Fire Department, and Maintenance and Transportation Department are fully operational.

Meanwhile, 18 other SBMA offices operate with skeletal force while 10 others have totally shut down to minimize person-to-person contacts in the Subic Bay area, Eisma said.

The SBMA had also announced on Tuesday the suspension of mass public transport operations; prohibition of mass gatherings like tourism and sports events; restriction of private business operations except for those providing basic necessities and such activities related to food and medicine production; and prohibition of dine-in in restaurants.

However, the SBMA said that business process outsourcing establishments and export-oriented industries shall remain operational, provided that strict social distancing measures are observed and that their respective personnel shall be given appropriate temporary accommodation arrangements by March 18, 2020.

The SBMA also required full operations by vital businesses like public utilities, including power, water and telecommunication; banks, money transfer service and related financial services; groceries, convenience stores, supermarkets, and wet markets; pharmacies and drugstores; hardware stores and construction supplies; and gas stations. (HEE/MPD-SBMA)

15 March 2020

SBMA to restrict Freeport entry to check COVID threat

Officials of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) have ordered temporary restrictions in the entry of persons to the Subic Bay Freeport Zone to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) within the zone.

SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma said the order was unanimously approved by the members of the SBMA board of directors late Saturday in response to an immediate need to protect the safety and well-being of stakeholders in the Subic Bay Freeport in face of increased COVID-19 infection in nearby areas.


She said the entry restrictions will be effective for about a month, starting 12:00 a.m. on Monday, March 16, until 12:00 a.m. of April 14, or while the State of Public Health Emergency declared by Malacañang is in force.

“I know that this is a bitter pill to swallow, as it would hugely impact on business operations in the greater Subic Bay area. But the welfare of everyone in the community should always be our primary consideration,” Eisma stressed.

“The entry restrictions serve as a safety and preventive measure to check the spread of COVID-19 and minimize the danger of infection that each of us face today,” she added.

While the SBMA order temporarily restricts the entry of individuals into the Freeport, Eisma said the agency had identified exceptions who would be allowed to get in, among them Subic Bay Freeport residents.



Eisma said the SBMA ruled, however, that SBF residents who come from Metro Manila and other areas with local COVID-19 transmission should undergo mandatory self-quarantine for 14 days under the supervision of the agency’s Public Health and Safety Department (PHSD).

She said that SBF locators, employees, and students will be allowed entry provided they exhibit no signs or symptoms of possible COVID-19 infection and that they shall exit the Freeport on the same day of their entry.

This guideline applies as well to accredited service providers, logistics enterprises delivering or picking up goods or supplies, port users, employees of government agencies operating within the SBFZ, suppliers, manpower and logistics providers of ongoing SBMA projects, and emergency service personnel.


Eisma said the SBMA began enforcing health safety measures early last month when the coronavirus outbreak was spreading from China into other countries. These measures included a temporary ban on the entry of persons, vessels and aircraft coming directly from COVID-hit countries and thermal scanning and screening at Freeport gates.

Last week, the SBMA began disinfection protocols and enforced a one-door policy in SBMA offices after local transmission of COVID-19 was reported in Manila.

Meanwhile, Eisma urged all Subic business locators to conduct business with non-SBF enterprises via videoconferencing or teleconferencing, and encouraged SBMA clients to submit documents online to minimize personal contacts.

“These measures, like frequent handwashing and maintaining proper hygiene, may seem puny at first, but these actually enable us to keep safe and to be strong for others,” Eisma pointed out.

“Our system might be deficient and we might be ill-prepared for an emergency like this, but if we cooperate and support each other and exercise malasakit for our community, then we can survive this ordeal,” she added. (HEE/MPD-SBMA)

PHOTOS:

[1] Advisory posted in Subic Bay Freeport's facebook page restricting pass through vehicles on all SBFZ gates.

[2] Thermal scanning is undertaken at the gates and building entrances in the Subic Bay Freeport where restricted entry will be imposed on Monday to keep COVID-19 infection at bay.

[3] Members of the SBMA management team headed by Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma conduct an outdoor meeting on Friday in a wooded park near the SBMA office to drive home the need for social distancing as a health safety measure in the Subic Bay Freeport.