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09 December 2017

Subic divers clean up bay in ‘Scubasurero Festival’

Scuba divers from the Subic Bay area conducted volunteer community work on Saturday to clean Subic Bay under the “Dive Heroes Festival-Scubasurero” event, bringing into the shore more than 50 kilos of various wastes that have found their way into the water.

The annual “Scubasurero,” which is a play on scuba and basurero, the Filipino word for garbage collector, enlists the help of volunteers in cleaning Subic Bay, particularly the area in the vicinity of Grande Island.



Around 200 volunteers, along with 50 certified divers, participated in the clean-up drive organized by the Subic Bay Marine Exploratorium, Inc. (SBMEI), operator of the Ocean Adventure marine park and Camayan Beach Resort, and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).

Scuba-diving groups such as the Subic Bay Dive Association, Arizona, Boardwalk Dive Center, Johann's, Deep Blue Scuba and Wow Shark contributed their personnel and resources for the event.

Under “Scubasurero”, volunteers working on the shoreline collected a total of 7 kilos of nets, 9 kilos of ropes, 10 kilos of plastic, 3 kilos of styropor packaging, 1.5 kilos of plastic bottle, and 5 kilos of plastic.



Meanwhile, the underwater team of divers hauled in 6 kilos of rubber slippers, 5 kilos of plastic, and 11 kilos of bottle after some 40 minutes of dive in 14-meter deep waters at the Camayan reef area, and near Grande Island.

SBMA Chairperson and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma, who graced the activity to encourage the participants, thanked everyone involved in the event and emphasized their invaluable role in environment protection.

“We only have one home and this is our home. What you are trying to do here is a testament to what I am trying to say. I hope you'll continue to do it," Eisma said.

The SBMA chief added that she would like to join the next “Scubasurero” event. "Hopefully, next time I'll join you. I'll go back to diving again," she said.

The “Scubasurero” event was held in celebration of the third anniversary of SBMEI’s Camayan Divers PADI Five Star Dive Resort. The clean-up activity was spearheaded by the Camayan divers in cooperation with Project AWARE and the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force.

Camayan Divers officer-in-charge Juanito Soriano also announced after the clean-up that his group will donate P10,000 to Project AWARE, a global network of scuba divers and water enthusiasts who seek to promote protection of the world's water resources.

“Together, there's a lot we can accomplish,” Soriano said, dedicating the “Scubasurero” event to Project AWARE. “We are giving divers a chance to extend their passion for the care of the environment," he added. (JRR/MPD-SBMA)

PHOTOS:

[1] Divers prepare to board a motorized boat that will ferry them to their designated dive sites to collect underwater trash during the “Dive Heroes Festival-Scubasurero” at the Subic Bay Freeport on Dec. 2. (AMD/MPD-SBMA)

[2] A couple snorkel near the shore to look for underwater trash while volunteer divers prepare for a dive in deeper waters during the “Dive Heroes Festival-Scubasurero” at the Subic Bay Freeport on Dec. 2. (AMD/MPD-SBMA)

08 December 2017

SBMA honors Subic-based SAF Marawi veterans

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) formally honored on Monday the members of the Subic-based Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) contingency team who volunteered for the operations to free Marawi City from the ISIS-led terrorists of the Maute Group.

During the flag ceremony here last Monday, SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma led officers and employees of the agency in recognizing the courage and heroism of each of the 42 members of the 2nd Special Action Battalion who are headquartered at the Naval Magazine Facilities in the Subic Bay Freeport.



“None of us is perfect by nature, but you are perfect in showing us what we can do to defend our country and its people,” Eisma told the police contingent under the command of Police Superintendent Mario Mayames Jr.

“You volunteered to fight the terrorists, and you did a great service to our nation,” Eisma added.

During the recognition ceremony where employees cheered the police officers, Eisma announced that aside from a certificate of commendation, the SBMA will give each policeman P10,000 cash as a token of appreciation for upholding peace and order in the Freeport and other parts of the country.

The SAF were part of the joint military and police forces that ended the war in Marawi after five months of fighting.



For his part, Mayames recalled that before deployment to Marawi, the SAF volunteers underwent a two-week refresher course in combat skills, armaments and equipment. Yet their training in mountain, jungle and urban warfare did not prepare them for the Marawi experience, he added.

“The situation in Marawi was very rare. Unlike before where we conducted urban warfare and our enemies were holed in one or three buildings, in Marawi the enemies were in all the buildings and had a 360-degrees firing range. Our firing range was only 180 degrees,” Mayames said.

Still he noted that after the three months in Marawi, the Subic-based 2nd SAF battalion only suffered two wounded among its 42 members.

Mayames also recounted feeling pity for the devastation suffered by the city. “And I can’t help asking myself, was it really heroism that we did in Marawi?” he added.

“We just went there killing the enemies and (in effect) destroyed all of Marawi. Was it really heroism?” an emotional and teary-eyed Mayames asked.

The SBMA employees cheered and said, “Yes.”

The SAF commander also explained later why it was necessary to bomb and destroy the whole Marawi.

“We could not penetrate each building because of snipers who were holed up for cover underground,” he recalled. “The aerial bombings were necessary to put the enemy at bay so that the soldiers and police could launch an assault against them.” (RAV/MPD-SBMA)


PHOTOS:

[1] SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma expresses the agency’s commendation of the courage and heroism of Subic-based SAF officers who volunteered to serve in the operations to free Marawi City from terrorists. (AMD/MPD-SBMA)

[3] SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma presents the agency’s recognition of the courage and heroism of Subic-based SAF officers who volunteered to serve in the operations to free Marawi City from terrorists. (AMD/MPD-SBMA)

07 December 2017

SBMA to support Ayta tribe in biodiversity conservation

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) will be a partner of the Magbukun Ayta tribe here in their effort to protect and preserve their indigenous environment and culture.

SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma pledged the agency’s support to the Magbukun tribe on Saturday at the launching of the Indigenous Communities Conservation Area (ICCA) under the auspices of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).



The project, which will be implemented with the support of the local government unit of Morong and the Philippine Association for Intercultural Development (PAFID), places the Ayta tribe at the forefront of conservation efforts since they live in the conservation site, which forms a part of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.

“We will be giving our all-out support to this endeavor not only because the project will be implemented within the Freeport Zone, but also because we at the SBMA consider environmental protection our fundamental advocacy,” Eisma said at the sidelines of the ceremony.

She recalled that the SBMA has initiated the social-fencing concept at the Freeport to make residents of upland areas in the zone be part of the overall strategy to preserve Subic’s natural environment.



Eisma also noted that the SBMA has been successful in a similar program with the Ambala Ayta tribe at the Pastolan village in the Subic Bay Freeport, for which the agency has been recognized as the best in social responsibility initiative.

“What we have successfully done for the Pastolan Ayta tribe, we also hope to do with the Magbukun folk,” she added.

Under the ICCA program, residents living within or nearby the conservation area will serve as protectors of the environment, while the local government unit will take the lead in implementing conservation and protection activities.



According to the UNDP, ICCAs are spaces de facto governed by indigenous peoples or local communities with evidently positive outcomes for the conservation of biological and cultural diversity.

Some ICCAs are situated in remote ecosystems that have had minimum human influence, while others encompass areas of various regulations and magnitudes within regions strongly affected modified by human occupation.

The ICCAs can be classified as sacred areas or ritual grounds for the indigenous communities residing near it and may include forests, mountains, shorelines, wetlands, fishing areas, and other bodies of water.

The UNDP hopes that through the ICCAs, the continuation, revival or modification of traditional practices or even new initiatives may succeed in protecting and restoring natural resources and cultural values in the face of new threats or opportunities. (JRR/MPD-SBMA)

PHOTOS:

[1] Members of the Magbukun Ayta tribe, assisted by some local government officials, launch the Indigenous Communities Conservation Area (ICCA) in Morong, Bataan on Saturday, Dec. 2. (AMD/MPD-SBMA)

[2] SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma (center, front row) join members of the Magbukun Ayta tribe during the launching of the Indigenous Communities Conservation Area (ICCA) in Morong, Bataan on Saturday, Dec. 2. (AMD/MPD-SBMA)

[3] SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma with elderly Ayta members of the Magbukun Ayta tribe during the launching of the Indigenous Communities Conservation Area (ICCA) in Morong, Bataan on Saturday, Dec. 2. (AMD/MPD-SBMA)

Comteq’s unpaid P19-M debt ‘indisputable’; SBMA clarifies issue

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) has clarified misinformation about the ejection of the defaulting Comteq Computer and Business College from the building it previously occupied here, pointing out that the P19.97 million the school owed in terms of unpaid rentals was indisputable.

In a statement issued over the weekend, the SBMA said that Comteq has occupied Bldg. Q-8131 since 2011 and collected tuition fees from students studying in the premises, but “has not paid even a single cent” from the use of the building.


“Bldg. Q-8131 is government property and rent is due for such use,” the SBMA said, reacting to a statement attributed to Comteq president Danny Piano that the P19.97-million back rentals they owed the SBMA was “debatable.”

It added that the need to pay rent for property used and profited from was not debatable, as there was nothing in writing between the parties that said the use of the facility was “rent-free.”

The Subic agency peacefully took control of Bldg. Q-8131 on November 25 after the Comteq management failed to settle its hefty financial obligation with the SBMA.

As early as April this year, the SBMA Legal Department already sent Comteq a “Notice to Vacate with Demand to Pay” because the school administration has been operating without securing any lease agreement or business registration for the school.

Following the takeover, officials of the debt-ridden school blamed the SBMA for not issuing a lease agreement and a Certificate of Registration and Tax Exemption (CRTE), and claimed this prevented them from paying rent over the years.

However, the SBMA said it cannot issue any lease agreement and CRTE then because the Comteq management “did not submit the required payment scheme proposal for it to be able to settle its accounts” and instead asked the SBMA to give them a “rent-free period” from 2011 to 2015.

The SBMA Board, however, disapproved the said request because it was disadvantageous to the government and was not allowed by the Commission on Audit (COA).

The SBMA also noted that the statement of account purportedly showing zero balance in Comteq ’s record only reflected payment for utilities and other billings that were automatically charged for buildings occupied by business locators.

However, a validated computation from the agency’s Accounting Department showed the school management’s unpaid rental dues at P19,971,435.68 as of November 30, 2017.

Comteq officials had also taken the SBMA to task for being “insensitive” to the fate of students, whose studies were disrupted by the takeover. But the SBMA pointed out that the continued occupation by Comteq of Bldg. Q-8131 since 2011 without any rental, as well as the six-month extension it granted the Comteq administration last April, happened “precisely because SBMA is concerned about its students.”

It added that while it had allowed Comteq to operate for years despite the lack of a lease agreement or a CRTE because it was an educational institution, it can no longer tolerate the “blatant abuse and profiteering” by the Comteq management, which disregarded the repercussion of its growing debt on its students from whom they collected tuition and other school fees.

The SBMA added that in ejecting the defaulting business locator, it was just doing its job as estate administrator of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone. “It is not about money,” the agency made it clear. “It is about the obligation to collect rental dues for the use of the property of the government.”

It also said that it cannot be faulted for taking over Bldg. Q-8131 as it did, because it was school president Danny Piano who assured the SBMA Board in a letter that they would vacate the premises by October 31 this year, after the six-month extension given by the SBMA last April. (HEE/RBB/MPD-SBMA)

04 December 2017

Subic fishers dispute ‘alarmist’ yarn on LNG operations

Local fishermen have disputed claims by leaders of some activist groups in Central Luzon that the ship-to-ship transfer (STS) operations of liquefied natural gas (LNG) on Subic Bay endanger fisher folk in the area and that locals were not consulted about the project before its approval by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).

Resty del Rosario and Laureano Artagame, both officials of local Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Councils (FARMC), dismissed the claims and pointed out that the negative reports came from personalities who do not represent the legitimate concerns of fishermen from Subic Bay.



The news item came out in the alternative news website Kodao and quoted Pamalakaya Central Luzon coordinator Alberto Roldan as saying that STS operations for LNG in Subic “endanger fisher folk as well as civilian establishments and communities in Olongapo City.” Pamalakaya stands for the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya, which is the national federation of fishermen’s organizations.

The report also quoted Marcelito Clemente, coordinator of the Central Luzon Alliance for a Sovereign Philippines (CLASP), as saying that the project was “simply another case of profit above public safety for SBMA.” CLASP, a left-leaning group, had called for the withdrawal of U.S. military bases in the country and had opposed the holding of Balikatan military exercises with American armed forces.

The local fisher folk leaders, however, said the reports do not mirror the sentiments of local fishermen.

“We support the SBMA on this project 100 percent,” said Del Rosario, who chairs the Subic Bay Integrated Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council, which whose members include fisher folk in Olongapo City, Subic and San Antonio, Zambales and Morong, Bataan.

“Is the LNG operation safe? We believe so, because the SBMA wouldn’t place that project there without examining and addressing the risks involved,” Del Rosario added.



He noted that the critics of the STS project are far too removed from the area, and hence are unaware of the local situation.

“How would they know what happens down here? How can they be the voice of the locals? They are just being alarmists,” an exasperated Del Rosario said.

“As local leaders representing the mostly poor and marginalized fishermen in the locality, we will not be a party to anything that will harm our people. We will not agree to it,” Del Rosario added.

Artagame, meanwhile, emphasized that the SBMA has not been remiss in consulting local fishermen about the LNG project during its inception in 2016. He recalled that the Jovo Group, China’s leading clean energy service provider which operates the project, conducted a consultation in October last year before making the first ship-to-ship transfer in April this year.

“We were invited during the consultation and it was amply shown to us that the LNG is clean and safe,” Artagame said. “Of course, we gave our suggestions regarding the operation, and the SBMA officials assured us that they will stop the operation if ever there will be any harmful effect. By the grace of God, no such effect had ever come our way since then,” he added.

Aside from the perceived safety of STS operations here, Del Rosario also pointed out that the area where the transfer is being handled is no longer a part of the community fishing grounds ever since the US Navy had used Subic Bay as a military base.

“We are fishing elsewhere, a little farther from the location of the LNG and even father out of the bay, and the SBMA is even helping us restore coral reefs that have been damaged over the years by illegal fishing,” Artagame said.

Ever since the LNG project was approved, only two transfers have been made: the first was made on April 27 and the second on November 19. (HEE/MPD-SBMA)

PHOTOS:

[1 ]Laureano Artagame, Provincial Chairman of FARMC Zambales and Vice-Chairman of FARMC of the Municipality of Subic.

[2] 3The first LNG ship-to-ship transfer operations on Subic Bay made last April.

02 December 2017

SBMA chief to Subic outstanding workers: Be ‘malasakit’ advocates, too

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma has challenged outstanding workers here to lead the Subic workforce in caring for the Freeport with “malasakit” and passion.

During the recent awarding ceremony for the Ten Outstanding Freeport Workers at Cinema 4 of Harbor Point Ayala Mall here, Eisma encouraged the winners to cultivate and practice a sense of community, as they are considered model employees.


“You are the Ten Outstanding Freeport Workers. I salute you,” Eisma said. “But, I challenge all of you to be the leaders to lead your people, to lead your company and co-workers to care for this place, to make us even better.”

The SBMA official told the awardees and the audience that what motivated the pioneer employees in Subic 25 years ago should still apply today, pointing out that she was among those who came forward and volunteered their services to give the community a better future.

“And here we are now. Can you imagine? Before the Americans left, they created 35,000 jobs. But now, we have more than 120,000 workers employed by more than 2,000 investor- companies. And you have to keep this going,” she said.

Eisma added she felt sorry that some Freeport stakeholders had lost the value of malasakit or passion for the common good, given the way people are taking care of each other and the community they are living in.

“This is our home and it is not my sole responsibility to fix this. It’s also yours. So, I challenge all of you to take care of one another, to take care of the Subic Bay Freeport,” she also said.

As an example, Eisma pointed out that instead of simply noticing the trash in some areas in Subic and posting them on social media, stakeholders should take the initiative to pick them up, or report the same to her office.

“I’m not saying we should cover up problems like this, but the business of SBMA is tourism, and the business of the Freeport is investments. If we keep on washing our dirty linen in public, it will only shoo away the tourists and the investors. So, please reach out to me,” she said.

Eisma added that stakeholders can even punch 8888, a MalacaƱang hotline dealing with complaints against government officials. “I really want to keep this place clean. You know why? Because this is my home, and even after my term as chairman and administrator, you would still see me here,” she added.

Today’s crop of top workers included a former dish washer, a welder, and a warehouseman who were honored for excellent performance and remarkable dedication and commitment to their respective jobs.

Eisma also encouraged the winners to give their all their best, reminding them that “Here in Subic, it doesn’t matter what kind of job you keep; what really matters is how you do it well.”

A total of 11 workers won the recognition this year, according to the Subic Bay Workforce Development Foundation, Inc. (SBWDFI, which gives out the awards, because two finalists had tied up in one place.

The 2017 outstanding workers in Subic are: Philip Villa, chef at Segara Villas and Hotel; Vergel Osorio, warehouseman at CRESC Inc.; Nilo Del Rosario, welder/pipefitter at Philippine Coastal Storage and Pipeline Corp.; Engr. Marnue Veneracion of the General Facilities and Design Engineering Section of Nicera (Phils.); Engr. Alexander Poblete, Product Engineer II at Nicera (Phils.); May Ordaz, planning and purchasing supervisor at Koushin Mechatronics; John Louis Ducus, Meter and Revenue Protection Engineer at Subic Enerzone Corp.; Joseph Paje, Logistics Specialist at SubicWater; Joseph Malana, inventory controller at PTT Philippines Corp.; Jaylyn Zapata, external relations assistant at PTT Philippines; and Engr. Reynante Reyes, maintenance engineer at Philippine Coastal Storage and Pipeline Corp. (RAV/MPD-SBMA)

PHOTO:
Winners in the year’s search for the 10 Outstanding Freeport Workers like up after receiving their awards from officials of the SBMA and the Subic Bay Workforce Development Foundation, Inc. (AMD/MPD-SBMA)

Subic Freeport holds first Pride Parade

More than a hundred participants from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community joined in the first Pride Parade here in the Subic Bay Freeport on Sunday to help promote equality, diversity and inclusion among various sexes.

SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma and Bataan Representative Geraldine Roman, the first transgender woman elected to the Congress of the Philippines, led the parade to show support to the LGBT community.



The parade featured LGBT members in colorful costumes, who competed in a contest that sought to express and affirm the culture and pride of the LGBT community.

LGBT pride is the positive stance against discrimination and violence toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people to promote their self-affirmation, dignity and equality rights, as well as to increase their visibility as a social group, build community, and celebrate sexual diversity and gender variance.



SBMA Chairman Eisma said the Subic agency firmly supports the LGBT community’s demand for equality and equal rights regardless of religion, color, or sexual preference.

Delegates to the event included members from LGBT Barretto in Olongapo City, which had the biggest number of participants; The Antonio’s Family of San Felipe; The Antonio’s Family of San Narciso; Bi Alliance of Bataan, Olongapo and Iba; Proud Gays of Olongapo; The Montero Sisters; and The Smith Sisters.



In an interview during the event, Rep. Roman said she is proud that the Anti-Discrimination Law has been passed in the Lower House via unanimous decision, and that the bill will be passed on to the Senate for review.

“So, it’s up to Senator Risa Hontiveros (to work for) the enactment of the bill,” she added.

Roman also said that House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez is pushing for civil partnership for all genders. She explained that this is different from the same-sex marriage that the LGBT Party Ladlad is pushing for. The civil partnership act will cover all genders, not just the LGBT community.

Roman said that the Anti-Discrimination bill will punish anybody who discriminates or make derogatory remarks against any LGBT person. The violator will be jailed for five years and fined P20,000.

Meanwhile, Chairman Eisma expressed hope that the Pride Parade will be bigger the next time around, as she reiterated the full support of the SBMA to gender equality, anti-discrimination, and human rights.

The event was organized by a group headed by Gigs Estalilla, who is an officer of the SBMA Gender and Development Focal Point Committee.

The parade was held as the SBMA capped its month-long 25thAnniversary celebration on Sunday. (JRR/HEE/MPD-SBMA)

PHOTOS:

[1] Participants in the first ever Subic Bay Pride Parade march along the Waterfront Road in the Subic Bay Freeport on Sunday (Nov. 26). Pride parades are held by members of the LGBT community to demonstrate their culture and pride and also to call for gender and legal rights.

[2] SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma and Bataan Rep. Geraldine Roman join the first ever Subic Bay Pride Parade held at the Subic Bay Freeport on Sunday (Nov. 26). Pride parades are held by members of the LGBT community to demonstrate their culture and pride and also to call for gender and legal equality rights.

[3] SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma pose with participants in colourful attires during the first ever Subic Bay Pride Parade march along the Waterfront Road in the Subic Bay Freeport on Sunday (Nov. 26). Pride parades are held by members of the LGBT community to demonstrate their culture and pride and also to call for gender and legal rights.