Marine theme park exec sues SBMA chief



SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—A marine theme park official has sued the top official of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) for alleged harassment in the Office of the Ombudsman over the agency’s controversial revenue-generating program.

In a July 3 complaint, Timothy Desmond, chair and chief executive officer of Subic Bay Marine Exploratorium Inc. (SBMEI) accused SBMA Chair Roberto Garcia of orchestrating “an all-out campaign” to put his park out of business with the imposition of the Common Use Service Area (Cusa) fees.

The SBMEI operates Ocean Adventure, one of the port’s attractions, particularly for its dolphin shows.

The SBMA has imposed the Cusa fee since last year as a way of recovering expenses for services, such as street cleaning, street lighting, fire fighting and law enforcement inside the economic zone. The business community has been against the extra levy.

Desmond, who described himself in the complaint as “the most vocal and leading oppositor of Cusa” said the collection of the fee was “beyond the SBMA’s power to impose and a blatant violation of the existing lease agreement between SBMEI and the SBMA.”

Garcia withheld comment, saying he had yet to receive an official copy of the complaint.

Officials of the Subic Bay Freeport Chamber of Commerce said it acknowledged the huge financial problem of the SBMA but that imposing the Cusa fee would hurt locators and residents.

Among the complaints cited by Desmond were the SBMA’s refusal to issue a business permit and the prevention of park employees from entering the SBMA or reporting for work by holding the release of their gate passes due to the alleged unpaid obligations of SBMEI.

Desmond said Garcia had singled out his company and “illegally obstructed the issuance of import permits for animal food and critical medical and other animal supplies [by delaying the issuance of the BPTO or business permit to operate] because of a payment dispute.” Robert Gonzaga, Inquirer Central Luzon

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