Subic starts collecting more fees | Inquirer News

Subic starts collecting more fees

Traders fear higher costs to drive tourists, investors away
/ 12:52 AM March 16, 2014


SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) has started collecting the environment and tourism administrative fee (Etaf) here even as investors, particularly those in the tourism sector, have expressed fear of losing revenue as the new fee may drive tourists away.

In a forum here on Wednesday, several businessmen described the fee as “excessive” and worried that it would only anger tourists.


Kae Verzosa, managing director of the Subic Park Hotel and the Cabin Subic  Hotel, said the new fee was “too much” and could drive tourists and businessmen away from the free port.


The Etaf collection started on March 4 after the guidelines on its implementation were approved by the SBMA board on Jan. 24. SBMA officials held a public hearing on Jan. 17 to present the

Etaf collection guidelines.

Under the Etaf, each tourism establishment would collect P20 per person in theme parks, beaches and other firms with fixed entrance fees; P100 per person per playing day in golf courses; and P100 per room per night in hotels.

SBMA Chair Roberto Garcia said the SBMA sought to create a fund to “protect and conserve the environment and implement programs that will mitigate the carbon footprint (the environmental impact of any activity by an individual or group) caused by visitors and tourists.”

But Verzosa said it was unfair to blame tourists for environmental damage.

“Tourists and residents are the least of all the people who will [contribute] to the carbon footprint here,” Verzosa told SBMA officials during the forum.


She said it was the construction of a coal-fired power plant project, which the SBMA board supports, that endangered the free port’s environment.

She also asked SBMA officials to give business establishment owners enough time to collect the   Etaf and not be penalized for failing to do so because the order to collect the fee came on “short notice.”

The SBMA would also collect 2 percent from gross purchases in restaurants, wellness and massage centers and other establishments, but this was deferred to provide owners more time to prepare their systems.

David Porter, president of Subicom Inc., which runs a tourism information portal here, lamented that he was not invited to the public hearing on the Etaf collection.

He called on SBMA officials not to use carbon footprint to justify the additional fees because this was “not acceptable.”

Porter said garbage collection, polluted water and poor law enforcement in the free port needed to be addressed instead.

Other investors and their representatives who attended the forum shared Verzosa’s and Porter’s sentiments, saying some of them were not completely aware of the Etaf collection this month and were not prepared to collect the fee.

George Abuen, human resources and administrative officer of the Casablanca Hotel Condominium, which runs a resort bar and restaurant, said the firm’s employees needed more time to learn how to explain the new fees to guests and deal with complaints that might arise from this.

“It would be difficult for us to explain this new fee to our hotel guests,” Abuen said.

He also feared losing hotel guests because tourists might opt to go elsewhere where they don’t have to pay extra fees.

Garcia asked businessmen to support the fees because these would mean more revenue while it makes people aware of the “environmental consequences” caused by their carbon footprint.

“We all have to change our mentality here because we are one. You must support the

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SBMA on this because it all goes back to you,” Garcia told the investors. Allan Macatuno, Inquirer Central Luzon

TAGS: fees, Tourism

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