SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — Earnings by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) decreased by as much as 22 percent in 2020 because of the economic slowdown last year brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma Eisma said the Subic agency posted a total of P1.69 billion in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) at the end of 2020, compared to the P2.17-billion figure it recorded at the end of 2019.
The 2020 figure was lower than the 2019 record by P486.73 million, or 22.35 percent.
Eisma said the COVID-19 pandemic affected not only the operations of business locators in the Subic Bay Freeport, but also those of the SBMA, which is a self-sustaining government-owned agency.
“Subic locked down for close to four months early last year because of COVID-19. That means factories were closed, stores were closed, and there was not much source of income to go around. Moreover, the SBMA was forced to forego much of its collections in the meantime because there was hardly anything to collect,” Eisma recalled.
She added the economic slowdown “critically diminished the income-generating capacity of registered businesses and sent ripples of disruption across the Freeport that affected even the SBMA income.”
According to the 2020 consolidated year-end report from the SBMA Finance Group, the agency lost P530.31 million in operating revenue last year, whereas it raked in a total of P3.73 billion in 2019.
In terms of operating expenses, meanwhile, the agency was able to save P67.74 million in 2020 as it spent only P1.45 billion, which was 4.45-percent lower than its expenses of P1.52 billion in 2019.
The SBMA Finance Group also reported that the agency’s operating income in 2020 hit only P1.75 billion, which was 20.93-percent lower than the P2.21 billion in 2019, or a difference of P462.56 million.
On the other hand, the agency posted higher bad debts last year— from P32.09 million in 2019 to P56.26 million in 2020, or an increase of 75.3 percent.
Eisma said the agency expects its finances to somehow bounce back this year, as more Freeport firms increase operations under strict health safety protocols imposed by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).
Last month, the SBMA approved the Economic Relief Assistance (ERA) Payment Scheme that gave Subic locators up to 36 months to amortize bills that remained unpaid since the pandemic hit in March 2020.
Eisma said the measure was intended to help Subic businesses get back on their feet.
“We are now trying to open up the economy here little by little to curtail the lingering impact of the pandemic, and we’re giving every opportunity for our locators to normalize operations,” Eisma said.
“I am wishing for bigger (financial) numbers this year, and we are getting back on track every little step that we can take forward, that’s why we always stress that we maintain safety protocols so we can get more industry sectors up and running,” Eisma pointed out.
The SBMA chief is scheduled to give her State of the Freeport Address next month to provide a more comprehensive report on the 2020 accomplishments of the agency and its plans for this year.