AFTER more than five years of lobbying, the spa industry’s appeal to declassify massage as an amusement or entertainment service is now being tackled in the Cebu City Council after Councilor Nida Cabrera proposed an ordinance to delist massage parlors from the category.

Cabrera recently sent an email to update the Spa and Wellness Association of Cebu (Swac) on the organization’s appeal.

“On the proposed ordinance amending City Tax Ordinance 122, what we did was delete massage parlors among the establishments covered by the ordinance.

Reclassifying massage parlors from services to wellness under the said ordinance may not be the appropriate move, but rather needs a separate ordinance to be filed if there are gaps in the current regulations governing massage parlors that require a local legislation,” the letter said.

The ordinance does not classify massage parlors or other establishments under services but “associates massage parlors to establishments that belong to the amusement and/or entertainment sector.”

“Not one establishment listed therein is classified into a distinct sector or defined under (the definition of terms). Thus the reason why we opted to delete ‘massage parlors’ under Section 4 of the said tax ordinance,” Cabrera’s letter said.

Under the present tax system the city has categorized massage parlors under the amusement and/or entertainment business covered by the social amelioration tax.

Members of the 10-year-old organization have been vocal about not belonging to the category and should not be subjected to amelioration tax.

A spa and wellness business is charged P10 amelioration tax per customer.

Johnie Lim, founding president of Swac, welcomed the development of the industry’s long overdue appeal to the City Government, saying this will enable more spa operators to take advantage of the opportunities in the spa and wellness industry.

Once approved, it will also provide a friendlier environment for new entrants in the spa business and encourage existing players to expand their businesses.

Lim who is the owner of Body & Sole Franchise Corp., one of the largest spa chains in the country, pays P9,000 monthly per branch in compliance with the amelioration tax, on top of other business fees.

At present, Lim has over 30 existing branches nationwide.

Last Monday, it opened its 58th branch at Labangon Town Center along Katipunan St.

Lim said they remain optimistic of the growth of the industry, knowing spa services have already become part of a person’s daily routine. “It’s already part of our system,” he said.

The first Body and Sole branch opened in 2003 and is located at Raintree Mall along F. Ramos St.

Lim pioneered affordable spa services in Cebu. He eventually opened the business for franchising as a vehicle for expansion. Under the agreement, franchise terms are limited to three to five years with renewal options.

“It was all hard work, commitment and passion that helped me become successful in this industry,” he said, adding that innovation and constant employee trainings helped him grow the business.

From at least 200 spa operators during the industry’s peak years in the past, Cebu’s spa industry players have now gone down to at least 10 including big ones, according to Lim.

“The ones left are the committed ones,” he said. Lim noted some closed not only because of tight competition but also they lacked the capacity to train their own employees. Some, he said, lacked the enthusiasm and commitment, while others failed to join an industry organization that could supported them.

Body and Soles’s upcoming branches are in Dumaguete, Calbayog, Talamban, Mandaue and Guadalupe.