THE Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) is now enforcing stricter safety protocols to ensure the health and safety of visitors to the Subic Bay Freeport amid the recent surge in Covid-19 cases.

SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma Eisma said hotels and accommodation facilities will now require guests to present negative results for Covid-19 antigen tests taken in the past 24 hours, or RT-PCR tests released 48 hours prior to check-in.

The new requirement was made effective on January 24, following Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) guidelines placing the surrounding areas of Zambales, Olongapo City, and Bataan under Alert Level 3 on January 6.

“While interzonal travel is allowed under Alert Level 3, we want to take the extra step in ensuring the health and safety of, not only our visitors in the Freeport, but also our local businesses, workers, and stakeholders,” Eisma said.

She added that the SBMA is also checking for vaccination cards among visitors entering the Freeport and required negative RT-PCR test results for the unvaccinated.

Previous Alert Level 3 guidelines from the IATF did not require antigen or RT-PCR tests for interzonal travel except when required by establishments or event organizers.

“However, because of the recent surge in Covid-19 infections, there is a need for us to enforce stricter measures for the sake of both visitors and locals, and to keep Subic businesses going,” Eisma said.

Recently, Olongapo City, which provides most of the workers in the Subic Bay Freeport, was named as one of the cities with the highest rate of Covid-19 cases.

The Subic Freeport, meanwhile, logged 78 active cases for SBFZ residents and 17 for Freeport transient workers and guests as of January 18.

“This is why we have to be more vigilant, and why we should not relax our guard,” Eisma said.

Along with the hotel requirements, the SBMA also reminded Subic business locators and stakeholders to report possible cases of Covid-19 to the SBMA Public Health and Safety Department, pointing out that failure to do so shall be grounds for the cancellation of their certificates of registration.

Eisma said that under Republic Act 11332, or the “Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act,” persons and entities who will not report Covid-19 cases or respond to Covid-19 health events may be fined from P20,000 to P50,000.

Business establishments in the Freeport were also required to announce to the public if they have been temporarily closed because of any recently confirmed Covid-19 case in their premises, Eisma added.

Eisma said that both the SBMA and neighboring local government units have been increasing their target vaccinations and booster rollout to keep Covid-19 cases low and not overwhelm the healthcare system.

“As the SBMA and neighbor-LGUs have proven well in the past, we are stronger together in every common undertaking,” she said.

She added that while the SBMA is not an LGU, it has initiated a vaccine drive primarily for Freeport employees, health workers, and residents.

“At the end of the day, we can only beat Covid-19 if we practice malasakit and help each other,” Eisma said.

The Subic chief also reminded the general public that while restrictions are in place, the Subic Bay Freeport Zone is still very much open to everyone and will continue to be the premier business hub in this part of the country.

“As long as we follow the minimum health and safety standards like always wearing masks, keeping a safe distance, frequent handwashing or disinfection, and, of course, getting vaccinated, we will get over this new surge as we have had before,” Eisma said.