SUBIC BAY FREEPORT -- The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) will implement next month the collection of Environment and Tourism Development Fee from hotel visitors, golfers, theme parks guests, restaurant patrons and other related establishments.

Lawyer Ramon Agregado, SBMA senior deputy administrator for support services, explained that the rationale of the fees is to mitigate the carbon footprint of tourists and visitors by undertaking projects and programs that will address the adverse impact of climate change, as well as develop and promote the Subic Freeport as a premiere tourist destination in the country.

Under the guidelines of the environment and tourism development fee, tourists, visitors and patrons of all Freeport tourism establishments will have to pay added fees like two percent gross purchases for restaurants, wellness/massage centers, and other establishments wherein customers pay varying amounts for the goods and services they purchase, included as food outlets operating at shopping malls; P20 per person for theme parks, beaches, and other tourism establishments wherein fixed entrance are charged; P100 per person per playing day for golf courses; and P100 per room per night for hotels and other accommodation facilities.

Operators of tourism related establishments will serve as collectors of the prescribed fees added to the billings of their guests.

But many business establishment owners at the Freeport expressed opposition on the additional collection fees, and kept silent during the hearing conducted by Agregado who cited that other major tourism destinations like Boracay, Palawan, Camarines Sur, among others collect environment fees from their visitors.

Meanwhile, Roberto V. Garcia, SBMA chairman-administrator, bared last Friday the adoption of a “customer friendly” policy at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone (SBFZ) to attract more investors both foreign and domestic to this former US Naval Base complex.

During the public hearing among the Subic Freeport locators engaged in the leisure industry, Garcia said the SBMA board of directors have approved the adoption of a three-year renewal for the issuance of Certificate of Registration and Tax Exemption (CRTE) privileges to locators and business enterprises at Subic.

This same three-year renewal privileges are also granted to locators at the Clark Freeport by the Clark Development Corporation.

According to Garcia, the Subic Freeport is also being promoted as a Value Added Tax (VAT)-free area for as long as the goods purchased are consumed at the Freeport, designed to encourage more visitors to Subic Bay. (Willie E. Capulong)