By Jonas Reyes
SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) hit a seven-year high investment of P29.6 billion last year, a record-breaking performance by the agency that was announced by SBMA Chairman Wilma Eisma on Wednesday.
Eisma made the disclosure during her State of the Freeport Address (SOFA), adding that the agency hit the highest level of annual committed investment in the last seven years with P29.6 billion in 2018, or an increase of 1,066 percent over the P2.5 billion generated in 2017.
She said the SBMA also posted record-breaking outputs in the 26-year history of the agency: the highest revenue ever at P3.45 billion; the highest net income at P1.45 billion; and the biggest EBITDA, or earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization, at P1.84 billion.
The revenue level in 2018 represented a 12 percent increase over the P3.08 billion in 2017; 60 percent surge in net income from P907.9 million in 2017, and also the first time to breach the P1-billion mark; and for EBITDA, an 18.98 percent growth over the P1.55 billion in 2017.
Eisma also pointed out that the growth in expansion projects in Subic, which exponentially jumped from P926.6 million in 2017 to P25.05 billion in 2018 for an overwhelming year-on-year increase of 2,603 percent, was the more telling sign of investor confidence on Subic.
“This means that (investors) who are already here in Subic remain to be committed, and trust that good things will happen again this year,” she told members of the Subic Bay Freeport Chamber of Commerce, which is hosting the annual SOFA presentation.
The biggest fresh infusions last year were for a five-star hotel, industrial parks, warehouses, and a golf course and retirement community, she said.
As a portent of continuing favorable business climate in the Subic Bay Freeport, the SBMA also drew a strong import and export performance in 2018, signifying Subic’s progressive role as an engine of growth.
Eisma said that Subic’s import value increased by 3.6 percent from P1.77 billion in 2017 to P1.84 billion in 2018, while export value rose by 8.2 percent from P2.3 billion to P2.5 billion.
Meanwhile, total debt decreased by 1.7 percent from P6.2 billion to P6.1 billion due to the volatile exchange rate in 2018.
Subic made another record-breaking performance in port operations when it handled 212,103 TEUs in containerized cargo volume and 7,052 metric tons of bulk and non-containerized cargo in 2018. Subic seaport’s robust growth last year, which was up 50 percent from the 2017 level, brought in total revenue of P1.23 billion.
The local tourism industry, on the other hand, continued with its impressive performance with an 8.2 percent increase in walk-in visitor arrivals from 8.5 million to 9.2 million, and a 2.2 percent rise in overnight tourist arrivals from 1.68 million to P1.72 million. The tourist arrivals also increased hotel occupancy to 68.46 percent.
Eisma added that the 19 cruise ship arrivals in 2018—compared to a single arrival in 2017—ignited a whole new tourism niche for Subic, which also made a huge P129-million economic impact in the Central Luzon region.
With the continuous growth in Subic, SBMA’s contributions to the national treasury in the form of tax collections, customs duties, and government dividends also went up by 27 percent from P19.9 billion in 2017 to P25.3 billion in 2018, Eisma also said during the SOFA.