SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — All appears quiet at the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) in the past few days, as officials and employees alike await Malacañang’s decision on the leadership row that pits the board chair against its chief executive officer.
Workers at the Subic agency said on Monday that they have no inkling on who is going to stay as top official after business locators and concerned local government units called for President Duterte’s intervention to settle the issue.
“Between Chairman Martin Diño and Administrator Wilma Eisma, we still don’t know who’s going to be chosen by President Digong,” said a female utility worker at Bldg. 229, the agency’s main office along the Waterfront Road here.
“But of course, we want somebody who can manage the SBMA well and really has malasakit for the Subic Freeport, and one who can relate with foreign investors and represent Subic with dignity and pride,” said the employee who asked not to be named.
Still, the management of the SBMA, which prides itself for the high morale and excellent work ethic of its employees, said that the agency is going through its businesses and services as usual.
“We are all awaiting the President’s verdict, whatever it will be, but that doesn’t mean the world has stopped revolving over here,” said Administrator Eisma, a lawyer who started with the SBMA as a volunteer in 1992. “Our employees continue to work hard; we in the management likewise continue to work hard, and it’s a busy schedule for everybody on the ground,” she added.
Eisma herself had been to Taiwan the other week to make a pitch for the Philippine government at the Philippine Investment Promotion Plan (PIPP) Investment Roadshow in Taipei and Taichung City.
“Despite the leadership issue here, the SBMA has, in fact, been doing well,” Eisma said. “So well, perhaps, that even Chairman Diño, who has been criticizing the SBMA and describing it as on the verge of financial collapse, had lately announced to the media our accomplishments in terms of revenue, investments, jobs, exports, and other economic indicators.”
Eisma also said that despite the uncertainty of retaining her SBMA post, she has faith that whatever President Duterte’s decision will be, it would be for the best of the Subic agency.
“If it’s Chairman Diño who’d be chosen, then I’ll gladly go quietly into the night, so to speak, because after all I’m just here to serve Subic, which is my home and the home of my fellow volunteers,” she said.
“On the other hand, if President Duterte chooses me to stay, then he can be sure that I’d give the best of what I learned and experienced in the private sector to bring the SBMA and the Subic Freeport to their rightful place as catalysts of economic development and inclusive growth in the community,” Eisma added.
The leadership tussle between Diño and Eisma, who are both Duterte appointees, started last May when Diño issued Administrative Order No. 01-2017, which interfered and encroached upon the duties of the Administrator and CEO, as well as on the board’s oversight functions.
Diño had also quarreled with the OIC-administrator Randy B. Escolango (now back as Deputy Administrator for Legal Affairs) whom Malacañang designated before Eisma.
The SBMA conflict sparked an investigation by the House of Representative on Executive Order No. 340, which separated the position and functions of the SBMA chairman from that of the SBMA administrator, who was originally the sole appointee under Republic Act 7227, or the Bases Conversion and Development Act of 1992.
Lately, business locators in Subic had asked Malacañang to intervene, and called for the appointment of a capable administrator-chairman to lead the SBMA.
Before this, seven local government executives around the Subic Bay Freeport had expressed support to Eisma in the ongoing leadership tussle and decried Diño for making “a series of inappropriate, unfitting, baseless and disruptive actions” that adversely affected the SBMA. (30)