Truck importers belie extortion claims vs SBMA’s seaport dept

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 SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—Truck importers based in this free port have come forward in defense of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) and refuted allegations of extortion raised recently by some customs brokers and processors operating at the Port of Subic.In a letter clarifying its stand on the controversy, the Subic Bay Truck Importers Association (SBTIA) headed by its president Pietro V. Geroue expressed full support to the SBMA and refuted claims of corruption against the management of the agency’s seaport department.They also called out the “malicious allegations and false accusations” raised by brokers in a meeting with SBMA Chairman and Administrator Jonathan D. Tan and added that they “profoundly express full support” to the SBMA management.“As companies paying duties and taxes to the government, we adhere to the rules and regulations, policies and procedures being implemented by SBMA and other concerned agencies,” the SBTIA said in its October 2 letter.“We would like to replace these unscrupulous brokers/processors who are giving a bad name to the association,” it added.The letter was signed by Geroue, association vice-presidents Eva Tadus and Shahzad Ahmad, and other members of the board. Officers of 31 truck trading companies operating in Subic also signed the manifesto.Brokers, accompanied by Zambales First District Representative Jay Khonghun, complained of extortion against certain officers at the SBMA Seaport Department in a meeting with Chairman Tan at the SBMA boardroom on September 29.Right there and then, Tan immediately ordered an investigation into the allegations against SBMA Seaport Department manager Jerome Martinez and consultant Rico Reyes.Tan also assured the brokers that he would conduct a thorough investigation of their complaints and come up with a swift decision concerning the two officials.The SBMA chief also told customs brokers and port users in a recent meeting that SBMA would not tolerate corruption in the freeport, especially if this involved SBMA officials.As for the importers and other port users, “They don’t have to bribe someone for their shipments if they pay the right taxes,” Tan added.Tan, a former town mayor in Antique, assumed office as SBMA chairman just last May. The SBMA said he has been working with an “open door policy” since then and has warmly welcomed locators with various concerns.