Business as usual: SBMA takes to teleconferencing with investors

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — It’s business as usual for the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) as far as doing transactions with customers and investors is concerned despite the coronavirus outbreak.

Last week, SBMA Senior Deputy Administrator for Business and Investment Renato Lee and officers of the SBMA Business and Investment Department for Maritime and Manufacturing here in Subic used a teleconferencing set-up to discuss a prospective investment project with the TECO Group in Taiwan.

SBMA Senior Deputy Administrator for Business and Investment Renato Lee (left) and his staff discuss an investment proposal with prospective investors in Taiwan during recent a video conference.

Hooked by a telecommunications system, the SBMA team steered a live discourse and exchange of information on video with their counterparts who were all donning facemasks.

“We have had initial face-to-face discussions previously, but because of travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 threat, our clients couldn’t travel all the way from Taiwan this time. So this is the option we took — and it worked all right,” said Lee.

He said the two groups managed to take up every essential item in the proposed project during the remote meeting that lasted close to two hours.

“They were looking for a suitable location—a factory-warehouse type of building, so we discussed the available options. Then we also talked about the products they intend to manufacture here, as well as the technology transfer we can benefit from, the number of workers to be generated, the projected revenue — things which are the stuff of initial business meetings,”  Lee said.

“It was a fruitful meeting, and judging by what we have covered you would never know it was accomplished via teleconferencing,” he added.

Last week’s teleconference may be replicated a lot here in Subic in the days to come, as the SBMA finds ways to continue making business transactions in this time of the coronavirus.

SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma pointed out that infrastructure are in place to allow teleconferencing on a regular basis in Subic, which is a growing trade and tourism center.

Business temporarily hit a snag here when the SBMA formally approved a temporary travel ban two weeks ago on the heels of a national health policy. The ban covered cruise ships, airplanes and travellers coming from China and its special administrative regions (SARs), as well as other countries affected by Covid-19.

The SBMA also enforced measures like mandatory physical inspection of all foreign nationals entering SBMA gates; self-quarantine of all Subic residents, locators and employees who travelled from China and its SARs in the past 14 days; thermal scanning by business locators of their personnel; and disinfection practices in offices and facilities.

The Philippine government lifted the Taiwan travel ban just days after its imposition, but Chairman Eisma said Covid-19 outbreaks in other places seriously hamper trade just as well.

“With the continuing threat of Covid-19 and the recent rash of transmissions outside China in countries like South Korea, Italy, and Iran, I see that teleconferencing will not only be a trend in Subic, it will become a necessity,” said Eisma.

“We cannot afford any let-up in business. We have to find ways to keep the wheels of commerce moving, so business mobility will have to be supplemented with mobile business,” she added. (Dante M. Salvaña)

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