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Thursday, June 20, 2024

SBMA takes over school for P19-m rent debt

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SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority has peacefully taken control of a secondary and tertiary school here after it failed to settle its financial obligations to the agency amounting to P19 million.

The SBMA’s Legal Department, assisted by personnel from the Law Enforcement Department, entered the premises of Comteq Computer and Business College at about 6:30 a.m. and informed the school’s personnel of the takeover.

Atty. Melvin Varias, leader of the SBMA takeover team, said that although Comteq shall be closed to its students and personnel, students and faculty of the nearby UP Extension Program in Olongapo shall be allowed to enter the complex and use the facilities it has been sharing with the computer school.

The SBMA issued Comteq a notice to vacate its facilities it is occupying at Building Q-8131 on Manila Avenue at the freeport’s Central Business District, after the school failed to meet requirements for its continued operation here.

Earlier, the SBMA aired its concern over the fate of students of Comteq Computer and Business College, because of the latter’s failure to pay its rent despite the leeway the agency has given the school to meet its obligations.

“It’s because of the students that the SBMA has given Comteq enough consideration for far too long. This has been a lingering case of irresponsibility on the part of Comteq owners and I am sorry to say that we cannot extend any more generosity to them,” SBMA Chairperson and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma said.

Eisma said that as early as last April, the SBMA Legal Department has already issued a Notice to Vacate with Demand to Pay because the school has been operating without any valid lease agreement nor business registration with the SBMA, as well as failing to pay obligations with SBMA in the amount of P17.8 million.

Eisma explained that the SBMA had taken over the Comteq facility last April, but the Board granted a six-month extension to the school’s management for humanitarian reasons.

“However, during this final extension of six months, Comteq should have either settled their arrears with SBMA or should have responsibly arranged for the migration and transfer of their students, but they did not. Instead, they filed a case in court, thus betraying the kindness of SBMA,” she added.

In a letter dated April 27, 2017, Comteq president Danny J. Piano argued that the basis for the SBMA back pay rent of P17.7 million “is highly debatable” and added that the school “just have no capacity of paying back even a significantly reduced back pay rate.”

“Because of this, the new Board of Trustees of Comteq have come to the decision to transfer Comteq College out to Olongapo City where the rates are much lower,” Piano said.

Piano also asked for “a sufficient-enough transition” for the transfer, which he said can be successfully achieved by the end of the 2017 first semester or end of October.

With this, the SBMA Board allowed a six-month extension, but ordered that the school “should be fully out of the Subic Bay Freeport facility before the start of the 2017 second semester, or until October 31, 2017.”

SBMA records indicated that Comteq, which offers courses in preparatory, secondary, and tertiary levels, originally leased Bldg. Q–7932 starting 2008. In 2011, when construction of the Harbor Point Mall began, Comteq relocated to Bldg. Q-8131 where it occupied 10 rooms with a total area of 808.61 square meters, as well 188.55 square meters of common area.

Comteq’s transfer to the new location, however, met some problems as the building was also occupied by the UPEPO, which wanted to solely occupy the building. 

After the SBMA Board finally approved Comteq’s lease proposal in August 2015, Comteq asked for a “rent-free” period from January 2011 when it transferred to Bldg. Q-8131, to August 2015 when the SBMA approved its lease.  The SBMA, however, denied this request. 

In May 2016, the SBMA reiterated its denial of Comteq’s “rent-free” request and further advised the school of its total back rentals amounting to P13.12 million. It also asked Comteq to submit a payment scheme proposal on the settlement of its rental obligations so that SBMA may process a contract for 25 years under the policy on educational institution.

However, without any positive response from the school on these matters, the SBMA Legal Department declared in August 2016 that because Comteq did not have any lease agreement with SBMA, or a sublease agreement with other Subic locator, or a valid certificate of registration, it was engaged in unauthorized operation inside the Freeport and in illegal use of SBMA property.

In January this year, the SBMA Board of Directors approved the issuance of a Notice to Vacate against Comteq and instructed management to file a case against the original owners for collection of the company’s outstanding obligations.


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