By HENRY EMPEÑO
SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — It was full circle for lawyer Wilma “Amy” Eisma, a native of Olongapo City, who was one of the 8,000 volunteers who nurtured this former military base when the Americans left in 1992.
On Monday, Eisma returned here to be the new administrator and chief executive officer of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), a position held over the years by six others who were all male.
“This is home. Subic is home,” Eisma told an applauding audience of SBMA employees, local government officials and former volunteers during a formal turnover ceremony here, as she recalled answering then SBMA Chairman Richard Gordon’s call for volunteers 23 years ago.
“I always said before that if I had the opportunity, I will go back. I guess this is it,” she added. “I now stand before you as destiny takes me back home.
Eisma, who holds a doctorate in jurisprudence from the Ateneo De Manila University College of Law, was appointed SBMA administrator by President Rodrigo Duterte last December 21, replacing former SBMA Chairman Roberto Garcia, who was also appointed separately as administrator under President Benigno Aquino II.
Eisma, along with four newly-appointed members of the SBMA board of directors, formally took their oath of office before President Duterte in Malacañang on January 9.
As a young lawyer, she started her career at the SBMA as executive assistant to the chairman and member of the Legal Department during the agency’s formative years from 1993 to 1998.
Prior to her appointment as SBMA administrator, Eisma served with the Philippine affiliate of Philip Morris International, handling in a span of 16 years various management positions in corporate, government and regulatory affairs, community and farmer relations, sustainability, contributions, and diversity and inclusion initiatives of the company.
She was also instrumental in bringing Philip Morris to the Subic Bay Freeport where the global company has located its regional tobacco warehouse for Asia Pacific.
But Eisma said she had chosen to leave the “cushy corporate life” at Philip Morris to be once again serve the country at SBMA, which for her meant “Sa Bayan Muna Ako.”
Eisma’s appointment came as a relief to the SBMA workforce and the business community, which had both decried the rift between SBMA Chairman Martin Diño, who took assumed the SBMA post last October, and SBMA Deputy Administrator Randy Escolango, who was designated by Malacañang as officer in charge of the Office of the Administrator the following month.
Employees said the agency stagnated in terms of operations when Diño refused to accept Escolango’s designation and instead insisted on taking over as concurrent administrator.
The arrival of Eisma, who proved to be acceptable to the contending parties, is seen to restore normalcy to the Subic agency, employees said on Monday.
Eisma herself urged employees on Monday to do away with factionalism and instead work together as a unified “Team SBMA.”
In accepting the top SBMA executive position, Eisma also outlined on Monday her management priorities and urged members of the board, as well as managers and employees of the agency, to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with her, pointing out that the task before them is not an easy one.
The first order of the day, she said, was to renew and sustain investor confidence, and to professionalize the services of the Subic agency.
She reminded managers to prioritize the provision of excellent locator service, streamline processes in giving permits and clearances, step up security and safety measures, initiate clean and green programs, undertake personnel development, increase container traffic at the seaport, and get the Subic airport running.
“Professionalism and accountability should be the norm at the SBMA,” she reminded SBMA employees. “We have to bring back honor and integrity in our jobs.”
She added that her administration will be marked by meritocracy, strong work ethic, efficient and reasonable use of resources, honesty and transparency, and strict adherence to laws.
Eisma also recalled the passion and commitment by the SBMA volunteer corps and asked agency employees to rekindle the spirit of caring for the Subic Bay Freeport.
“The task before us is not easy. I cannot do it alone, but we can do it together,” Eisma said.
PHOTOS: SBMA Administrator Amy Eisma accepts the SBMA flag from former Chairman and Administrator Roberto Garcia during formal turnover on Monday at the SBMA head office (top photo), and then speaks before SBMA employees and Subic business locators after formally taking over as new CEO (inset). Photos by HENRY EMPEÑO