By HIDDEN AGENDA By Mary Ann Ll. Reyes (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 5, 2014 – 12:00am

The Palace has a lot more on its plate when it comes to bad news about investment generation, all because of certain government executives who do not seem to understand what teamwork means.

 

Take the case of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) which seems to have forgotten that it is part of government and that it should be working with the private sector, not against it.

BCDA has been buffeted by a slew of debacles in its losing court battles with developers, such as SM Land Inc. (SMLI) at Taguig’s Bonifacio Global City and Camp John Hay Development Corp. (CJHDevco) at the John Hay SEZ (JHSEZ) in Baguio City, over the agency’s penchant to flout its agreements with its supposed private partners.

BCDA and CJHDevco are right now waiting for the resolution of their case at the Philippine Dispute Resolution Center Inc., as PDRCI is poised to hand out its decision in a month or two.

BCDA chief Arnel Casanova has expressed confidence that they will prevail in protecting the public interest as it expects the courts to uphold its case against CJHDevco, which, he claimed, has defaulted on its rental payments now totaling P3.4 billion for leasing and developing a 247-hectare land parcel at the JHSEZ.

CJHDevco officials have asserted that the supposed P3.4-billion in unpaid rentals is just a figment of the BCDA president’s imagination because CJHDevco is actually up to date in its payments – based on the actual implementation (or lack of it) of the 1999 MOA and the subsequent revisions – and has already invested P5 billion-plus in developmental and operational costs plus interest expenses in its leased JHSEZ property.

They noted that Casanova’s P3.4-billion claim is illusory as it represents accumulated suspended rentals payments during the five-year period (2003-2007) when BCDA was in breach of contract after the Supreme Court revoked the SEZ status of Camp John Hay, resulting to complete stoppage of all construction and development work, and suspension of all building permits inside Camp John Hay, thereby barring CJHDevco from proceeding with site development.

CJHDevco has thus far remitted P1.4 billion, or 40 percent of its dues to the government, even if Casanova’s Office has only delivered 21 percent of its commitments under the 1999 MOA, enabling the firm to develop just four of 25 hectares and thus severely hurting its income generation. This setback has forced the firm to eventually request for payment deferment.

Also, CJHDevco has, as of January this year, invested approximately P5 billion in its Camp John Hay project, enabling it to complete 90 construction projects and continue working on another nine projects in its leased area.

The original MOA between BCDA and CJHDevco had been revised twice due to BCDA’s failure to fulfill its commitments, including its failure to deliver the entire 247 hectares as promised, two-year delay in the issuance of the Environment Compliance Certificate (ECC) needed by the firm to develop the property, revocation of the leased land’s tax incentives as an SEZ, and non-establishment of a One-Stop Action Center Shop (OSAC) supposed to fast-track the issuance of business permits and other papers needed by the lessee and its locators.

It was CJHDevco that took the correct legal steps in 2012 in rescinding the third revised MOA and then seeking arbitration at the PDRCI in 2012 as a last recourse after the BCDA’s stubborn refusal to settle their feud in an amicable way—despite calls by the House special committee on bases conversion and Baguio’s elective officials for both parties to end the feud that has prevented the city from getting its 25% share of JHSEZ rental payments.

CJHDevco had filed at the PDRCI a P14.44-billion damage claim from BCDA for the developer’s financial losses arising from the OSAC fiasco and the rest of the agency’s repeated RMOA violations.

Hence, the CJHDevco-BCDA case is not really about collection of lease payments but about BCDA’s breach of contract and failure to meet its contractual obligations to CJHDevco.

Observers note that it seems pretty clear that BCDA’s legal cases and harassment tactics against CJHDevco are all part of a sinister ploy to drive away Sobrepeña and his firm from Camp John Hay, apparently for the benefit of a handpicked new private partner.

I don’t know if it is the lawyer in Casanova but he seems to have this penchant for hailing his partners to court, which is highly unusual considering the government’s avowal to pursue private-public sector partnerships (PPP). One goes to court when all else fails, because between partners, negotiation is still the best way to resolve differences. But not when your partner is the BCDA.

Major setback

Prosecutors from the Office of the Ombudsman are not too happy with the results of the cross-examination of their witness, bank investigator Atty. Leigh Von Santos of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), by lawyers of Senator Bong Revilla.

During Revilla’s October 23 bail hearing on plunder over the pork barrel scam, Santos said he has no records to support the claim that pork barrel queen Janet Lim-Napoles has transferred funds to Revilla or the latter’s legislative officer Richard Cambe. Revilla had maintained that he can defend all the transactions in his bank account as examined by the AMLC, adding that in his more than 20 years in showbiz, he can say that the amount of money he is accused of having stolen is quite small compared to his aggregate earnings as an action star.

The crumbling of the AMLC investigator’s testimony during cross-examination could be the reason why all of sudden, lawyers of the Office of the Ombudsman have filed a motion asking the Sandiganbayan to issue a writ of preliminary attachment against Revilla’s assets despite the fact that the court has yet to rule on the senator’s petition for bail.

Revilla suspects that the move was a diversion to the dismal performance at the witness stand of AMLC’s Atty. Santos and is meant to douse cold water on the victories posted by his defense team especially after they were able to impeach Benhur Luy.

The senator also laughed off the amount of P224.5 million which the Ombudsman lawyers want to garnish. He said that at the start of the Senate inquiry on the pork barrel scam, he was accused of pocketing P1.2 billion, which became P400 million, and which later became P224.5 million, which is the amount of cash and assets that Ombudsman lawyers want to be garnished.

Revilla also deplored that timing of his 90-day suspension order effective Nov. 3 made by Senate President Franklin Drilon which coincided with the filing of the writ of temporary attachment by Ombudsman lawyers

Given the weakness of the plunder case filed by government prosecutors against Revilla, it is likely that he will be granted bail by the Sandiganbayan.

Questionable transactions

The Office of the Ombudsman should start looking into alleged irregularities involving the Clark Airport’s instrument landing system/VHF omnidirectional radio range (ILS/VOR) airport systems as well as the proposed terminal for

It is being claimed that the chairman of the Clark International Airport Authority (CIAC), Darwin Cunanan
is involved in questionable bidding transactions together with two other BAC members Cynthia Dungca and Melanie Reyes. They are allegedly supported by CIAC accounting manager Nancy Paglinawan.

Sources say that this early, it is already known that the ILS-VOR bidding next week will be awarded to the same favored supplier, a civil works contractor with no expertise in aviation.

Cunanan is also allegedly responsible for manipulating several bids, including one for an approach radar that is currently not functioning properly.

The equipment is reportedly overpriced by 300% and procured
using DAP Funds, and is of substandard quality.

President Aquino has replaced CIAC president Victor Jose Luciano, but not Cunanan and his cohorts. Darwin is by way the younger brother of Dennis Cunanan, the former TRC Director General who is facing charges in connection with the PDAF scam.

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