Vincent Cabreza | Inquirer | May 26, 2015

BAGUIO CITY—More than 500 workers of the developer of Camp John Hay will still have jobs once it leaves the former American rest and recreation center here as the firm intends to finance new real estate and retail projects elsewhere in the city

Camp John Hay Development Corp. (CJHDevco) has P1.42 billion which will be invested in new real estate projects, including the idle property that used to host Hyatt Terraces Baguio, according to its chair, Robert John Sobrepeña.

The amount represents the reimbursement, which an arbitration tribunal required the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) to pay CJHDevco and settle its long-standing feud.

“The properties have been offered to us to develop under joint venture,” Sobrepeña said, including the compound where Hyatt was destroyed during the 1990 earthquake.

“We have other plans in Baguio … . We may leave Camp John Hay, but we are not leaving Baguio,” he said. “As of this moment, we have no plans for retrenchment.”

Since February, employees of CJHDevco and its affiliate companies have been worried about losing their jobs once the developer leaves Camp John Hay as stipulated by the tribunal formed by the Philippine Dispute Resolution Center (PDRC).

In February, the PDRC ruled that CJHDevco and BCDA, the Camp John Hay administrator, violated the 1996 lease agreement to convert estate into a tourism complex and that the only way to resolve the dispute was to consider the contract voided from the start.

It also required CJHDevco to relinquish Camp John Hay and all its improvements to the BCDA.

The PDRC ruling has spawned another controversy, this time involving homeowners, time-sharing investors of hotel rooms and business locators whose contracts were also deemed void by the court that is executing the arbitral judgment.

They were issued 30-day notices to vacate, which lapsed on Wednesday, but the Court of Appeals froze all actions involving the PDRC decision for 60 days until it determines whether dwellers and entrepreneurs of Camp John hay should also be evicted.

CJHDevco has 55 employees who help oversee the built-up portions of its 247-hectare leased area. About 500 more are employed by its affiliates handling water and other utilities inside the Camp John Hay Special Economic Zone, said Gulshan Bedi, the operations manager.

The number does not include those of the Camp John Hay Golf Club, The Manor and The Forest Lodge, which Bedi described as “third-party” entities, though these are operated by corporations formed by Sobrepeña.

The employees are not organized into unions or associations.

One said he might transfer his family again, years after settling down in Baguio when the 1996 lease was enforced. “That’s going to be difficult. This has become my home,” he said.

A utility worker told the Inquirer that his job was at risk because of the squabble.

Bedi said some employees suffer “some form of demoralization.”

“Of course, it has affected their morale, they have anxieties over their [job] securities,” he said, “But all our employees are still here … and are standing by CJHDevco.”

But Sobrepeña, in a Wednesday news conference, assured the workers that their jobs are safe.

“[For example], the golf club will continue under present management. [It would be] business as usual. The golf club never got its rights from CJHDevco. It got its rights directly from BCDA because it mandated there should be a golf club at the beginning of the contract and that membership shares should be sold,” he said.

The club is a separate entity governed by its members until 2046.

CJHDevco has offered the BCDA a plan to facilitate a peaceful transition when they turn over their hotels, Sobrepeña said. But he added that the government rejected the proposal which, he pointed out, would have guided the BCDA on how to absorb the facilities’ work force.