by Lorenz S. Marasigan – February 15, 2015
Happy and content.
This was how businessman Robert John L. Sobrepeña felt when he learned that the arbitral committee of the Philippine Dispute Resolution Center ruled in his favor over a dispute with the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) on the Camp John Hay dispute.
“I’m in favor of finishing it and getting on with it. I agree and I am happy with the decision of the arbitration court. We feel vindicated by the arbitration tribunal in upholding our position that Camp John Hay Development Corp. does not owe any P3.3-billion back rentals to the BCDA,” he said in an interview on Saturday. “In fact, according to the court, the BCDA owes us P1.42 billion as reimbursement for all our rental payments since 1996.”
The court ordered the company to vacate the leased premises and deliver the leased property, including new constructions and permanent improvements introduced during the period of the lease, to the state-run disposition agency.
In a nutshell, the arbitral committee decided to terminate the original lease agreement between the government and the Sobrepeña-led firm.
The chairman of the company, which operates and manages the recreation center up north, said the government must abide by what the arbitration court has ordered, and pay the sum indicated before taking over the property.
“If they will abide by the arbitration order, it could be over by 90 days,” Sobrepeña added.
However, the government is not bent on backing out without fighting further.
“There is a strong, separate opinion and this gives the BCDA the opportunity to ask the court to look into this,” BCDA Legal Services Department Officer in Charge Peter Paul Andrew T. Flores said, referring to the split decision of the arbitral committee.
The state-run agency, he said, will seek a judicial confirmation from the Regional Trial Court in Baguio City to uphold the first part of the decision, which orders the company to vacate the property and turn over all improvements on the site promptly.
“If they will pursue with their appeal, the whole process of returning Camp John Hay to the government will take a little longer. But the decision of the arbitration court cannot be appealed,” Sobrepeña replied, when sought for comment. “Until the court order is released to us, we will remain as the owner of the property.”
The BCDA estimates there are 118 enterprises—including restaurants, retail and other services and business-process outsourcing offices—in the property, with 384 hotel rooms in the Forest Lodge. There are also 85 residential structures in the Camp John Hay area.
“We assure our buyers, locators and sub-lessees that their rights to the properties they acquired and are now using in John Hay will continue to be protected and respected,” Sobrepeña said.
BCDA President Arnel D. Casanova, however, noted that the tenants’ sublease agreements have been terminated with the principal lease, hence, renters should now negotiate with the state-run agency, instead of the private company.
“It has no authority anymore to do business or transact with locators in the area,” he said.