Philippine Daily Inquirer 4:13 AM | Sunday, March 8th, 2015
BAGUIO CITY–The developer of Camp John Hay asked the Baguio court on Friday to enforce a Feb. 11 arbitration ruling that ended its longstanding dispute with John Hay’s administrator, the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), by “extinguishing” a 1996 development contract over the former American rest and recreation base land.
Lawyer Alfredo Yniguez III, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Camp John Hay Development Corp. (CJHDevco), said the developer asked Judge Cecilia Corazon Dulay-Archog of the Baguio City Regional Trial Court (RTC) to confirm and carry out the ruling issued by an arbitral tribunal of the Philippine Dispute Resolution Center (PDRC).
The tribunal concluded that the two contending parties both violated the lease agreement to convert a portion of Camp John Hay into a tourism estate.
To restore harmony, the tribunal required the developer to leave the John Hay Special Economic Zone, after BCDA reimburses it with P1.42 billion representing rent it had paid for leasing the area in 1996.
Archog had directed the contending parties to undergo arbitration in 2012. The PDRC decision is final and binding but it takes effect only after Archog has issued a confirmation.
The RTC has also directed the BCDA to stipulate whether it accepts the tribunal’s decision by March 15.
BCDA has not responded to queries about the actions taken by CJHDevco, a firm owned by businessman Robert John Sobrepena.
But in a Feb. 26 interview, BCDA chief counsel Peter Paul Flores said the government has accepted the ruling, in principle, although its lawyers are studying whether it could seek a reconsideration with regard to CJHDevco’s reimbursements.
Flores said the tribunal’s dissenting opinion was crucial to the government’s position.
Dissenting arbiter, lawyer Teodoro Kalaw IV, “put himself out on a limb,” by issuing his 256-page opinion, which disagreed with the majority composed of lawyers Mario Valderrama and Rogelio Nicandro, Flores said. Kalaw argued that refunding CJHDevco’s rent was not supported by law.
“The dissenting opinion is quite interesting. Ordinarily, what [Kalaw] did, people in arbitration would not do because it would affect their institution,” Flores said.
Asked if pursuing the dissent may lead to an invalidated arbitration ruling, Flores said: “That’s one of the options we are studying, whether it’s even worth that. Even in its present condition, there is a commercial value in this place. I’d like to believe once [Sobrepena] turns it over we can jump start John Hay’s development.”
But the fate of its locators and homeowners remains a problem that needs to be solved, both Flores and Yniguez acknowledged in separate interviews.
Flores has been discussing legal options with John Hay’s investors, many of whom had paid their upfront and in full when they acquired John Hay homes and hotel units for a 25-year duration.
He said the government is concerned because their interpretation of the PDRC ruling led them to conclude that extinguishing the main John Hay lease may have nullified the subcontracts and subleases.
“We will not simply eject them or abandon them,” Flores said, adding that the government needs to find a legal ground to keep them inside the John Hay Special Economic Zone.
Yniguez said CJHDevco will meet with the same locators and homeowners this week. He said CJHDevco will help its clients fight to protect their contracts. Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon