By Neal H. Cruz | Inquirer.net | March 4, 2015

What will happen to the locators and sublessees in Camp John Hay who are caught in the middle of the fight between the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) and the developer, Camp John Hay Development Corp. (CJHDevCo)?

The arbitration court recently made a Solomonic decision on the case. Because both sides had violated their contract, that contract was voided and the BCDA was ordered to refund the P1.4-billion rent that CJHDevCo had paid, but CJHDevCo was ordered to return to the BCDA all the developed and undeveloped areas of the camp, including improvements. At the same time, CJHDevCo was absolved of the alleged P3.3 billion in “unpaid rent” that the BCDA is claiming.

But what will happen to the locators that had subleased from CJHDevCo portions of the camp? Their rights will be respected because they are not a party to the quarrel. The BCDA approved the subleases and in fact holds copies of these sublease contracts, said Alfredo Yñiguez III, executive vice president of CJHDevCo, who was a guest at the Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond Hotel last Monday. With him was legal counsel Gilbert Reyes.

Also present as guests were Dr. Tomas Octavio of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (Owwa), Dr. Beatriz Quiambao, chief of the Clinical Research Division of the Department of Health, Dr. Edelwisa S. Mercado of the DOH Molecular Bio Lab, and nurse Rowena Capistrano, DOH surveillance officer. They all talked about the threat posed by MERS-CoV and the increase in the number of HIV cases in the country.

Yñiguez and Reyes explained the reasons why the relations between the BCDA and CJHDevCo over the development of the American rest-and-recreation camp went sour.

To do away with time-consuming red tape and hasten development, the two sides agreed to set up a one-stop center to process documents and issue permits. But this was not followed by the BCDA.

For some strange reasons, project permits were delayed or not given at all, thus delaying the development of the camp. And so the timetable went askew, and because CJHDevCo was not earning, it could not pay rent to the BCDA on time. The BCDA dunned CJHDevCo P3.3 billion in alleged back rentals. The latter accused the BCDA of breach of contract, for not setting up the one-stop center, and sought arbitration.

The arbitration court said the two sides were in violation of the contract, and voided it. BCDA was directed to refund the Pl.4 billion rent that CJHDevCo had paid. On the other hand, the latter was ordered to return the camp to the BCDA. Yñiguez said CJHDevCo is happy with the decision and will abide by it; the BCDA filed a motion for reconsideration.

Until the BCDA has fully refunded the rentals, CJHDevCo will continue to own and operate the two 5-star hotels, The Manor and Forest Lodge, that it built for an estimated P5 billion. Without a doubt, these are now the best hotels in Baguio City.

Of the 264 hectares of the camp, Yñiguez said, only 18 hectares can be developed. The rest is to be preserved as forest land and, of course, the CJH Golf Course. Of the 18 hectares, only four hectares have been developed so far.

Yñiguez said CJHDevCo has planted 230,000 pine seedlings. It has entered into a contract with a Canadian coffee company to plant coffee in the pine forests. Coffee is a shade-loving plant. So far, 90,000 coffee seedlings have been planted.

As for the rights of the locators and sublessees, lawyer Reyes said they should be respected. The leases were made with the knowledge and approval of the BCDA. The lessees are not a party to the quarrel. They are lessees in good faith.

The biggest loser in the fallout is the city of Baguio. Under the contract, the city is to get 25 percent of the rentals. But the BCDA has not been remitting the city’s share for years. And with CJHDevCo freed from paying back rentals, there would be no more rentals to share.

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On the feared outbreak of diseases, the Owwa and DOH representatives said there is nothing to fear. The overseas Filipino worker who came home with MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Corona Virus) has recovered completely. The virus is not airborne, so it is not that contagious. Contamination is made through contact with a sick person.

As for the increase in the number of HIV cases, the health personnel said the biggest increase is among young people who engage in unprotected sex. Next to abstinence—which, admittedly, is very hard to follow—the use of condoms is an effective way of avoiding HIV, they said.

But there is bird flu which can be spread by poultry and even by migratory birds. However, as long as you don’t work in a poultry farm, there is little chance of getting it.

Is it safe to eat chicken when there is a bird flu epidemic?

Answer: Yes, because the chicken is cooked. The virus is killed by cooking. So don’t eat chicken meat raw, like you do sashimi. Even the Japanese don’t do that.

What about Ebola? The Owwa’s Octavio said returning OFWs are checked for symptoms in their points of origin and again when they arrive at Philippine airports. So far, there is no OFW here with Ebola.