By People’s Journal | March 3, 2015

AN administration ally has filed a resolution calling for a congressional investigation into the alleged mismanagement by the Bases Conversion and Development Authority of Camp John Hay.

Under House Resolution No. 1936, Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo called on the special committees on bases development and national defense to probe, in aid of legislation, the reported lapses on the part of BCDA which resulted in breaches in the agreement the agency entered into with Camp John Hay Development Corp.

Castelo noted that BCDA entered into a memorandum of agreement with CJHDevCo for the latter to lease and develop the Camp John Hay facilities to make it a “leading eco-tourism destination in Northern Luzon.”

“CJHDevCo embarked on various developments such as the construction of 90 completed projects including, among the most prominent, the Camp John Hay Manor Hotel, Golf Clubhouse, CAP Convention Center, luxury log homes and forest cabins, a new main gate, a filling station of the Eco-Village, and two buildings of the Ayala Technohub,” he said.

Castelo noted that CJHDevCo was able to attract investors and locators to Camp John Hay with 15 existing projects that are being developed.

“However these were delayed due to the slow processing by BCDA of the much needed or required permits and licenses,” he said.

Castelo said BCDA failed to deliver its commitment to create a One-Stop Action Center (OSAC) to expedite the issuance of the licenses and permits needed by CJHDevCo.

Earlier, Abakada partylist Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz, a member of the independent minority bloc in the House of Representatives, criticized BCDA president Arnel Casanova for mishandling the development of Camp John Hay.

In a privilege speech last week, Dela Cruz said the questionable actions of Casanova had a “deleterious” effect on the Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program, which gets 50 percent of BCDA’s lease revenues under existing laws.

The Philippine Dispute Resolution Center Inc. has ordered the BCDA to return P1.42 billion in rentals paid by CJHDevCo headed by businessman Robert Sobrepeñas for the rescission of its 1996 original lease agreement (OLA) for the property in Baguio City.

“That from the time he assumed office in 2010 Mr. Casanova made it a point to make life harder for the Sobrepeña Group even to the point of sacrificing the development of Camp John Hay with the attendant consequences thereof is beyond question. His highly publicized efforts to grind the Sobrepeñas even came to a point where no less than Baguio City Mayor Mauricio Domogan had to intervene at the last minute to ensure the opening of one of the core CJHDeVCo projects, Forest Lodge hotel, at the appointed time,” Dela Cruz said.

“This and other transgressions of duly signed agreements have all been fully documented and publicized much like the highlighted disputes between Casanova and other stakeholders in other BCDA developments,” the lawmaker added.

Dela Cruz cited previous bullying tactics of Casanova, including bringing a platoon of fully armed security personnel in a bid to stop the construction and opening of SM Aura premier in Global City in Taguig as well as efforts to evict retired and active military personnel residing in a portion of the diplomatic and consular area in Fort Bonifacio which is outside BCDA jurisdiction.

“But his almost pathological disdain for the Sobrepeña Group has become legendary when he was able to force CJHDeVCo Chairman Robert Sobrepeña to get off his flight and forego a business trip on the basis of his intervention and false release that the former was ‘evading prosecution.’ In the end, this malicious lie was exposed when the Pasay City Court ruled that the act of immigration officials constituted illegal detention and grave coercion,” he added.

Dela Cruz said he will seek a separate congressional inquiry into the “wayward practices and illegal undertakings” of Casanova.

He said under the state-prepared Master Development Plan for Camp John Hay, 18 hectares of the leased area should have been developed to provide a 1,000-hotel room tourist destination, top-tier BPO and IT headquarters, an international convention site, as well as residential and commercial components and shopping and food outlets.

“However, due to various breaches on the part of the BCDA, through its implementing agency in Baguio, John Hay Management Corp., over the years only less than four hectares of the area have been developed, despite over P5 billion invested and P1.42 billion in rental payments paid by CJHDevCo,” Dela Cruz said.

He said the actions of Casanova constitute a serious blow to the AFP Modernization Program.

He cited the resolution filed by Senate Minority Leader Vicente Sotto III which questioned how “despite its billions of pesos in earnings…BCDA has not significantly contributed to the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.”

“We now have to accept that with the rescission of the development contract for Camp John Hay we will have less revenue to talk about if at all,” Dela Cruz said.

“Contrary to Casanova’s erroneous claims, the PDRCI decision is not a victory for the BCDA because the court vindicates CJHDeVCo’s long-held argument that the BCDA has been a serial violator of the 1996 Original Lease Agreement and the subsequent agreements,” he added.

In its ruling, the PDRCI has also denied BCDA’s plea for CJHDevCo to cough up P3.3 billion in supposedly unpaid rentals.

Dela Cruz accused Casanova of causing “unnecessary tension and uncertainty, which is bad for tourism and for business in general.”

“There is uncertainty for the locators who have invested time and capital. There is uncertainty for many employees working in the camp who depend on Camp John Hay for their livelihood. There is uncertainty even for the City of Baguio which would have acquired income from operations within Camp John Hay,” he added.