By Ernesto Hilario | March 23, 2015

LAST month the Philippine Dispute Resolution Center Inc. (PDRCI) came out with a decision on the dispute between the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) and the Camp John Hay Development Corp. (CJHDevCo). The PDRCI decided to rescind the original lease accord between the two, directed the BCDA to return the P1.42 billion in rentals thus far paid by CJHDevCo, and ordered the latter to return to BCDA its leased 247-hectare property at the former American military facility.

In the wake of the arbitration ruling, the BCDA, through its President Arnel Paciano Casanova, appears to have started bullying sublocators, concessionaires and lot owners who had in good faith acquired 50-year leases on properties at what has been transformed by its private developer into the No. 1 ecotourism destination in the North.

Recently, the BCDA said it would not honor the sublease agreements on the pretext that the agency was never privy to these transactions and telling the concerned sub-locators and other lease-contract holders to run after their lessor, the CJHDevCo, instead.

This is the latest act of bad faith on the part of BCDA at the expense of innocent third-party stakeholders at CJH, because the truth is, this state-run corporation has neither the power nor authority to bully the sublocators, concessionaires and lot owners, or cancel their legitimate sublease contracts with CJHDevCo.

In fact, the BCDA is not even in a position to order CJHDevCo to vacate its leased CJH property until 1) a writ of execution has been issued by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Baguio City affirming the rescission of the lease agreement as ordered on February 11 by the PDRCI; and 2) BCDA has refunded the money reward of P1.42 billion to CJHDevCo as ordered by the PDRCI.

Until such time that the RTC in Baguio affirms the PDRCI ruling and BCDA settles its P1.42-billion refund, CJHDevCo has stated that it would continue under the law to exercise possession, control and management of CJH to maintain peace and order, assure the safety of residents, and enable its sub-locators and sublessees to conduct their business as usual.

And even if both these conditions are met, the BCDA still cannot run after the sublocators, concessionaires and lot owners, according to CJHDevCo. The CJHDevCo cited a number of reasons for its stand.

For one thing, the BCDA simply cannot alter any part of the lease contracts for any and all properties leased by CJHDevCo to third parties.

Another thing is that BCDA consented to all subleases within CJH when it expressly gave CJHDevCo the right  to sublease various areas and real-estate inventory. The sub-lease holders enjoy 50-year rights because from the very beginning, BCDA had committed to 25-year contracts renewable for another 25 years at CJHDevCo’s sole option. This makes third-party lease contracts good until October 2046.