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Baguio toys with option to take over John Hay

12:20 AM July 31, 2015

BAGUIO CITY—What happens if the summer capital gets its wish and gets control of Camp John Hay?

Let a city-owned corporation operate it, at least according to a proposal now being explored by the Baguio City government.

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During his State of the City Address on Monday, Mayor Mauricio Domogan announced plans to develop a management corporation that would run all city investments and property, among them a set of hydroelectric power plants built by Baguio’s American administrators in the 1920s.

“Let us be open and welcome the idea of instituting a Baguio City development corporation or authority to help boost our social and economic development,” Domogan said.

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“Our present level of development presents the right time for Baguio to create its own government-owned and -controlled corporation (GOCC) that can serve as its … investment arm [and] open the avenues for fund sourcing and project development,” he said.

“Let us do business to raise our own resources so that we can provide more services over and above our traditional mandates like socialized housing, expanded healthcare [and] free education up to college,” he added.

A Baguio GOCC would also operate hotels and restaurants and act as landlord for homes built in Camp John Hay, Domogan told the Inquirer after his speech.

The city government intends to exercise one of 19 conditions that the Baguio community identified before the city endorsed the privatization of Camp John Hay in 1994.

Condition No. 16 in City Resolution No. 364, series of 1994, states that all property developed inside Camp John Hay would be turned over to the city government upon the termination of the development contract.

The Camp John Hay lease contract awarded to a company owned by businessman Robert John Sobrepeña had been “extinguished” in a February ruling by an arbitration tribunal.

The tribunal’s ruling, however, has not been enforced pending the Court of Appeals’ (CA) decision on whether or not sublessees are covered by the tribunal ruling. The CA decision is expected by the end of the month.

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Lawyer Melchor Rabanes outlined the legal framework for pursuing Condition No. 16 at a planning session in June.

The city government, however, will not act until the arbitration judgment is enforced, Domogan said.

But he said a Baguio GOCC should be set up “should we be successful in acquiring the John Hay property.”

Domogan said there are no legal impediments to developing an investment corporation. The Local Government Code (Republic Act No. 7160) encourages these initiatives, he said.

Domogan said Baguio would be the first city to use a GOCC to study, evaluate and execute projects that would draw profits from idle property. Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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