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Pending cases stall Camp John Hay development

/ 12:20 AM December 09, 2016
VARIOUS agencies, from the environment department to the Bases Conversion and Development Authority, have complained of this section of the Baguio Circumferential Road, which penetrates the Camp John Hay forest, and have occasionally displaced trees. The Department of Public Works and Highways has made changes recently so the road would not damage more trees. RICHARD BALONGLONG/INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON FILE PHOTO

VARIOUS agencies, from the environment department to the Bases Conversion and Development Authority, have complained of this section of the Baguio Circumferential Road, which penetrates the Camp John Hay forest, and have occasionally displaced trees. The Department of Public Works and Highways has made changes recently so the road would not damage more trees. RICHARD BALONGLONG/INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON FILE PHOTO

BAGUIO CITY—Describing Camp John Hay as “sayang” (a lost opportunity), the new president of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) has ordered an audit of the lawsuits and legal strategies taken by his predecessor in wrestling control of the former American rest and recreation reservation from developer Robert John Sobrepeña.

Investor confidence in Camp John Hay had waned because of the contractual dispute fought here by Sobrepeña-led Camp John Hay Development Corp. (CJHDevco) and BCDA, then headed by lawyer Arnel Paciano Casanova, said Vivencio Dizon, also BCDA chief executive officer, during a news conference here on Wednesday.

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The feud, which started in 2010, should have been resolved by a Feb. 11, 2015, arbitration ruling that directed Sobrepeña to leave Camp John Hay and BCDA to return P1.4 billion representing CJHDevco’s investments.

The arbitral tribunal concluded that both the government and the developer violated the 1996 lease contract to develop more than 280 hectares of Camp John Hay.

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But Camp John Hay homeowners and business operators, who were evicted by a Baguio court that was enforcing the arbitral decision, questioned the ruling. The case is pending in the Supreme Court.

Dizon said what angered him was the difficulty of repairing bad roads and worn-out facilities inside Camp John Hay because of the case. But he said he would not compromise the government’s position in the legal battle with CJHDevco.

“I can’t accept that government cannot develop Camp John Hay despite the case. There has to be a way. I don’t know the way… That is what we are studying now,” he said.

He said the review would determine what led to some BCDA defeats in court, among them the arbitration case that cost the government P1 billion and litigation case involving a shopping mall at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City.

“The wounds have become too deep [for] the government and CJHDevco. Estafa cases have been filed. Plunder cases have been filed. Libel cases have been filed… We really need to take a step back,” Dizon said.

However, he said he was not yet ready to dialog with Sobrepeña until the review of the agency’s legal cases at Camp John Hay, as well as those involving other BCDA assets, is completed.

“The priority of BCDA should be the swift development of Camp John Hay,” he said. “While the cases remain unresolved, while a disagreement is not resolved, what happens to Camp John Hay? Nothing. It’s a sleeping asset.”

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TAGS: Baguio, BCDA, Camp John Hay, case, Robert John Sobrepeña
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