LOCATORS AND businesses want the government to make the transition inside Camp John Hay in Baguio City as orderly as possible and for the evicted private developer to respect the court’s decision.
This is the general sentiment of business people in this special economic zone, according to the head of the John Hay Business Club (JHBC).
Ma. Teresa Pantaleon, president of the JHBC, said her group wants the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) to ensure an orderly transition and for the Camp John Hay Development Corporation (CJHDevco) to respect the court order.
JHBC members include hotels like Manor and Le Monet, the Ayala Technohub, homeowners, service providers, and several commercial establishments.
“The court’s notice is good for everyone to move forward but we want normalcy and a peaceful transition,” Pantaleon said.
On April 20 the Office of the Ex-Officio Sheriff of the First Judicial Region, Branch 6 of the Regional Trial Court in Baguio City served a notice against CJHDevCo and “all persons claiming rights under them” to vacate the premises of Camp John Hay.
The Notice to Vacate also ordered CJHDevCo to promptly deliver the leased property, inclusive of all new constructions and permanent improvements, to the BCDA within 30 days upon receipt of the said notice.
The notice also read: “Failure on your part to voluntarily vacate the subject premises within the given period, the Office of the City Sheriff will enforce the Writ of Execution in accordance with the rules prescribed by law.”
“John Hay has so much potential and (development efforts) will be better without CJHDevco,” Pantaleon said.
The 42-year old business and civic leader cited the unfortunate experience of the BCDA with CJHDevco adding that if only government had the right business partners to deal with, “John Hay would have been a much better place (for investments) than it is right now.”
Pantaleon said the business club will respect the decision of the court as she urged “well-meaning CJHDevco officials to just respect the court order.”
The court’s notice of eviction is expected to be a prelude to finally close the long-running legal tussle between CJHDevCo and the BCDA.
“It is important that we are united and we want a smooth transition,” Pantaleon said and cited that some sublessees who entered into original contracts with the departing CJHDevco might be facing legal problems.
“I am sure JHMC (John Hay Management Corporation) will take care of them,” Pantaleon said.
JHMC is a subsidiary of the BCDA and is tasked to oversee the development of the former US military camp in Baguio City.
A number of sublessees and sublocators were reportedly duped by CJHDevco to enter into lease contracts for 50 years in spite of the latter’s lease agreement with the BCDA for only 25 years.
The BCDA claimed that CJHDevco failed to disclose these transactions in spite of the government’s repeated demand for transparency.
Earlier, the BCDA through its president and CEO Arnel Paciano Casanova said that the sublessees are part of the Notice to Vacate and, therefore, CJHDevCo should be held liable to these sublessees for damages.
“Sublessees should lay claim to the P1.4 billion that BCDA will be returning to CJHDevCo as part of the Writ of Execution,” Casanova said.
Pantaleon, on the other hand, said unlike commercial establishments with yearly contracts, most of those affected by contracts tainted with irregularities are hotel residents or homeowners or buyers of log homes.
“Tens of millions of hard earned money by some of these buyers were invested for their vacation place or retirement home,” Pantaleon said and expressed concern that some of these buyers who originally dealt with CJHDevco will be affected by the eviction notice.
“The JHMC Help Desk is also a good thing,” she said referring to the government’s support center inside Camp John Hay for sublocators and sublessees which will eventually demand compensation from CJHDevco for the unfinished portion of their contracts.
Pantaleon, who owns a restaurant along John Hay’s commercial complex, added the club has commissioned the services of third party lawyers to help club members who might be facing legal issues.
According to Pantaleon, JHMC is set to call the next quarterly meeting of all John Hay locators within the month to discuss, among other issues, the court’s recent eviction notice to CJHDevco.
“JHMC has been very transparent, but with CJHDevco, we never had any meetings,” Pantaleon said.
She added that the club is looking for more family-oriented businesses to enter John Hay. “We wish to have more commercial areas developed,” she said adding that a skating rink, a batting range, bowling alleys, and additional amusement parks are some of the proposed projects with JHMC.
“We’d like to involve the people of Baguio also and to revive the old time when Americans maintained sports and recreation facilities,” she added.
Pantaleon said the club’s successful transport mobility project inside John Hay, where cabs are readily available to the commuting public for increased number of visits, paved the way for their support to the city-based Walk Happy Baguio in which a huge parking terminal is allocated for motorists to encourage walking around the city and to lessen noise and air pollution.
The group is also working for the issuance of a Camp-wide Discount Card to encourage more tourists to visit John Hay’s commercial areas.
The business club is confident that in the wake of CJHDevco’s eviction, more locators will come and comfortably deal with government without the unnecessary strain of a legal dispute.
“We should be positive,” Pantaleon said. “Let us believe and unite to strengthen the business community of Camp John Hay,” she added.
Meanwhile, the BCDA on April 17 said it has deposited the P1.42 billion refund for the evicted CJHDevco at the Development Bank of the Philippines and constituted it as escrow funds in favor of the Baguio RTC Branch 6.