Issue of July 27, 2014
     
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OPINION
 

62nd Courier Anniversary Issue
 
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We welcome your letters and opinions. Kindly limit your letters to a page, preferably typewritten and doublespaced. However, for your letters to be considered for publication, it is essential that all letters must be SIGNED above your PRINTED NAME (you may request your name to be withheld or substituted with your pen name) and must include your ADDRESS and PHONE NUMBER. Letters and emails deficient in any of the above requisites will not be entertained. Please be guided accordingly. Thank you.
 
Statement in reply to the published open letter of BCDA
NICASIO M. ALIPING, JR., representative, Lone District of Baguio, and MAURICIO G. DOMOGAN, mayor, Baguio City

Published on the July 20 issue of the Baguio Midland Courier was an open letter of Bases Conversion Development Authority President and CEO Arnel Casanova to us and the City Government of Baguio.

For some facts, assertions, and insinuations, we are compelled to respond.

Casanova claims that BCDA is a friend. While it is uncommon for friends to take the media as the first venue in ventilating and clarifying significant concerns, we welcome the gesture, not only as a staunch advocate of transparency but more importantly for the public and our beloved constituents to be provided the facts to aid them understand the issues and even controversies whirling in the air.

1. Yes, BCDA is a friend. We never perceive BCDA as an enemy. We always consider BCDA as a partner in realizing the development of Camp John Hay.

Unfortunately, the way the present officials of BCDA are treating the city does not represent and speak well of the real definition of the word “friend” for some underlying reasons which are enumerated here.

2. Yes, the City has received more than P256 million from BCDA as its share from the lease rentals of John Hay pursuant to Condition 10 of the 19 Conditions as embodied in Resolution 362, s. 1994. Most of these amounts, if not all, were received by the City of Baguio from BCDA when it was managed by its previous officials and not its present officials headed by Casanova.

Unfortunately, BCDA did not remit the entire share of the city from what BCDA collected from the lease rentals of John Hay.

3. Yes, we are aware of the dispute between the BCDA and Camp John Hay Development Corporation. That is why we had strongly suggested to BCDA through Casanova and John Hay Management Corporation President Jamie Agbayani and JHMC Board of Directors Chair Sylvestre Afable for the BCDA, CJHDevCo, and the city to sit down in the negotiating table and audit/review the provisions of the agreement between BCDA and CJHDevCo to find out what provisions are not implemented, who among the parties did not implement the same, and quantify the money value of the non-implemented provisions, if any, so that at the end of the day, we will know the obligations of each of the parties. We made such strong suggestion because CJHDevCo conveyed to us that they are willing to discuss a possible settlement.

Unfortunately, our suggestion was denied by BCDA and JHMC. Hence, the issue went into an arbitration case with the Philippine Dispute Resolution Center, Inc.

4. Yes, the development of John Hay is helping the Cordillera particularly the City of Baguio in the area of tourism, revenue, and job generation, but we should have generated more revenues, increased tourist arrivals, and created employment opportunities had the dispute between the BCDA and CJHDevCo been settled amicably. The settlement would in turn also enable us to focus on the unfinished developments of the said leased area.

Unfortunately, after 18 years, from 1996 when the lease agreement was signed and because of what is happening now, like the pending cases in court and the PDRCI, the development is delayed. It appears that to this day, we have not yet reached 30 percent of the supposed entire development. Some of the unfinished projects are the Cordillera Theme Park, Forest Hill Cabins, Scout Hill, Sneider Building, Eco Village Commercial Park, 2nd Phase of Camp John Hay Suites, and the Mile-Hi Town Center. Undoubtedly, the delay brings the public, the city, the region, and even the country at a losing end.

5. Yes, the people of Baguio deserve a leadership that will put their interest ahead at all times. Leaders who will fight for and not succumb to unfair treatment like the utter disregard of some of the 19 conditions for the development of Camp John Hay as embodied in Resolution 362, s. 1994. Like what we are doing.

For despite the appeals for compliance we have issued over the years, we have yet to see the fulfillment of these conditions and the delivery of the promised benefits that could have propelled the city’s further development. Worse, we have noted some blatant disregard and disrespect of some of these terms, to wit:

a. It is clear that under Condition 1, building and other permits shall be secured from the city’s building officials for the construction of vertical structures within the John Hay Economic Zone. This is not followed now by BCDA and JHMC. In fact, BCDA and JHMC went to the extent of saying that they will not recognize the occupancy permit issued by the building officials over the Forest Lodge.

It is difficult to understand and rather ironic for BCDA to state that they want to collect more revenues, attract more tourists, and generate more employment for the city yet they refuse to recognize the occupancy permit that was issued by the city’s building official for the operation of the Forest Lodge which will surely generate more revenues, attract tourists, and create employment for the city.

b. Eighteen years from the signing of the lease agreement in 1996, BCDA has not yet complied with Condition 3 which states, “The BCDA shall ensure, in coordination with the Baguio Water District that additional water supply for use in the Zone’s overall operations, including the various concessionaires and their clientele, shall be sourced outside the City of Baguio. Consequently, the BCDA shall make certain that in no way shall water use within the zone deplete or minimize the water supply of the city.”

Strangely, in wanton violation of this condition, BCDA applied for permit with the National Water Resources Board covering springs which for the longest time have been the source of drinking water of Happy Hallow, Greenwater, and Hillside barangays. BCDA made the application without even taking the courtesy of consulting with the people of these barangays.

BCDA’s application, if granted, will surely deplete the supply of drinking/potable water for the said three barangays.

c. Locators within the lease premises have been securing their business permits from and paying their business taxes to the city government.

Unfortunately, for the first time in 2009, BCDA filed a civil case for prohibition with prayer for issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction against the city government to prevent it from collecting business taxes as well as in closing down of business establishments which fail to secure business permits.

Fortunately, BCDA lost in the case. It, however, appealed the decision of the Regional Trial Court to the Supreme Court where it is pending.

BCDA and JHMC continue to prevent the city to implement its Tax Ordinance for the business establishments in the said lease premises to secure permits from and pay business taxes to the city government.

Recent records of the Licensing Division show that out of 65 establishments which were inspected, only 30 have business permits. The inspectors from the Licensing Division were not able to complete inspections of other concessionaires as they were prevented by the JHMC.

BCDA claims to be our partner. Should a partner then tie our hands in enforcing and implementing our laws and tax ordinances?

d. Also, for 18 years, despite series of appeals for compliance, the BCDA did not yet comply with Condition 14 which states, “The BCDA shall exclude all affected barangays from the John Hay reservation.”

It appears that BCDA and JHMC do not like to carry out said condition as previously agreed for them to continue to exercise authority and jurisdiction over these areas in the 13 barangays. This is exemplified by what BCDA had done in the school site at Hillside barangay and Laurel Elementary School at Dagsian barangay, and as it continues to prohibit the survey of the identified school sites within the Baguio Country Club barangay located outside the fence of Camp John hay.

e. BCDA has not yet remitted to the city government full 25 percent share from the lease rentals of leased premises that it had collected. Likewise, BCDA has not remitted any single centavo of the city’s 25 percent share from Ayala Company operating the Ayala Techno Hub which, as per JHMC president’s report, expanded its business processing outsourcing facilities and retail establishments resulting in a 6.7 percent increase in the JHSEZ locators.

The 25 percent share in question, the exact amount of which probably only BCDA and the heavens know, if not staggering could be very significant to realize what Casanova has in his open letter stated, “In other words, BCDA is in active pursuit of public funds, a portion of which should and could be used for the further development of the region, that is, the delivery of basic services and maintenance and construction of new infrastructure.”

Also, information received alleged that BCDA amended its lease contract with the Ayala Company and extended the term for 75 years without notifying the city government which is a clear violation of Condition 16, which states that, “The BCDA shall effect the transfer of ownership of the land and its built-up and improved structures within the zone from the BCDA to the Baguio City government upon the expiration of the land-lease agreement bet-ween the BCDA and its designated developer in accordance with the policy and procedures provided by law.”

In view of the aforementioned, we appeal to BCDA and JHMC to please rectify the preceding violations and comply with the foregoing conditions if they are really sincere and true to what they claim, and what we want to believe, that BCDA is our partner in the development of Camp John Hay in particular as well as the development of Baguio and the BLISTT area in general.
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:: Recall him
I am a senior citizen who had been a resident of Baguio City since birth.
 

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