February 24, 2024

■  Jane B. Cadalig 

The city council has summoned officials of the Bases Conversion Development Authority and other government and city officials to shed light on the concern of Scout Barrio residents on the closed school in their barangay.

Members of the Scout Barrio Neighborhood Association have asked the city council to help them clarify matters regarding the supposed plan of the BCDA to have the closed John Hay Elementary School (JHES) be leased to a private institution that intends to run the same structure as a school.

Norma Esguerra, vice president of the homeowner’s association, said they recently learned that a private school intends to lease the JHES.  

The JHES was closed in January 2020, following a failure by the school to submit an occupancy permit, which was then being asked by the Department of Education.

Because the community residents who were then running the JHES could not secure the permit from the BCDA, they asked for the voluntary closure of the school, an action that was endorsed by the DepEd-Baguio Schools Division to the regional office.

JHES Principal Daisy San Andres told the council they had no choice at the time but to voluntarily close the school because they could not secure from the BCDA the permit that was being asked by DepEd.

She said they were surprised that at the time BCDA informed the residents about its intention to reclaim the open spaces in the barangay, DepEd suddenly asked the JHES management to submit a document that was not usually asked from the school.

DepEd-Baguio Education Program Specialist Jocelyn Coldeg said the request to close the school came from the community and they merely endorsed such to the regional office, which then issued a certification that it does not object to the closure of the JHES.

She said the occupancy permit is one of the requirements needed to validate the recognition of JHES.

San Andres said after the school closed, they went over their records and found that the occupancy permit was never among the requirements that DepEd asked from the management of the school.

“Since we took over the school, we did not see occupancy permit as one of the requirements DepEd asked for use to renew our recognition, which is why we are wondering why DepEd asked for it when BCDA started claiming the open spaces in our barangay,” she said.

San Andres said they want to be clarified about the development that a private school wants to lease the JHES because they would still want to be the one to manage the school, which they reluctantly let go after the DepEd’s notice of closure was issued in January 2020.  

Councilor Peter Fianza said with what happened, BCDA took advantage of the inability of JHES to produce the occupancy permit DepEd was asking from JHES.

He moved that the council tackle the issue in another session, adding that if BCDA can make its way to claim institutional areas like school in Scout Barrio, then it can also claim the other open spaces and do the same in the other barangays that are yet to be segregated from the Camp John Hay reservation.

He said under the agreement on the implementation of the executive order that segregated Scout Barrio as a socialized housing site, the BCDA is supposed to turn over open spaces and areas where schools, church, barangay halls, and roads to the national government and in the case of Baguio, to the city government.

The council agreed to invite in its succeeding sessions BCDA, officials of the 13 barangays that are due for segregation, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the City Mayor’s Office, and Rep. Mark Go to discuss the Scout Barrio school concern and other issues related to BCDA and segregation.