June 14, 2024

The Supreme Court has decided on a long-standing case about the operation of Camp John Hay – the recent one affirmed the arbitral ruling that rescinded the 1996 contract between the Bases Conversion and Development Authority and its developer, the Camp John Hay Development Corp.
Months earlier, the SC also affirmed the city government of Baguio may impose and collect local taxes from the operation of the Camp John Hay special economic zone.
In the recent case, the BCDA was quick to claim victory with Malacañang issuing another statement inviting potential investors into the CJHSEZ; on the imposition local taxes however, not a word was heard from the BCDA as the estate administrator.
Even worse is the seeming absence of concrete action from the city government even after decisions of the High Tribunal showed that being a party that has a stake, it has basis to reiterate its rights in accordance with the 19 conditions on the development of Camp John Hay, and other laws.
When the CJHDevCo got a favorable ruling at the Court of Appeals, it too, was quick to claim that justice was on its side.
Between these two contending parties is Baguio. As the cases dragged on for decades, the people of Baguio has never been able to declare victory for despite the obvious that it could pursue its claims as a stakeholder being the host community, its rights continue to be set aside and trampled upon – the 19 conditions, SC decisions, and other jurisprudence, notwithstanding. It is Baguio that has long been suffering from injustice.
Decades since the operation of the CJHSEZ, collectibles of the city from the lease share and local taxes has not been fully paid, and the segregation of the barangays remain contentious to this day, with the BCDA even questioning the issuance of a certificate of ancestral domain title issued by another government body, over Happy Hallow.
Apart from the purchase of the Baguio Convention Center as tangible proof that Baguio has once collected its lease share from the CJHSEZ, and BLISTT residents given priority in the hiring at the SEZ, what else? The City of Baguio should have earned more but these remain on paper.
To be able to collect what is rightfully ours, city officials should pursue our claim. Our case has merely been an exchange of letters, approval of resolutions, and meetings yet a concrete action has yet to be realized. Those in charge at City Hall should consider reexamining our strategy and if demand that agreements have to be followed.
We have been too benevolent – always careful not to ruffle the feathers of the national government, but enough is enough. With a battery of competent lawyers at City Hall, legal action may already be ripe. Let the people of Baguio benefit from what should have long been given us.