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An arbitration committee has ordered Camp John Hay Development Corporation (CJHDevCo), a former US facility, to vacate Camp John Hay in Baguio City. The committee also ordered CJHDevCo to return the 690-hectare property to the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), a government agency tasked to develop the camp.

A bit of history

Camp John Hay was originally developed as a rest and recreation facility for employees of the US military and Department of Defense. It was turned over to the Philippine government on July 1, 1991, which was initially administered by the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA).

Ever since, Camp John Hay has caused several conflicts in Baguio City.

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese Imperial Army warplanes were drawn to the camp. After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, they stationed at Camp John Hay, igniting the World War II. It was bombed by American forces who tried to drive the Japanese military out of the camp.

In 2011, another war broke out in Baguio because of a dispute between the Camp John Hay developer and the government administrator.

Arbitration results

A decision dated February 11, 2015 from the arbitration committee, made up of Mario E. Valderrama, Teodoro Kalawa IV and Rogelio C. Nicandro, called an orderly transition of Camp John Hay, the country’s prime resort development.

BCDA President and Chief Executive Officer Arnel Paciano D. Casanova said, “We see this as a victory for [the] government. Finally it will be returned and it can now be developed for the benefit of the public” on February 13.

However, the government announced that they have no plans to close down Camp John Hay or the businesses insider the establishment. This announcement was made to pacify investors who expressed concerns “over the possibility of having their businesses disrupted… especially going into the peak season” due to the ongoing conflict between BCDA and CJHDevCo.

John Hay Management Corporation vice president and chief operating officer Michelle Regala-Niebres was quoted saying, “If there will be any disruption, it will definitely not come from us… in fact, we have been talking to Beneco and other utility service providers to ensure that there will be no disruption.”

Although a ruling was already made, CJHDevCo chairman Robert John Sobrepena said the BCDA must first pay CJHDevCo Php1.42 billion in rentals paid over a decade before the government could take over the camp. The original agreement between John Hay developers and the state-run firm was only for a 25-year lease, but it had sold 50-year leases to its investors. T

However, BCDA claimed that the CJHDevCo has not paid them its lease rentals for quite some time, making their arrears balloon to over Php3.4 billion, 25% of that amount should have paid to the City of Baguio.

CJHDevCo’s statement

Chairman Sobrepena said that it is not true that CJHDevCo owe over Php3 billion to BCDA. Thus, they are happy with PRDCI’s decision to direct BCDA into paying the John Hay developers Php1.42 billion in damages instead.

The chairman and the rest of CJHDevCo expressed their concern about the trees in John Hay, which they have taken care of for so long now. Luckily, the arbitral panel granted their wish for a rescission for damages. Still, they are hoping that the over 400,000 trees in the camp will be preserved and developmental footprints reduced.