Congressional probe on John Hay row welcomed

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BAGUIO CITY March 31 – The state-owned Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) and the Sobrepeña-owned Camp John Hay Development Corporation (CJHDevCO)  said they welcome and look forward to the congressional investigation by the House and Senate  on Camp John Hay following a decision by the Philippine Dispute Resolution Center Inc. on the mutual restitution of the original and revised agreements covering the privatization of the 247-hectare John Hay Special Economic Zone (JHSEZ).

The Makati-based PDRCI ordered the developer to return to BCDA the government property in tenantable situation but it declared as invalid the demand of BCDA for the developer to pay the former some P3.5 billion in accumulated lease rentals.

In the same PDRCI decision, the BCDA is to return P1.42 billion in lease payments to the CJHDevCo.

“We have nothing to hide. In fact, our best defence is truth and transparency,” BCDA President Arnel Paciano D. Casanova said.

He said the congressional investigation will allow the BCDA to  give its side of the story especially the separate opinion  penned by PDRCI Arbitrator Teodoro Kalaw IV  who stated that CJHDevCo should pay BCDA P2.4-B because CJHDevCo has expressly acknowledged owing BCDA  P2.4-B at the time of the execution of the 2008 Restructured Memorandum of Agreement.

Casanova said he looks forward to the congressional investigation because it will compel the Sobrepeña-led CJHDevCo to submit for scrutiny their financial records and other pertinent documents that the BCDA has constantly requested but to no avail.

“A congressional investigation will definitely shed light on why and how our government is being deceived by a supposed private business partner in the development of John Hay,” Casanova said.  “The public deserves nothing less than the truth,” he added.

He said the congressional investigation would also expose how CJHDevCo has been misleading the buyers, locators and sub-lessees of Camp John Hay by giving them wrong information so that the buyers will not file cases against them.

He cited various newspaper advertisements by CJHDevCo misinforming the buyers of the legality of their 50-year lease hold rights.

BCDA head of legal services lawyer Peter Paul Andrew T. Flores said the lease agreement undertaken by lessor BCDA and lessee CJHDevCo for Camp John Hay states that “Unless sooner terminated for reasons specified in this Agreement, this Agreement shall have a term of twenty-five (25) years, renewable for another twenty-five (25) years under the same terms and conditions at the option of the LESSEE, effective upon the signing of this Agreement. Within ninety (90) days immediately prior to the expiration of the 25-year period, the LESSEE shall manifest its desire to renew the lease.”

Flores reiterated that the lease period of CJHDevCo is 25 years, renewable for another 25, as provided under Art. XIII Sec. 3 of the 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, and not a 50-year straight lease. “The problem is, the sub-lessees and unit owners may have already paid CJHDevCo for 50 years.” Flores said.

Casanova also said that the congressional probe will also show how sincere the BCDA is to protect the rights and interest of the buyers, sub-lessees and locators.

Earlier, Casanova said the last thing BCDA wants to happen is for their contracts to be a worthless piece of paper like what happened with the College Assurance Plan (CAP).” Casanova said.

Casanova urged the buyers, sub-locators, hotel unit owners and sub-lessees to run after the CJHDevCo. He said that the only way for the CJHDevCo’s victims to recover their investments and protect their interests is to lay claim to the P1.42-B.

House Resolution 1936 authored by Quezon City representative Winston Castelo (LP, 2nd district) seeks a congressional probe into the management and operations of Camp John Hay.

For his part, Alfredo Yñiguez, executive vice president and chief operating officer of CJHDevCo, said the developer also welcomed the fact to face confrontation with their BCDA counterparts in either the House or the Senate, saying that BCDA turned its back to the congressional inquiry supposed to be called by the House committee on local governments sometime in 2011.

“We have always been ready to explain our side even in front of our lawmakers. We are not hiding from any investigation,” Yñiguez stressed.

According to him, the developer had always wanted to talk things over with the BCDA but it seems its officials have already made up their minds and have closed their doors on them, saying that BCDA is now harassing sub-locators to favour their illegal actions against them done prior to the rendering of the judicial confirmation of the decision of the arbitration tribunal.

Both parties have recently filed their separate petitions before the city’s Regional Trial Court (RTC) to render the required judicial confirmation on the arbitration tribunal ruling and issue the writ of execution for both parties to comply with their obligations under the 280-page PDRCI ruling.

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