BAGUIO CITY July 13 – The State-owned Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) informed city officials that it stands to respect the 29 conditions imposed by the city government for the development of the 247-hectare John Hay Special Economic Zone (JHSEZ) as enshrined under Resolution No. 362, series of 1994 as long as it is consistent with the provisions of Republic Act (RA) 7227 or the BCDA law in order to start a good working relationship with the local government in the future undertakings inside the former American military base.
Appearing before a recent special executive-legislative meeting primarily called for the purpose of clarifying sensitive matters in relation to the state of the economic zone, lawyer Arnel Paciano Casanova, BCDA president and chief executive officer, cited the State corporation respects the conditions imposed by the city government for the development of the former military reservation and that BCDA and its subsidiary, the John Hay Management Corporation (JHMC), had been complying with most of the conditions over the past several years.
In relation to the state of the economic zone, Casanova informed city officials that over the past several years, investments in the zone grew by 200 percent from only 78 locators in 2011 to 180 established local and national businesses apart from the robust growth in employment from only 1,410 since he took over to a whooping 4,472 created jobs with 92 percent of the workers coming from the Baguio-La Trinidad-Itogon-Sablan-Tuba-Tublay (BLISTT) area.
“We assure our city officials that we will try to make ourselves available to attend to future invitations of the city in order to answer questions in relation to the state of the economic zone. We hope that our appearance before the council will be a start of a lasting partnership between the BCDA, JHMC and the city,” Casanova stressed.
Earlier, city officials were alarmed over previous statements of Casanova that BCDA will not respect the 19 conditions imposed by the city for the development of the former American military base since what governs the BCDA is RA 7227.
However, city officials reminded Casanova that it is also clear under the BCDA law that the resolution of the local government hosting the military base is needed in defining the development thrust of the national government over former military bases, thus, it is still best for both parties to closely work together in order to outline whatever future plans for the John Hay economic zone once the developer will leave the leased premises upon lawful orders in the future.
Further, local officials also requested BCDA to compel Baguio-based members of the Board of JHMC to make periodic reports to the city government on what are the current state of the economic zone so that they will be appraised on what will be happening and they will be guided on future plans.
Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan asserted the 19 conditions adopted by the city government was a product of the conduct of numerous consultations with the stakeholders in order to make sure that the rights and privileges of the people will be protected from undue practices of investors who will occupy the economic zone for a prolonged period.
Casanova assured local officials that BCDA will religiously remit the 25 percent share of the city government from the lease rentals of the economic zone as soon as the State corporation will be able to takeover the facility pursuant to the decision of the arbitral tribunal, thus, the city might be receiving more from its operations compared to the current state of the zone where the city’s supposed P850 million share was written off because of breaches of both parties on their obligations under the lease contract.
The city council is expected to extend future invitations to BCDA officials in order to further clarify various issues and concerns that were not addressed appropriately during the nearly 4-hour heated exchange of ideas among the parties concerned.
Casanova signified his intention to appear before the city council when the local legislative body will request the appearance of officials of the Sobrepeña-owned Camp John Hay Development Corporation (CJHDevCo) in order to allow him to confront him where he reportedly used the over P6 billion that he got from the investors and sub-lessees of the log homes, hotel rooms among others.
The council will schedule future special meetings in the next several months to allow the issues and concerns surrounding the development of John Hay to be appropriately answered by concerned parties so that the people of the city will be aware of what happened to the 19-year lease agreement.