On the state of affairs at Camp John Hay Part II

Virtues don’t come through simply thinking about them.  You have to exercise them.

– Aristotle

The mandates of the Constitution and other laws, the Philippines’ for that matter, are basically those virtues that ought to govern the land.  In turn, citizens, whether they be civilians or public officials, become virtuous by exercising these virtues. Otherwise, lawlessness and chaos prevail.

This unfortunately is the case at Camp John Hay in as far as the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) as led by it’s Chair is concerned.  From day one of it’s Build-Operate-Transfer contract with the winning private developer, CJH DevCo, BCDA has not let up it’s harassment of the developer.  Even when the case between them has been finally decided in the latter part of 2014 via the PDRCI, the BCDA had to be the first to instigate a crossfire by putting up signages that read “BCDA Wins” and more recently pay for whole page ads “informing” the general public that it has among others won a notice of eviction against “CJH DevCo and all persons claiming rights under them”.  Not content with just the notice, BCDA included in the ad, in teeny font, the names of private individuals owning property in the Camp as well as third party entities such as the Camp John Hay Golf Club which it mentioned has 1100 members etc.  It has also publicly urged third party-locators in the Camp to go after DevCo who it said owed them financially.

What’s wrong with this scenario?

  • Overall, a government agency, BCDA in this case, is obviously acting the bully.  The Camp is like the Spratlys and the BCDA has been acting like China.  How could the Philippine Government take the higher ground with the Chinese Government when within the country it is itself demonstrating the very behavior and actions it berates the Chinese Government for?  The contract between BCDA and CJH DevCo was signed in the context of PPP specifically the B-O-T scheme.  It was not something that the developer wrestled or wangled out of BCDA and as such the treatment it had and continues to receive from BCDA in as far as Camp development is concerned is unwarranted and clearly against public policy.

Specifically:

  • Property rights.  The actions of BCDA in it’s “take over” of the Camp mirror the state of this country’s property rights which is that these continue to be left open to undesired elements, meaning there’s persistent failure to enforce laws and policies protecting property rights holders, be they small or large owners.  Private property rights are human rights in that individuals have the exclusive right to the rent (services) of the property, to determine it’s use, and to security of proprietorship.  Property rights is a component of the Rule of Law category in the Index of Economic Freedom.  This year, Philippines scored 30.0 (repressed, and is it any consolation that it’s the same as that with Mongolia’s) on the component, unchanged since 2004.

Moreover, Presidential Proclamation 420 series 1994 Section 2 on the Governing Body of the John Hay Special Economic Zone states

Pursuant to Section 15 of Republic Act No. 7227, the Bases Conversion and Development Authority is hereby established as the governing body of the John Hay Special Economic Zone and, as such, authorized to determine the utilization and disposition of the lands comprising it, subject to private rights, if any, and in consultation and coordination with the City Government of Baguio after consultation with its inhabitants…

So when the legislator and enforcer of the law go around posting on private properties notices of eviction without compelling and clear justification and due process, it’s like my god has the country embraced Communism?  Yes, a democratic government has the right of eminent domain but this provision is laid down in the context of conflicts between private and more compelling public use of a piece of land (e.g. expansion of roads) and this comes with just compensation to the owner.  Is there a plan to build a public property on the Camp’s private lots that received eviction notices?  If so, what is this public property which so warrants eviction of the private property rights holders’ and possibly bulldozing of their properties?  I doubt that BCDA has such a plan.  In fact, BCDA has begun putting out ads for public bidding of Camp property that will be developed into lucrative businesses and residences to be managed by BCDA’s JHMC. This brings me to the second point.

  • Management and development of estates.  The Philippine Government was right to bid out the Camp under the PPP (B-O-T scheme) arrangement, because it has been established ages ago, via the study of economics, that government is inefficient in managing certain goods and services.  This is especially so for Philippines.  Let’s start with a simple infrastructure, the waiting shed.  It’s government/public property, but look at the state of waiting sheds all over the country.  They’re vandalized, dirty, paint peeling off, near condemned.  Another, the public market.  I won’t go into that here as the infrastructure’s been written about on this blog several times.  Yet another, the public park.  I won’t also mention that here as Burnham Park in Baguio City has been mentioned a lot of times on this blog and on the other (thecolorofred) and it’s not a rosy picture.  And still another, DOT’s resorts all over the country that have been neglected over the years.  My belief is that when somebody can’t be trusted with a small thing s/he can’t ever be with a bigger thing.

Camp John Hay is the last remaining forest within Baguio City hence it’s development should proceed with care so to speak.  It’s development should take into account the impacts to the wider community of Baguio City and it’s future generations.  DevCo has a development masterplan for the Camp which was approved by the government and so far environmental integrity has been maintained.  Recently, it has been circulating that BCDA will bid out a commercial infrastructure along the Camp’s Sheridan Drive.  Is this even in the approved master plan of the Camp?  If not, the Camp is thus subject to government’s lack of respect for continuity and failure to keep it’s promise/contract provisions.  The point here is, the Philippine Government has the unfortunate track record of doing things on tracts of land (e.g. Baguio City Hall’s plan to redevelop Melvin Jones into a parking area?!?!) that don’t necessarily go through the due process of planning, design, and approval.

Government, because it is fed by people’s taxes, doesn’t or takes much longer before it feels the pinch hence is not compelled to act urgently on reforms.  On the other hand, economics (price) will eventually put to right businesses that initially refuse to heed environmental management because such behavior ends up negatively impacting on their bottomline.

So if not BCDA/JHMC to develop the Camp then who?  Now apparently it won’t be DevCo but then again if not DevCo, who?  Another private developer?  Who, on BCDA’s books, is the rightful developer?  The books will say it is DevCo.  And so this merry go ’round of a story goes back to the first bullet statement above.

– to be continued –

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