BAGUIO CITY – Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) RECENTLY ordered the dismantling and demolition of a squatter colony within the John Hay Special Economic Zone (JHSEZ).
Reportedly erected by Warbird Security and Investigation Agency (Warbird), the security agency of lessee Camp John Hay Development Corporation (CJHDevco), these violate the National Building Code, according to a BCDA press statement.
BCDA President and Chief Executive Atty. Arnel Paciano Casanova said CJHDevco and Warbird have stealthily constructed run-down shanties within the economic zone.
These “became make-shift housing facilities for security guards including their families and farm house for domesticated animals like roosters and dogs,” said Casanova.
“Erecting such houses inside JHSEZ is illegal,” Casanova said, adding that the security guards secretly sconstructed the structures, dwelling places, dog cages and chicken farmhouses without BCDA consent.
BCDA is the government corporate body, which owns and administers the JHSEZ in Baguio City. It is currently leased by CJHDevco for a 25-year period. Warbird, the security agency owned by the Sobrepena group, is the security provider of CJHDevco’s leased area in the JHSEZ.
Labeling the illegal structures as an “eyesore,” Casanova said those who constructed the shanties and illegal structures can be considered professional squatters as defined by the Urban Housing and Development Act (UDHA) since they are occupying government property without the express consent of the owner and administrator, the BCDA, and yet they have sufficient income for legitimate housing.
Casanova said BCDA would deploy security guards in the areas of JHSEZ to prevent surreptitious incursion of professional squatters and syndicates and would eventually demolish such structures.
John Hay Management Corporation (JHMC), BCDA’s implementing arm at the JHSEZ, discovered the existence of the questioned structures which it said “ looked like a slum area” near the Sewerage Treatment Plant 6 (STP6).
JHMC issued to CJHDevco and Warbird notices of violations for the unauthorized and illegal construction of the shanties. JHMC notified CJHDevco through several letters in January informing them of their violation, specifically, Section 301 of the National Building Code (or PD1096), which states that “no person, firm or corporation, including agency or instrumentality of the government shall erect, construct, alter, repair, move, convert or demolish any building or structure, or cause the same to be done without first obtaining a building permit.”
The last notice issued to CJHDevco included a stern warning that sanctions will be imposed to CJHDevco’s for not demolishing the said illegal structures.
“CJHDevco has allowed, consented and countenanced professional squatting on government property on top of the fact that it has defaulted its financial obligations to the government,” Casanova said, pointing out that CJHDevco is a delinquent lessee who owes the government around P3 billion in unpaid lease rentals.
“To forestall government’s efforts to collect their debts, CJHDevco unilaterally rescinded the 2008 Restructuring Memorandum of agreement (RMOA) and filed for arbitration, claiming an absurd amount of P14.4 billion,” Cassanova said.
Housing structures for the security agency personnel were not part of the Master Development Plan approved in the 2008 Restructuring Memorandum of Agreement (RMOA) between BCDA and CJHDevco, BCDA said. # Lyn V. Ramo