CJHDevco wanted to cut 1,033 trees in John Hay, rescinded contract when BCDA stood firm to uphold environmental laws
Posted: February 10, 2012 | Category: Freeport And Ecozones
“BCDA will not, in any way, allow any lessee or locator within our economic zones to violate environmental laws.”
This was the statement of Arnel Paciano Casanova, president and chief executive officer of the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA), amid reports that the Sobrepena-led lessee, Camp John Hay Development Corporation (CJHDevco) had plans to cut and earthball 1,033 trees in the John Hay Special Economic Zone (JHSEZ).
The demand letter that CJHDevco sent to BCDA last December shows that the CJHDevCo wanted government to approve all their permits pending with the One-Stop Action Center (OSAC). Ten of these permits are for tree-cutting and earthballing that will affect 1,033 trees in John Hay.
BCDA said that only the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is the only government agency authorized to issue tree-cutting and earthballing permits.
“We want to comply with environmental laws,” Casanova said, “However, CJHDevco wanted us to exceed our authority by demanding that we approve their pending tree-cutting permits. When we did not give in to their demands, which may expose us to legal liabilities, they unilaterally rescinded the contract and are now claiming an atrocious amount of P14.4 billion from government.”
“We cannot be faulted for adhering to the rule of law. Gone are the days of impunity. We have a government now that stands for integrity and the rule of law, particularly laws that protect our environment,” Casanova said.
Casanova emphasized that it is CJHDevco who owes government P3.024 billion, and has used the pending permits at the OSAC as excuse to evade their ballooning obligations.
“What they wanted us to do may be illegal,” Casanova pointed out. “Now their flimsy excuse is backfiring on them.”
Recently, the DENR issued a cease and desist order for the cutting of trees inside the JHSEZ. The order is based on Executive Order No. 23 issued by President Benigno S. Aquino III on the moratorium on cutting and harvesting naturally grown trees since John Hay contains one of the biggest remaining pine forests in Baguio.
The John Hay Management Corporation (JHMC), BCDA’s estate manager in the JHSEZ, reassured the public that DENR issued no permits for tree-cutting and earthballing despite CJHDevco’s demands.
CJHDevco’s demand letter shows that the lessee required BCDA to “cause the approval of all the applications currently pending and overdue and deliver to CJHDevco within the same period, all corresponding permits, licenses and certificates covered.”
CJHDevco enumerated fifteen permits pending with the One-Stop Action Center (OSAC). Of these fifteen, ten were for tree-cutting and earthballing.
According to OSAC records, a total of 1,033 trees will be affected if CJHDevco’s pending permits were approved. Of these, 520 trees will be cut and 513 will be earth-balled.
Except for the tree-cutting permits, the OSAC has issued a total of 89 permits in 2011. Of these 89 permits, 59 were issued to CJHDevCo and its sub-lessees. Ayala Land Inc. and other JHMC locators did not have any problems in acquiring their permits within the 30-day period.