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November 8, 2016

CAMP JOHN HAY: WHERE WE CAN STILL EXPERIENCE THE OLD BAGUIO

20th Anniversary of CJH Development Corporation
Speech Delivered by Rep. Mark O. Go
November 5, 2016

Mayor Morris Domogan, Mr. Robert Sobrepeña, members of the board of John Hay Development Corporation, locators, friends, ladies and gentlemen, good evening.

Allow me to thank Mr. Robert Sobrepeña for inviting me this evening to be part of this auspicious 20th anniversary celebration of the founding of Camp John Hay Development Corporation and the lease of the most beautiful piece of land of Baguio city, Camp John Hay. Indeed, I am extremely honored to be here today and certainly proud of being a stakeholder of Camp John Hay.

In 1899, an American Zoologist by the name of Dr. Dean Worcester set out to investigate a rumored “Shangri-la” north of Manila. Despite the hardships, Dr. Worcester embarked on the long and arduous journey. When he was somewhere in the vicinity of what is now known as Sablan, he was already doubtful because as he described it, the temperature was still “steaming hot”. The paradise described to him by the Spanish explorers who came before was cool and invigorating. But he continued to trek.

Then he found it. He recalled “We were literally dumbfounded when within a space of a hundred yards we suddenly left the tropics behind us and came out into a wonderful region of pine parks.”

Not so long ago, while still a young student at the University of the Philippines, I knew I was already near the city when I see passengers opening the windows in the bus to let the pine-scented air in. “Amoy pinipig”. When you arrive at night, you step out of the already air- conditioned bus to find that it is cooler outside. People know each other by face, they greet each other “inya ngay?” “good morning” or “good afternoon” or “good evening”.

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That was the Baguio that we knew.

Camp John Hay is the last place where we can still experience that old Baguio. As soon as you enter John Hay, it is as if you have been transported to another place in another time. While we don’t smell that distinct vanilla scent when the airbase was still here, it is undeniable that the air is fresher, and the temperature is cooler. The sidewalks are still manicured and there is not a corner that would not look good in a picture. You feel that it is safe to roll the windows down to let the air in your car. You drive slower to appreciate the greenery. You breathe deeper to soak everything in.

John Hay is not only a beautiful place to go to, it is also vital component of the city. The forest cover of Camp John Hay alone account for about half of the forest cover of the entire city.

Needless to say, the protection of this mini Shangri-la is of paramount concern. On its 20th year of developing a 247-hectare portion of the former military base, CJHDevCo has indeed contributed to the collective effort of preserving this natural heritage.

In this fast-paced times, where industrialization is still viewed as the “way to go”, nature diminishes as capital increases. We implore our gracious hosts to endure with their vision of creating a world-class eco-friendly and family-oriented tourist destination when they first tendered their bid in 1996.

Sustainable Development has been used as a catch phrase, an “abracadabra” for some quarters to obtain funding, a cliché. I urge Camp John Hay Development Corporation to sustain a moral high ground and revive its vision for the leased area. The Brundlant Report of the United Nations in 1987, which proposed a global agenda for change, defined Sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

When we go up to Baguio, do we still smell that distinct aroma that tells us we are almost home? The development of Baguio in general has made its former glory a nostalgia. But it is never too late. We can still do something.

Two decades later, we still have a Camp John Hay. Our celebration today is also a good reminder for all of us. We are here not only for ourselves, we must do something for the future.

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My vision for Baguio is the vision of everyone. We want our old Baguio City back! My proposal of creating a BLISTT would draw out activities to other areas surrounding the city. House Bill
1554, which I authored, seeks to decongest the city of Baguio in order for its natural environment to recover. We have heard about how the City has a carrying capacity and how it might have been exceeded already. Like a tired farmland, its soil needs to rest also. I am for sustainable development. This is not far from the vision of CJHDC which also seeks to support the communities surrounding John Hay.

Aldo Leopold, a famous American Forester once said “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

Camp John Hay is ours, it belongs to our children and their children and those that will follow. If we sustain this view, there is no reason why we cannot plan to preserve and protect it.

I hope that the masterplan for the remaining years of the lease would account not only for the duration of the stay of the corporation but would lay a foundation that will leave a legacy for the future generations to enjoy. We may not be able to recover the old Baguio as we have known it but Camp John Hay is still here and it is still worth saving.

The era of John Hay’s turnover is as old as CJHDevCo. The Company has grown with it, its survival was drawn from the very life of John Hay. It is a synergy, a partnership. Take care of it. Nurture it.

This is John Hay, this is Baguio. This is ours. Maraming salamat po!

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