EVER WONDERED why Vice-President Jejomar Binay has kept a 20-year hold on the presidency of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines (BSP)?
Yes, there’s the political advantage of being at the helm of a two-million-member organization. But there could be more to it than that.
A recent report by a major daily said, “Vice-President Jejomar Binay, through his allies in Congress, allegedly has made several attempts to acquire control of the 57.7-hectare lot on Mt. Makiling that the Boy Scouts of the Philippines (BSP) is leasing from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB).”
Cited in the newspaper report were House Bill 3005 filed in 2001, HB 4765 in 2005, and most recently HB 6352, filed by Binay’s daughter in 2012.
Although Representative Abigail Binay’s proposed bill makes no mention of the Mt. Makiling property, HB 6352 or “Boy Scouts of the Philippines Charter of 2012” would give the BSP the power to effect the intent of the previously filed HB 4765 — “An act vesting the [BSP] with jurisdiction and administration over a parcel of land located at Mt. Makiling, Los Baños, Laguna, to be known as the ‘Boy Scouts of the Philippines Jamboree Site,’ and for other purposes.”
But even without the bills, the BSP has been behaving like it already owns the Mt. Makiling property it is leasing from UPLB at one peso per hectare.
The daily broadsheet learned from one of its sources that “they’re not using it for scouting anymore. They’d bring in youths from Makati and the government employees here instead.”
The BSP, without the explicit consent of UPLB, built a cell tower and a four-story hotel on the property. Estimates of the cost of constructing the hotel range from a low of P60 million to a high of P150 million.
UPLB Chancellor Fernando Sanchez Jr., who was vice-chancellor for planning and development at the time of the hotel’s construction, told the paper, “They told us they would just do some renovations to the Romulo Hall (a building being used for functions), but we were surprised that a hotel was built instead.”
The 15-year lease agreement between the BSP and UPLB on the 57.7-hectare Mt. Makiling property will expire in 2015.
Let’s suppose the BSP, through whatever legal machinations a certain law firm can come up with, succeeds in acquiring jurisdiction and administrative control over the property. The BSP will then have the power to sell or lease the property or go into one or more joint venture projects to develop it… for the benefit of the BSP and the entire Filipino nation, of course.
All of a sudden I am imagining terrifying pictures of a smiling Anthony Tiu with beaming BSP officials led by Jejomar Binay signing a contract turning the Mt. Makiling forest reserve into the Sunchamp Mt. Makiling Eco-Tourism Park.
The presidency is only for six years, but the Sunchamp Mt. Makiling Eco-Tourism Park can last forever. And as Binay has time and again told his former cohort Ernesto Mercado, “Pangretirement natin ito.”
Manuel Buencamino is a senior fellow of Action for Economic Reforms.