BAGUIO CITY – The city council passed a resolution last Monday requesting the Ayala Land Inc. (ALI) to allow the 159 horse handlers to resume their horseback riding business at Camp John Hay.

The council’s request was prompted by the appeal of Jason Alkera, president of the Kabadjo Handlers Association, Inc. (KHAI).

In his letter to the city council dated May 5, 2021, Alkera said that the non-operation of the horseback riding activities at Camp John Hay since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected the 159 members of the association. He appealed for the resumption of their business and promised that all health and safety protocols imposed by the city government and the  Inter-Agency Task Force will be complied with when they resume operations.

Councilor Joel Alangsab informed the council about a letter dated March 8, 2021 by the John Hay Management Corporation (JHMC) addressed to Alkera.

In the letter, JHMC stated that the area where the association used to occupy for their horse-for-hire business is covered by contracts of leases with ALI and Rocky Mountain Arabica Coffee Corporation (RMACC), thus cannot negotiate and enter a contract with the association.

The JHMC also stated that John Hay Economic Special Zone is still closed to tourists and that leisure activities therein are discouraged considering the ongoing national public health emergency brought about by COVID-19.

Alkera told the council the association had been sending numerous letters to ALI concerning their appeal but had not received any response.

Alkera further stated in his second letter to the council dated June 15, 2021 that they had tried to locate and contact RMACC regarding their appeal but failed in view of the pandemic.

In the same resolution passed by the council, ALI was further requested to consider the prospect of entering a contract with the association.

The council likewise requested the City Tourism Office to make representations on behalf of the displaced horse handlers.

Aloysius Mapalo, City Tourism Officer, said his office does not object to the resumption of horseback riding operations at Camp John Hay since tourism activities have gradually been allowed to resume in the city. His office is willing to make an endorsement in favor of the Kabadjo Handlers Association, he added.

The association started its horse-for-rent operations in 2001. However, its contract with the CJH Development Corporation (CJHDevco) ended in 2018.

Meanwhile, the City Veterinarian and Agriculture Office (CVAO) informed the council that, as of the last reporting date, 24 horses are afflicted with Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA). These horses are currently isolated and being monitored. Of the number, three are owned by the Kabadjo Handlers Association.

The CVAO is currently administering deworming medicines and vitamins to these horses. Dr. Gladys Bantog of CVAO said there is no cure for EIA yet, but their office is performing preventive measures to avoid the transfer of infection to other horses. –Jordan G. Habbiling