There are several things that seem wrong with the whole story to me. I’m perfectly willing to accept the idea of the Japanese systematically looting the places they conquered; the whole purpose of their empire-building was to gain access to resources, and gold or money is just as much a resource as oil is. Besides, they wouldn’t have been the only ones doing it; the Germans and the Italians were doing the same thing in their own new territories, and the allies no doubt did it on a smaller, more individual scale as well.
What makes no sense is the Japanese gathering together all that treasure together in Singapore and them shipping it off to the Philippines. Stopping to refuel the ships in the Philippines, fine. Stopping off in the Philippines to collect the local loot gathered together there, fine. But to take all that valuable wealth that was so essential to the Japanese at the time and ship it to a place where the locals hated them, where guerrillas were constantly active, that was exposed to Allied invasion, and where it was beyond the immediate control of the Japanese government? That would be sort of like the Germans taking all the stuff they collected in France, shipping it out of Bordeux, and stashing it on one of the Channel Islands. If the Japanese shipped that anywhere, it would have been to someplace like Japan itself.
If the Japanese were that nervous about the convoy being sunk, they would either have never let it set sail in the first place or else given it a huge escort (it would have been worth the effort, since it would have been quite valuable for funding the war).
And even if they did decide to set up Baguio as their empire’s financial center, why would they have left the treasure there? The allied attack and capture of the Philippines was not unexpected or swift. The Japanese had plenty of time to see that their Philippine territory was in danger and to ship the treasure out to Japan. Their navy was in bad shape at that time, yes, but for the collected wealth of South-East Asia I imagine that they would have made some effort at rescuing it. At that point they wouldn’t have worried about submarines sinking it; they could either leave it there and lose it for certain, or ship it out and at least have a good chance of keeping some of it.
It neither makes sense that the Japanese would store all that treasure in the Philippines, nor that they would have left it there when the Allies started making landings.
What I could see being possible is some of the Japanese officials there gathering up their own private stash based off of what they could loot from the immediate region. Most of what they found they probably would have added to the official coffers, but it wouldn’t be unheard of for well-placed officers to skim a little for themselves. And a private, unofficial stash of treasure would be more likely to 1) be hidden away in some cave somewhere rather than kept under guard in some military vault, and 2) be left behind because a small group of officers would have much less resources for rescuing it than would the entire Japanese Empire.
So if there is a treasure hidden away there someplace, it’s most likely a relatively minor one consisting of a small percentage of what the Japanese were able to loot from Luzon.
What I am more interested in, is what the Japanese did with the original “Peking Man” Homo erectus fossils they captured along with a group of US Marines that were trying to get them safely out of China. Nobody has ever seen those fossils again since.
Heh. . .maybe buried in some graveyard somewhere as an unknown casualty of WWII.