MODERNIZATION of the military will move faster and with less reliance on foreign aid if all military camps are transferred to locations outside Metro Manila.
Camp Aguinaldo, the general headquarters of the Armed Forces, Nichols, the GHQ of the Philippine Air Force, Ft. Bonifacio, the GHQ of the Philippine Army and the Philippine Marines, Camp Crame, the GHQ of the Philippine National Police, and the Philippine Navy GHQ along Roxas Blvd. are all occupying prime land. These could be privatized and the proceeds from their sale used to augment the capital outlays of the service branches involved.
The proposal to privatize the military camps is not new. It was first broached in the aftermath of the five coups against the administration of President Cory Aquino. It has been pointed out that the Philippines is the only country in the world where all GHQs of major military services are located in the national capital region. The proximity of the military camps to Malacanang made it easier for coup plotters to mobilize troops and threaten the seat of government.
The proposal to transfer the National Bilibid Prison to Laur, Nueva Ecija, and sell the land it is now occupying in Muntinlupa is gaining widespread approval. I first heard this proposal from the then Nueva Ecija Rep. Renato Diaz. That was more than 20 years ago and it’s only now under President Rodrigo Duterte that the planned transfer of the NBP has started to move. Isn’t it about time that we revisit also the proposal to privatize the military camps?
The Duterte administration is trying to wean the country away from relying on foreign countries. This is a herculean task, considering the many sectors that need funding. This includes the military whose modernization program has been bogged down by corruption and lack of funds. These snags could be untangled by President Duterte’s sustained campaign against corruption and by privatizing the military camps.
The proposed 2017 budget for the military modernization program is P25 billion. This is less than 20 percent of the proposed AFP budget of P130.6 billion for next year. Many consider this amount inadequate to keep the Philippine military on a par with its counterparts in the region. Oh well, has there ever been a time when our brave soldiers, pilots, sailors and police were given supplies better than those of our neighbors? It’s often pointed out that the guerrillas of the Moro National Liberation Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and the Abu Sayyaf extremists are better armed than our soldiers.
It must be recalled that some P300 billion was raised for the AFP modernization during the Ramos administration when the Bases Conversion Development Authority was organized and 240 hectares of Ft. Bonifacio was privatized. Today, the privatized area, especially the Bonifacio Global City, is the center of frenetic economic activity. The same development could be expected if Camp Aguinaldo, Camp Crame and Nichols Air Base are privatized completely, along with what’s left of Ft. Bonifacio.
Aguinaldo has a land area of 178 hectares; Crame, 32 hectares. These camps along EDSA and very near the Araneta Center in Cubao, Quezon City,could fetch more than the P33,000 per square meter realized in the privatization of a portion of Ft. Bonifacio.
What makes these camps more expensive, aside from their location, is the presence of golf courses there.Crame and Aguinaldo, along with Bonifacio and Nichols, have a golf course each. A golf course is expensive to maintain but more than that, it has no relation at all to national defense. Wait, the military is maintaining a fifth golf course–at the Veterans Memorial Hospital. Now, can anybody tell me what’s the use of a golf course in treating ailing veterans?
The VMH reportedly earns about P2 million a year from the golf course. However, the land on which the golf course is built is worth about P11.5 billion, according to Sen. Franklin M. Drilon. It will take the VMH about 7,000 years of maintaining the golf course before it can earn P11.5 billion. The hospital’s golf course is also worth privatizing if the government is truly intent on getting as much funding as possible for the AFP modernization program.
These camps’ privatization should follow that of Ft. Bonifacio, did I say? Well, Sen. Ralph Recto is very apprehensive that that’s exactly what might happen. He recalled that only a small portion of the P300 billion from the Ft. Boni sale was directly used for the AFP modernization program.
Asked about where the bulk of the proceeds went, President Ramos cavalierly replied that it was commingled with the general fund. It was never explained why the proceeds from the privatization were not placed in a special trust fund since they were specifically intended to modernize the AFP.
Well, the experience from the Ft. Bonifacio privatization could be a lesson learned. Put the proceeds in a trust fund so they can’t be used for purposes other than for the capital outlay of the military.
While I’m discussing the military, I want to congratulate, although belatedly, my townmate, Lt. Gen. Raul del Rosario on his promotion to chief of the Philippine Air Force. He’s the second son of Lupao, Nueva Ecija, to get a star, the other being C/Supt. Noel Baraceros of the PNP. Both are PMA graduates.
Incidentally, the first PMA graduate from Lupao was my uncle,Virgilio Danao, who died during World War II. He belonged to PMA Class 1942. My uncle’s class that included EleuterioAdevoso and OsmundoMondonedo was immediately called to active duty in December 1941 after Pearl Harbor. If I may add, my late elder brother was a member of PMA Class 1964. He died in the line of duty a week after turning 28.